Buildup hits another snag
Monday, 24 August 2009 01:08 by Gerardo Partido | Variety News Staff .
Conflict over military housing may delay Marines’ relocationTHE planned transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam has apparently hit another snag as Japanese media reported over the weekend that there are serious “differences” between the U.S. and Japan over a housing project for the relocating Marines.
The Kyodo news agency, citing sources close to Japan-U.S. relations, reported that these differences revolve around conflicting interpretations over the quality standards for the housing project.
Earlier, Japanese opposition officials already expressed concerns over the “expensive” cost of housing units on Guam given by U.S. authorities.
Bloomberg News had quoted opposition Democratic Party of Japan legislator Keiichiro Asao as saying that the projected $700,000 per housing unit for the Marines quoted by the U.S. is too much given that the land is already free.
The Japanese election is just a week away and the opposition, which had been pushing for a review of the Guam buildup costs, is widely predicted to take over power from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
According to Kyodo, the housing project for the Marines is already more than six months behind schedule because of the conflict between the U.S. and Japanese sides.
Moreover, the impasse may delay bids by potential contractors since it normally takes about a year and half before the winning bidder is selected and three to four years before a project of that size can be completed.
This threatens to delay the Marines’ transfer, which was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 by both governments.
According to Kyodo, another cause of friction is the U.S. proposal to use part of the Japanese funding to help improve military facilities on Guam that are not directly linked to the transfer of the Okinawa-based Marines.
Public opinion in Japan is already very much against the financing plan for the relocation of the Marines, which many Japanese consider too high and unfair.
The decision to take on $6 billion of the total cost marks the first time a Japanese government has agreed to share the costs of building and improving facilities at a U.S. base overseas and this has enraged Japanese nationalists.
Kyodo said the deadlock in the talks to relocate the Marines to Guam may also affect the plan to transfer the heliport functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to Nago, both in Okinawa, as the two elements are closely tied by the bilateral agreement.
Another Kyodo source, which the news agency did not name, said a delay beyond 2014 appears to have become the "tacit understanding" of officials from both sides.
Under the May 2006 agreement, Japan is to shoulder up to $6.09 billion of the $10.27 billion relocation cost mainly to build houses and improve infrastructure.