Sunday, July 26, 2009

Likely New Japanese Prime Minister Could Stall Guam Buildup

Likely "Japan Prime Minister" Could Stall Guam Buildup
Guam News Factor
By Jeff Marchesseault
July 26, 2009

GUAM - On Thursday the Democratic Party of Japan announced a set of platform-basing policies that includes a potential stumbling block on the road to Guam's military buildup. It's a sticking point that could conceivably stall the scheduled transfer of the first of thousands of U.S. Marines and their families from bases in Okinawa to new, refurbished and expanded installations on Guam, beginning in the fall of next year.

Walking Softly With A Big Stick

A month before an election that's likely to topple Prime Minister Taro Aso and the five-and-a-half-decade reign of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that backs him, the rising opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has toned down its stance against U.S. policies. Led by likely Prime Minister-Elect Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ has also cut back its criticisms of the ruling party's generous investment in American military security for the region.

This quieting of the DPJ's rhetoric may have as much to do with the opposition's desire to secure as many votes as possible going into August 30th elections -- as it does with a stark realization that the 50-year-old U.S-Japan economic and security alliance is worth preserving. Especially in a Pacific region seething with lingering security questions.

Harbinger Of Hope

Communist Chinese naval power is on the rise while communist North Korea continues to advance and test its nuclear capability and long-range missile effectiveness. What better friend for democratic Japan to keep in this war of the ideologies than the one with the world's most-advanced defense technology, the world's biggest economy, and arguably the world's most ardent tradition of equality and human rights?

Wallowing In The Mire

But recent outward signs of 'playing it safe' haven't stopped the DPJ from including in its just-released election platform the kind of policy points that are apt to set the U.S. defense community on alert.

In particular, the Guam buildup could trip over a controversial plan to move a U.S. defense facility within Okinawa -- a plan the DPJ has opposed and is still making an issue of within its recently-released 57-page "INDEX 2009" policy stance.

The plan to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam between 2010 and 2014 is tied to a larger bilateral agreement to realign U.S. armed forces in the Pacific. The realignment includes moving Futenma Air Station from the crowded Okinawan municipality of Ginowan City to a remote peninsula on the Japanese island near Camp Schwab.

According to today's Asia Times...

INDEX 2009 also mentioned the party's plan to raise the issue of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a long-standing issue of jurisdiction over the 37,000-strong US military presence in Japan.

The party has proposed relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, to outside the prefecture, and has opposed the agreement between the US and Japanese governments on the planned relocation of that station within the prefecture.

Under the US-Japan accord, 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be transferred from Okinawa to Guam by 2014, while the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan will be relocated to Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa. Okinawa is home to 70% of the US military facilities in Japan. The DPJ has advocated reducing Okinawa's burden of hosting US military bases as a principal policy imperative.

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