Friday, October 30, 2009

Japan Shoots Down U.S. Test Missile: Pressure Mounts On Tokyo To Grant Okinawa-Guam Transfer

Japan Shoots Down U.S. Test Missile: Pressure Mounts On Tokyo To Grant Okinawa-Guam Transfer

Training Exercise Displays Japan's Potential To Readily Particpate In U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Friday, 30 October 2009 11:09

GUAM - As the federal government prepares for the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, a potential security gap is created, with the reduction of the U.S. military presense in Japan. The U.S. Department of Defense is addressing this gap by providing the Japanese Navy with training on an advanced ballistic missile defense system.

As the United States Pacific Command oversees the realignment of U.S. troops across Asia, and as American armed forces integrate systems and strategies with the militaries of cooperative nations throughout the region by deploying training missions and joint exercises, pressure mounts on Japan's new government to comply with an Okinawa-Guam troop realignment designed to protect the security interests of the Pacific.

And that couldn't be more abundantly clear now that the two nations' defense forces have just completed a dramatically successful training mission.

In a joint exercise with the U.S. from off the coast of Hawaii on October 28th, the Japanese Destroyer "Myoko" intercepted and destroyed a medium range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean, above the earth's atmosphere in space.

This successful exercise is symbolically significant for two reasons. First, it is representative of the longstanding strength of the American-Japanese alliance. And, second, it's a timely bilateral victory as a row of questions looms on the horizon to the Guam military buildup. Will new Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama finally agree to allow the relocation of a Marine Corps air base within Okinawa in time to reassign thousands of Marines to Guam and let a meticulously planned buildup proceed here? If so, will Japan honor a bilateral accord to move the base from Futenma to Camp Schwab inside Okinawa? Will the long-planned project have adequate notice from Tokyo to proceed according to deadline? If not, then where does Japan propose to place the base? And when?

All of these questions press harder and harder on Hatoyama now that the successful exercise is being reported in the international media. The incerception also comes after two of Hatoyama's cabinet officials recently contradicted him in public by agreeing that the air base must stay within Okinawa.

Michael Rudolph contributed to this analysis.

Here is an October 28, 2009 news release describing the successful launch, as posted at PRNewswire:

Lockheed Martin's Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Defeats Ballistic Missile Target in Japanese Test

KAUAI, Hawaii, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- JS Myoko, Japan's third destroyer equipped with Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT) Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, successfully intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile target above the atmosphere during a test event today. The test marked the 20th successful ballistic missile intercept by the system.

JS Myoko guided a Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IA missile to intercept the separating medium range ballistic missile target outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Two U.S. Navy Aegis BMD ships, USS Lake Erie and USS Paul Hamilton, also participated in today's test. USS Paul Hamilton tracked the target and performed a simulated engagement. USS Lake Erie, equipped with the next generation Aegis BMD Weapon System -- designated BMD 4.0.1, which provides additional target discrimination capability -- tracked the missile target and post-intercept debris using its advanced signal processor. Full operational certification of BMD 4.0.1 is expected in 2011.

"This is the first Aegis BMD flight test conducted with two versions of the U.S. Navy Aegis BMD baselines and a Japanese destroyer," said Orlando Carvalho, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin's Surface-Sea Based Missile Defense line of business. "These events demonstrate the Aegis development success of build a little, test a little, learn a lot as well as the flexibility of the systems to evolve and keep pace with the threat to control the battlespace."

The Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD as part of the United States' Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The Navy's independent operational test agent has assessed the Aegis BMD and SM-3 Block IA system to be operationally effective and operationally suitable. Currently, a total of 22 Aegis BMD-equipped warships -- 19 in the U.S. Navyand three in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force -- have the certified capability to engage ballistic missiles and perform long-range surveillance and tracking missions. Two additional U.S. East Coast-based Aegis-equipped ships are being modified to perform ballistic missile defense in the next six months.

The Aegis Weapon System is the world's premier naval defense system and the sea-based element of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System. Its precision SPY-1 radar and integrated command and control system seamlessly guides the interceptor and uplinks target track information to the missile for terminal homing. Its ability to detect, track and engage targets ranging from sea-skimming cruise missiles to ballistic missiles in space is proven and unmatched. The Aegis BMD Weapon System also integrates with the BMDS, receiving track data from and providing track information to other BMDS elements.

