Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Okinawa-Guam Transfer: 3 Reasons For Japan's Delay

Okinawa-Guam Transfer: 3 Reasons For Japan's Delay

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 06:21

GUAM - A written review by a pair of foreign affairs experts from Japan and Australia suggests three primary reasons why Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced on December 15 that he would wait till May to announce Japan's plan for the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from its present site in Okinawa. They involve (1) the strength of the non-violent resistance movement in Okinawa, (2) the national elections that swept the movement's strongest proponents to power last August, and (3) Hatoyama's resolve to handle the relocation on new terms set by the new government.

The decision has bought Hatoyama some time domestically to hash out alternatives to moving the base from a crowded metro area of the prefecture to remote Cape Henoko. But it is also frustrating U.S. officials and calling into question the 2014 deadline for siphoning off 8,600 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam in the process. In short, the U.S. sees the current plan as a way to relieve pressure on Okinawans distressed by Futenma's operations -- by getting the base out of the city and getting several thousand Americans out of Okinawa. The United States has remained adamant about Japan sticking to the bilateral plan that took two decades to forge, finance and bring to the edge of implementation with a construction start set for next summer.

In an excerpt from their JapanFocus.org analysis posted at the History News Network, Tanaka News Editor Tanaka Sakai and Australian National University Emeritus Professor Gavan McCormack write that Hatoyama postponed indefinitely any decision on the contentious issue of a "Replacement Facility" for the Futenma base in Okinawa, because abiding by the longstanding U.S.-Japan agreement (forged while Japan was still led by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party) would have likely collapsed his coalition government, created a backlash in Okinawa, possibly necessitated martial law for the construction of the replacement facility in Okinawa, and may have ultimately caused deeper damage to the U.S.-Japan alliance.

The tone of the Sakai/McCormack analysis clearly opposes the construction of the new base in Okinawa. Therefore, where it may be sympathetic to those who oppose the move, it appears to be shortsighted on the broader need for the U.S.-led defense and security of the Western Pacific.

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