Friday, October 23, 2009

Japan's New Okinawa Plan Could Delay Guam Buildup

Japan's New Okinawa Plan Could Delay Guam Buildup

11th Hour Counterproposal May Keep III Marines At Bay

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Friday, 23 October 2009 11:31

GUAM - After telling the U.S. Secretary of Defense this week to back off his insistence that Japan must stick to a bilateral agreement to move a U.S. air base from point A to point B in Okinawa, Japan's new government has finally shown some encouraging signs they will do so -- but on new, undefined terms not outlined by standing accords.

The problem is this. Japan's terms could mean delaying a concomitant military buildup on Guam. Due to get underway as early as next summer, the U.S. Territory's $15 billion installation expansion is already on a tight timetable. Any substantively new plan in Okinawa is likely to directly impact Guam deadlines, because the Guam buildup is directly dependent on the air base relocation. The Department of Defense is adamant that all alternatives to the agreed relocation site within Okinawa have been exhausted and been found wanting.

Japan's new plan could be considerably different because of domestic concerns about damaging an environmental preserve in the originally designated re-basing site and because the new government can ill afford to lose face after fighting the intra-Okinawa air base transfer before and during its recent election campaign.

According to a Reuters report citing Japan's Sankei newspaper, Japan will inform U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Tokyo next month that it will come up with a new plan by the end of the year to relocate a U.S. air base within the southern island of Okinawa.

Right now, a 2006 bilateral accord designates coastal Camp Schwab in remote, northern Okinawa as the replacement site for operations now based at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the bustling Okinawan city of Ginowan.

So far, new Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama remains vague on his nation's new plan for Futenma relocation. And that is apt to keep the Pentagon on its toes strategically as it considers 'alternatives' that are as nebulous as Japan's new plan.

Read the Reuters story, "Japan to craft new U. . base plan by year-end: media", Thursday, October 22, 2009.

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