Camacho says no to Futenma
Kitazawa convinced Guam can’t support more troops
Thursday, 10 December 2009 04:45 by Mar-Vic Cagurangan | Variety News Staff
GOVERNOR Felix P. Camacho indicated yesterday he will oppose any plan to transfer all U.S. military installations from Okinawa to Guam, saying the island’s finite resources are already strained by the requirements entailing the relocation of 8,000 Marines.
During a courtesy call with Camacho in Adelup, Japanese Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa confirmed that a proposal to shut down the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Station in Okinawa and transfer all U.S. military installations to Guam has been broached as an option but no solid decision has been made.
“Defense Minister Kitazawa assured me that this is an idea that has been presented but has yet to be addressed among their leadership in Japan. I appreciate his honesty in the matter, but I also wanted to make clear that as decisions are made, Guam’s resources and the welfare of our community must be kept in mind.” Camacho said.
“We are already challenged with the present numbers of the relocation of 8,000 Marines, and moving the entire Futenma base would not be possible due to our limited resources and capacity,” the governor added.
Guam is kept in suspense as the fate of the Futenma base remains in limbo while the United States and Japan try to break the escalating negotiation standoff.
“At this moment, we are continuing the discussion between the Japanese and the U.S. government and nothing has been decided yet,” Kitazawa told a press briefing at the Hyatt Regency Guam yesterday. “At this moment, all we can say is that the discussion is ongoing.”
Kitazawa toured Andersen Air Force Base, Naval Base Guam, and Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam yesterday. He leaves Guam today.
A press release from the Joint Guam Program Office said the visit has allowed Kitazawa to gain an accurate grasp of the situation on Guam and “to also see the proposed sites for development of facilities and infrastructure in support of the Marine Corps relocation as agreed to in the 2006 U.S.-Japan Roadmap agreement.”
“Defense Minister Kitazawa's visit is an important step in the process of carrying out agreements between the U.S. and Japan to realign forces in the Pacific," Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara said.
During a press briefing, Kitazawa declined to state his observation of Guam facilities after the daylong tour.
“When I return to Tokyo, I will report the situation to the prime minister and other ministers,” the defense minister told reporters.
“However, at this moment, as the defense minister, I cannot say when we will see the result of the negotiation. Nothing can be reported until after the decision has been made.”
He expressed hopes, however, that the U.S. and Japan governments break the gridlock soon.
Nakaima Ikue, one of the reporters traveling with Kitazawa, told Guam reporters the defense minister is convinced the island doesn’t have the capacity to support additional troops.
“He thinks it will be very difficult for Guam to have more troops,” said Ikue, a Tokyo-based reporter for Ryukyu Shimpo, Okinawa’s largest daily newspaper. “Okinawa people want the U.S. bases to leave. I feel sorry for Guam because now they will get the problems of the Okinawa people.”
The United States has been imposing pressure on Japan to stick to the 2006 pact, but speculation is now growing that a decision on the U.S. base issue will be stalled further until after next year's Upper House election. The Japanese media reported earlier that talks between the U.S. and Japan negotiators have been suspended.
The haze over the troop relocation plan is causing disquiet in the government of Guam and the business community which are thrilled by the revenue perks and economic promises of the military buildup.
But Camacho remains confident. “Japan’s commitment to move forward is evident in its $1 billion investment into the Marines’ relocation to Guam,” he said.
The governor also banks on a statement made by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates during his October visit to Japan, where he said.
“Our view is clear. The Futenma relocation facility is the lynchpin of the realignment road map. Without the Futenma realignment, the Futenma facility, there will be no relocation to Guam. And without relocation to Guam, there will be no consolidation of forces and the return of land in Okinawa.”