The 92 Aegis-equipped ships currently in service around the globe have more than 950 years of at-sea operational experience and have launched more than 3,500 missiles in tests and real-world operations. In addition to the U.S. and Japan, Aegis is the maritime weapon system of choice for Australia, Norway, South Korea and Spain.

Lockheed Martin is a world leader in systems integration and the development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, including the first operational hit-to-kill missile defense system, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3). It also has considerable experience in interceptor systems; kill vehicles; battle management command, control and communications; precision pointing; and tracking optics, as well as radar and other sensors that enable signal processing and data fusion. The company makes significant contributions to nearly all major U.S. Missile Defense Systems and participates in several global missile defense partnerships.

Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2008 sales of $42.7 billion.

For additional information on Lockheed Martin Corporation, visit:

SOURCE Lockheed Martin

PACOM's 'Allied Nations' Strategy Will Drive Guam's Base Tactics

PACOM's 'Allied Nations' Strategy Will Drive Guam's Base Tactics

Adm. Willard: Multilateralism Is The Name Of The Game

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Friday, 30 October 2009 15:37

GUAM - As Guam prepares for the military buildup, we can expect new and refurbished forces based here in the Territory to integrate evermore seamlessly into a pan-Pacific alliance of nations that are mutually committed to protecting human and economic freedom.

According to a recent interview of Adm. Robert F. Willard, the new Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, multilateralism and multinational alliance is the name of the game in a world where multiple threats call for multiple partners.

"We are looking for as many partners ... as we can find in the region," Willard said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service.

Here is the original AFPS story from October 28, 2009:

U.S. Dept Of Defense - Willard Looks To Partnerships In Pacific

Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard made his Hollywood debut as the Soviet MiG pilot who challenged Tom Cruise's character - known by the call sign "Maverick" - to an exhilarating dogfight before meeting his demise in the 1986 "Top Gun" blockbuster.

While serving as operations and executive officer at the Navy's "Top Gun" Fighter Weapons School at the time, Willard was aerial coordinator for the movie. That got him a short, but pivotal, on-screen appearance as the pilot of an F-14 fighter jet painted black and embellished for the movie with a MiG-style fin flash on its tail.

"I kept looking back over my shoulder, and another missile was on its way," Willard recalled of the dogfight scene in which he ultimately was shot down. "It was very exciting."

More than two decades later, in his new role as the top U.S. officer in the Pacific, Willard doesn't have the luxury of being able to fixate on a single, Warsaw Pact-type threat. His vast region of responsibility, which stretches across half the world's surface and includes half its population in 36 countries, enjoys a relative peace. But its tensions, like its volatile geology, are bubbling just at or slightly below the surface.

North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs and China's military buildup and lack of transparency loom large. Terrorist activity threatens Indonesia, the Philippines and most recently, India. Other challenges range from piracy to the proliferation of technology for weapons of mass destruction.

Willard sat down with reporters last week in Seoul, South Korea, just two days after assuming command, to discuss these and other challenges and his vision for U.S. Pacific Command.

"I love this region of the world," he said. "The Asia-Pacific region, to me, is extremely complex [and] has a great history associated with it."

As he spoke, Willard had yet to set foot into his new headquarters office at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, perched on a mountain with a majestic view of Pearl Harbor. After consultative sessions in South Korea last week and an off-site defense chiefs conference in Hawaii this week, Willard said, he was looking forward to getting settled into his new office and getting down to business with his new staff.

North Korea is high on his priority list.

"A nuclear-armed North Korea, and a North Korea that chooses to provoke and ... may be on the brink of succession - all those things make North Korea worthy of our attention now," he said. "North Korea needs to be watched very closely."

Meanwhile, China is expanding its military might at "an unprecedented rate," Willard said, exceeding U.S. intelligence estimates every year for the past decade. Equally troubling, China also has obtained "asymmetric capabilities that are concerning to the region," including anti-access capabilities, ballistic missiles and sophisticated weaponry.

And even the historically rock-solid alliance with Japan is demanding more attention these days, as Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's new government reassesses security agreements made by previous administrations.

