Sunday, November 09, 2008

U.S. marines' move to Guam might be delayed

Satoshi Ogawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

WASHINGTON--The completion of the transfer of 8,000 U.S. marines in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam likely will be delayed from the initially scheduled 2014 to sometime after 2015, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The transfer, one of the core measures for the relocation of U.S. forces in Japan, also will cost more than initially expected, sources said.

According to the sources, the U.S. defense budget likely will be cut because of the financial crisis, making it difficult for the United States to allocate sufficient funds for fiscal 2010, which starts in October 2009, to complete the transfer as initially scheduled.

The U.S. government has unofficially informed Japan of the circumstances, the sources said.

Relocating the U.S. marines is currently estimated to cost about 10.27 billion dollars.

The move was scheduled to be completed in 2014, along with the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to Camp Schwab in Nago. However, the U.S. Congress' Government Accountability Office has said the transfer schedule is too optimistic, and that additional costs may be required for the development of infrastructure in the relocation site in Guam.

A possible delay to the U.S. marines' transfer under such circumstances likely will affect the relocation schedule for Futenma Air Station, which is behind schedule because of delays on the Japanese side.

The sources also said the United States might ask Japan to shoulder additional costs for the transfer. Currently, Japan has agreed to pay about 6.09 billion dollars, or 60 percent, of the total transfer expense.

The U.S. government is drafting its fiscal 2010 budget requests, which will be made to the Congress in February.

Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said at a press conference in New York on Wednesday that the transfer was facing budgetary constraints. "We won't be done by 2014, or maybe even 2015," Keating said. "It will cost us a little bit more money than we currently have budgeted."

(Nov. 9, 2008)

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