Willard told reporters he's intent on strengthening the five U.S. alliances in the region and bringing new partners, including China, into the fold.

China abruptly halted all military-to-military engagement when the United States announced arms sales to Taiwan in October 2008. But now that China has demonstrated a willingness to re-engage, Willard wants to increase the interface and take the relationship to a new level.

"China is not our enemy," he said. "We look forward to a constructive relationship with China and their constructive contribution to the security of the Asia-Pacific region."

Willard said he'll work to promote more multilateralism in a region that historically has been characterized by bilateral relationships with the United States. "Ten years ago, the Asia-Pacific was, by and large, a place where ... countries were very comfortable talking one-on-one with the United States or with other partners, but rarely together," he said.

Although that's been improving, Willard said, current challenges facing the region demand even closer cooperation. He pointed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the power of like-minded nations engaging together, as valuable lessons for the Pacific.

"We are looking for as many partners ... as we can find in the region," he said.

As he takes on these challenges, Willard brings to the job extensive experience in the Pacific, both operationally, as a Navy pilot, and in command positions.

Most recently, he spent two and a half years commanding U.S. Pacific Fleet, the world's largest fleet command, with its 180 ships, 1,500 aircraft and 125,000 sailors and Marines. He previously commanded the Fighter Squadron 51 "Screaming Eagles"; the amphibious flagship USS Tripoli; the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln out of Everett, Wash.; Carrier Group 5 aboard USS Kitty Hawk; and 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

While he's already putting his experience to work, Willard conceded that the top Pacom job demands an entirely different focus.

"This is a more strategic level of command than the components are, and as a consequence, it will be a little different level of engagement," he said. "It's a new experience for me, and I very much look forward to it."

To help in preparing himself, Willard spent the past couple months consulting with think-tank and Asia experts and working with a small transition team to ensure a smooth transition to his new post.

He noted during his Oct. 19 assumption of command ceremony the vast changes that have taken place in Asia and the Pacific in recent decades. The one constant, he said, has been Asia's growing importance, not just to the region, but to the world.

Willard said he'll work tirelessly to ensure Pacom lives up to the challenges, and sends an unmistakable message of U.S. commitment to Asia and the Pacific.

"Our nation's interests are here," he said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

 Visiting Navy Installations Expert Faces A Guam Struggling To Find One Voice

Visiting Navy Installations Expert Faces A Guam Struggling To Find One Voice

Is 90 Days Enough To Vet The Buildup Impact Statement?

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Thursday, 29 October 2009 16:00

GUAM - News from Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning that Guam would receive an additional 45 days to review the federal government's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the military buildup brought forth gratitude from local officials.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo in her Washington office on Wednesday that he would double the review time to 90 days.

What Senators Want: Time Enough To Act And Understand

But the extension raises important concerns about how local officials, particularly local senators, can maximize this time and whether they can garner the necessary expertise to read the documents and add their input before the 90-day deadline, once the DEIS is released and the clock starts ticking.

Time and again members of the Legislature have raised the issue of not having the funding or the know-how to sift through the estimated 8,000 pages of DEIS documents and generate analysis and recommendations. The Governor's Office says that its consulting firm the Matrix group will provide those services to the executive branch. But it isn't yet clear whether the legislative branch will ultimately have enough hours, days and months to review findings, provide checks and balances, and open another forum for public comment.

In Search Of Common Ground

Despite lingering questions about resources for the review period, the sentiment among leading island officials today is that we're at least making headway with the Department of Defense on the need to vet the study locally for effective scrutiny and input.

"I did receive a call this morning from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. That's Roger Natsuhara," said Governor Camacho during a media briefing late this morning. "He did inform me that the request was granted for an extension."

"We're very greatful for that...but it also means that there's a lot of work ahead for the Territory to review such a technical document, thousands of pages long.

"We currently have a group that's working with us in trying to summarize the key points that can then direct us...where we need to focus. And that's the Matrix group that's here right now, also working with us on our compatability study in our workshops in our villages."

The Governor said Natsuhara told him he's no stranger to the island. "He had served here for two years on Guam. He brings a familiarity with the Territory." According to a release from Guam Senators Judi Guthertz, Chair of the Guam Buildup Committee, and Legislative Rules Chair Rory Respicio, Natsuhara is Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment.

Camacho also said Natsuhara replaces a well-known buildup figure on Guam, retiring Assistant Secretary of the Navy B.J. Penn. The Governor said he planned to discuss a wide range of issues with Natsuhara this afternoon to help bring both of them up to speed.

Heading Camacho's list of touchpoints would be the Draft EIS and Guam's civilian-side buildup needs.

"Identifying the the huge gap, the huge delta, between what's going to be required of Guam and the impact the buildup brings and our capacity to underwrite the cost," said Camacho when asked what his discussion priorities would be with the new Assistant Secretary.

"There's only so much we can do, Camacho said. "There's got to be a collaborative effort... with the federal government in trying to find ways to underwrite the cost. And Guam has to make a compelling case when it comes to monies because, as the budget process goes, anything that we receive in the way of paying for the buildup is going to take from some other community."

Camacho added that other communities have senators, representatives and lobbyists fighting for all of their special interests. "Guam doesn't have much of a voice. We have a nonvoting (delegate) in the House and that's it."

Senator Guthertz, an outspoken advocate for federal assistance for the local community, told Guam News Factor that it appears the federal government is coming to understand and appreciate the fact that Guam wants a one-island approach that benefits civilian residents and the military alike.

"This extension shows some good faith on the part of JGPO [Joint Guam Program Office] and the Department of Defense," said Guthertz.

"My hope is that this reasonableness and good faith will be reflected in the Draft EIS document and in the manner in which our input on the document will be respected by the Secretary of the Navy who has ultimate authority in approving the final version, which will hopefully incorporate our recommendations."

Guthertz and Respicio issued a news release on Thursday evening, putting forth their outlying concerns now that the Department of the Navy has expanded the DEIS review period.

Here is that release:


Still, Sens. Guthertz And Respicio Caution Public To Be Wary And Do EIS Homework

HÅGATÑA - Senators Judi P. Guthertz and Rory J. Respicio are pleased by environmental impact review extension, but they warn Guam citizens not to expect much help in spotting negative findings from federally funded consultants.

After weeks of loud complaints on Guam that the forthcoming draft environmental impact statement could not possibly receive adequate public review and comment within a tight 45 day deadline, the Department of Defense has had a change of heart, doubling the comment period to 90 days. That word from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, who was told this, "will assure the interests of the citizens of Guam are fully represented in the study."

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment Roger Natsuhara, visiting Guam this week, communicated this decision to Governor Camacho and members of the Guam Legislature.

"We're certainly pleased to have been heard on this," said Senator Guthertz, "but the question that remains is whether we can do a meaningful review of this 7,000 to 9,000 page technical document within the time frame and with the limited resources available to us."

She attributed the federal government's quick and positive response to the seemingly concerted effort of local leaders advocating for the same goal. "Imagine the attention and favorable results we would get if the governor empanelled the Guam First Commission. The feds would certainly take notice of our requests."

Senator Respicio added, "Telling us to depend on the Matrix analysis is like asking those who do not support our perspective or approach to prepare our position papers." He explained that all he's heard so far from Matrix is a promise to summarize points in the document to help the public review it. "Don't expect Cliff's Notes or any helpful pointers about how to identify problems that are hidden in the scientific jargon," stated Respicio.

Earlier, Senator Guthertz' request for funds to hire outside expertise to analyze the DEIS was turned down by Department of the Interior on the grounds that the governor's office already had the Matrix consulting firm working on an analysis. Legislators have objected, questioning in particular whether the interest of Matrix was in a critical analysis of the DEIS and identifying errors or flaws or simply greasing the wheels for the military buildup that it serves as a primary consultant.

Here is a news release from Congresswoman Bordallo's Washington, D.C. office recounting the Representative's meeting with the Secretary of the Navy:

Congresswoman Bordallo Meets With U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus

October 28, 2009 - Washington, D.C. - Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo today met with the Honorable Ray E. Mabus, Jr., Secretary of the U.S. Navy. The meeting was held at Congresswoman Bordallo's office in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Secretary Mabus is the 75th Secretary of the Navy and was formerly the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

"During our meeting, Secretary Mabus informed me that the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement relating to the military buildup on Guam will be extended to 90 days," Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo said today. "I appreciate the Navy's response to our concerns regarding the public comment period. I also discussed the importance of the Department of Defense being more proactive in supporting H.R. 44, and I requested that this message be relayed to the Secretary of Defense. I appreciate the efforts taken by this new Administration to address Guam's needs for the build-up, and I look forward to working with Secretary Mabus and the Obama Administration on these issues."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On May 8, 2008, President Bush signed into law Public Law 110-229, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. Title VII of this law amended Pub. L. 94-241, the Act approving the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States. Title VII fully extends certain provisions of the immigration laws of the United States to the CNMI for the first time in history. A transition period formally begins Nov. 28, 2009.

Q. Who qualifies for the CNMI-only Transitional Worker status in CNMI?

A. USCIS has established a transitional worker program for foreign nationals to live and work in CNMI. Foreign nationals who are eligible for an INA-based nonimmigrant status would not be eligible. Short term visitors for business or pleasure are not eligible to obtain CW classification because such individuals are not part of the foreign work force that is the subject of this interim rule.

Q. What is the legal basis for the CNMI-only Transition Worker program?

A. Section 6(d) of Pub. L. 94-241, as amended by CNRA, directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a transition program to assist CNMI employers to obtain necessary workers who are not otherwise eligible under U.S. immigration laws during the transition period.

Q. What is the purpose of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program?

A. The CNMI-only Transitional Worker Program will allow foreign nationals who are not eligible for another INA-based employment authorized nonimmigrant status to perform work in CNMI during the transition period. Thus, the purpose of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker visa is to offer a lawful U.S. immigration status to those foreign nationals who are not currently eligible for any other kind of immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. During the transition period, it is expected that these transitional workers will find a suitable, long-term alternative to their CNMI-Only Transitional Worker status by obtaining status under an INA-based visa category, or departing CNMI.

Q. What happens to foreign workers in CNMI on Nov. 28, 2009?

A. When federal immigration law takes effect in CNMI on Nov. 28, 2009, foreign workers who have a valid CNMI employment authorization may remain, live and work in CNMI for up to two years, or for the duration of their CNMI-based status, whichever occurs first. Before the expiration of that limited time period, they must obtain either CNMI-Only Transitional Worker status, or some other lawful U.S. immigration status to lawfully work and reside in CNMI and to travel between CNMI and another U.S. or foreign destination. If they leave CNMI for any reason, they must have a valid U.S. immigration visa to re-enter. Foreign workers who do NOT have a CNMI work contract could risk becoming “unlawful” if another U.S. immigration status is not obtained.

Q. What is the admission code for this visa classification be?

A. This new nonimmigrant visa classification will use the admission code CW-1 for the principal transitional worker and CW-2 for dependents.

Q. What does this mean for foreign residents who have been living and working in CNMI?

A. For those foreign workers who are not eligible for another kind of U.S. immigration status, the transitional worker visa is a critically important alternative. It could potentially give thousands of foreign workers a temporary status while they determine an appropriate long-term immigration status for themselves and their families.

Q. What are the timeframes of the transition period?

A. Although U.S. immigration laws apply fully to CNMI, there will be a transition period during which temporary measures will be carried out to allow for an orderly transition from CNMI's permit system to Federal immigration law and give foreign non-resident workers time to identify an appropriate long-term INA-based visa classification. The transition period begins on Nov. 28, 2009 and will end on December 31, 2014. The Secretary of Labor, in consultation with appropriate federal agencies and the Governor of CNMI, may extend the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program for additional periods of up to five years. No decision on any extension has been made at this time.

Q. What are the requirements for the new CNMI Transitional Worker visa or status?

A. Under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program, there are requirements for both employers and workers.

Requirements for Employers-Employers must be engaged in legitimate business and may not engage directly or indirectly in prostitution, trafficking in minors, or any other activity that is illegal under Federal or CNMI law. The employer also bears the responsibility of filing the necessary petition and paying the requisite fees to employ transitional workers.

Requirements for Workers - Under the interim final rule, foreign workers may be classified as CW-1 nonimmigrants if, during the transition period, they:

* will enter or stay in CNMI to work in an occupational category that needs alien workers to supplement the resident workforce;

* are petitioned for by an employer;

* live in CNMI;

* are lawfully present in CNMI; and

* are not otherwise inadmissible to the United States.

Q. What does a worker need to do to get this visa or status?

A. The foreign national worker must meet the criteria noted in the answer above and find an employer willing to sponsor him/her. The responsibility for applying rests with the employer. Employers may file a petition for a transitional worker with USCIS using Form I-129CW, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker in the CNMI. (This new form was modeled after the existing Form I-129.)

Q. What does the worker's spouse and/or child need to get CW-2 status?

A. To accompany or follow to join, the derivative CW-2 nonimmigrant may file an application for extension of nonimmigrant stay on Form I-539 in accordance with the form instructions. The CW-2 status extension may not be approved until approval of the CW-1 extension petition. The filing fee is $300.

Q. How does someone obtain CW status?

A. Once the I-129CW petition is approved, the beneficiary and eligible family members may apply for CW-1, or CW-2 status. Since foreign nationals present in CNMI will not have given biometric information to the federal government before, and thus not have had required security checks conducted, biometrics will be required. The fee to collect biometrics is $80. A fee waiver is available if applicants can show inability to pay for both the Form I-129CW and biometric fees.

Aliens who are abroad will need to apply for a CW-1 or CW-2 visa at a U.S. consulate. When applicants apply overseas, USCIS will not require biometrics, however biometrics may be required by the Department of State.

Q. Which groups can apply for the Transitional Worker Program?

A. The transitional worker program will be available to two groups of foreign workers: (1) those who are lawfully present in the CNMI and (2) those who are abroad.

Q. Can people with CW status travel outside the CNMI?

A. Once status is obtained, the CW-1 or CW-2 nonimmigrant may leave CNMI but they must have the appropriate visa to re-enter. If the CW-1 or CW-2 status is obtained in CNMI (not the Consular post abroad) the nonimmigrant will have the legal status, but this is not a visa valid for travel to and admission into CNMI. If the CW-1 or CW-2 nonimmigrant departs CNMI, he or she must obtain a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate to return to CNMI, unless alternative arrangements have been specifically approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Q. How does one obtain the visa for re-entry?

A. Someone who has obtained CW-1 or CW-2 status in CNMI (not at a Consular post abroad) who needs to leave CNMI for whatever reason will need to get a visa from the State Department to re-enter CNMI. Usually this is done at the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate via a locally managed appointment system. If, for example, someone with CW-1 status plans to visit family in the Philippines, he/she would need to make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Manila to get the CW visa while they are in the Philippines. They would need to travel with documents to show the State Department officer during their interview and be prepared to wait at least a few days for the visa to be issued. Each U.S. Embassy and Consulate abroad has a different appointment system. To learn more about the U.S. Embassy or Consulate you may need to visit, travelers should go to: Visa wait times for each Consular post abroad are posted at:

Q. Can people with CW status travel elsewhere within the United States?

A. No. The CW visa classification is valid only in CNMI and does not permit travel to any other part of the United States, including Guam. However, if someone with CW status qualifies for another kind of nonimmigrant or immigrant visa, or a visa waiver program, he or she may travel elsewhere in the United States and the CW status would not prevent that.

Q. How much does it cost to apply for this visa?

A. The fee for Form I-129CW will be $320, the same amount charged for the I-129. In addition, Public Law 110-229 mandates a “CNMI education funding fee” of $150 per beneficiary per year which is mandatory and cannot be waived. Lastly, there would be a fee of $80 to collect biometrics (fingerprints and photos) and run necessary background checks. This expense could be borne by the applicant or the employer.

Q. Are fee waivers available?

A. Normally there is no fee waiver in employment-based cases. However, due to unique circumstances in CNMI, the I-129CW fee may be waived in extraordinary situations where an employer can demonstrate an inability to pay the fee. However, given the inherent inconsistency between sponsoring an alien for work and being unable to pay the fee required for that sponsorship, the situations warranting a fee waiver are expected to be extremely limited. There is a fee waiver for the $80 biometrics fee if applicants can show an inability to pay.

Q. Can an employer petition for more than one worker on the same form?

A. Yes, with some restrictions, employers may file for multiple beneficiaries on the same I-129CW. If the employees are all working in the same occupational category, for the same time period and in the same location, the employer may name as many employees on the petition as he/she wants. Unnamed beneficiaries are not allowed under this program.

Q. When can employers begin filing for workers?

A. The interim final rule stipulates that employers may not file for a worker more than six months before the date the employer needs that employee's services (i.e. if an employer needs a worker's services on January 1, the employer may submit a petition for the worker no earlier than July 1). The rule states that petitions may be filed before Nov. 28, 2009, but USCIS will not grant CW-1 status before that date.

To be continued

FSM workers eyed for buildup

FSM workers eyed for buildup

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 00:42
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

AN HISTORIC strategic alliance agreement was signed yesterday afternoon between the Federated States of Micronesia President Emanuel Mori and Center for Micronesian Empowerment chairman Ansito Walter, a University of Guam professor and former governor of Chuuk state.

The alliance will facilitate the assimilation and integration of workers from Micronesia into Guam’s workforce with thousands of jobs that will become available over the military buildup period.

“We must make sure that employers look to the people of our region first and that our people are ready for that call. This alliance is extremely important because it will enable our young men and women to get the required training to give them the necessary skills to make them employable here in Guam and especially because of the military buildup,” said Mori.

CME is a non-governmental organization representing business, community leaders and government officials. Its purpose is to assess, assimilate, train and find employment for the residents of the region.

Mike Ghiglione, executive director of CME said the organization has established a working relationship with the Guam Contractors Association Trades Academy to make sure as many local and regional workers as possible are prepared for the jobs the military buildup will bring.

Mori said he anticipates recruiting approximately 5,000 young men and women interested in gaining valuable job skills not just for Guam, but also for work in Hawaii and the on the U.S. mainland.

The president said his people have migrated to these areas for lack of employment within FSM states.

Not all of the 5,000 potential recruits will come to Guam since many of them will be receiving training at the College of Micronesia in Pohnpei, currently gearing up for vocational training, said Mori.

After they’ve completed their training there, many are expected to travel to Guam and elsewhere to receive a higher level of training. On Guam, many will find this training at GCC and the Guam Contractors Association Trades Academy, said Mori.

The trades academy and GCC will be expanding its facilities to meet the growing demands of students who desire to obtain a trade in their schools.

In November, the launch of a landmark program will assist residents in the state of Kosrae to obtain training necessary to become productive members of Guam’s workforce.

The alliance agreement seeks to expand the program across all of Micronesia and hopes to attract a workforce from the region, as opposed to employing thousands of foreign workers.

This would allow Micronesia’s island nation states the opportunity to play a greater role in the military realignment and economic boom associated with the buildup.

“The services that CME provides are precisely what’s needed to allow the people of Micronesia to more fully participate in the military buildup. We intend to do all that we can to ensure that the employment needed for the buildup on Guam comes from the region we call Micronesia, within which Guam stands as our proud brother,” said the FSM president.

Tuition funding will come from various sources such as Department of Interior Funds as well as compact impact funds and federal financial aid programs provided at the trade schools.

Military open to public dialog

Military open to public dialog

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 00:46
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

Third in a series

THE military is open to dialog with communities that are affected by military presence, according to Celeste Werner, vice president of Matrix Design Group, which is the prime contractor of the governor’s Advisory Consulting Team.

“What people don’t understand is that the military really do their best to evaluate every single possible option to make sure there is less impact to the community because the community is really important to them,” Werner said.

“Over the years, it has become more important. With the pressure with [bases realignment and closure] happening and there’s going to be another one, all communities are doing their best to prevent whatever mission they may have in their community would not be at risk because, almost every community where there is a military installation is one of their primary economic development industries,” said Werner.

Werner said the military emphasizes working with the local community since it realizes the significance of investing a huge amount of money in that community for that particular mission.

Werner said the compatibility sustainability study will factor three components: understanding, collaboration and actions.

Understanding increases communications between stakeholders: the military, GovGuam, the public non government organizations and others in the community.

“To have a shared understanding basically of what the strong economic and fiscal relationships and benefits are with all the stakeholders, the military and GovGuam moving forward together is key,” said Werner.

Werner said there are strategies that will address the compatibility issues identified earlier.

“These are either compatibility issues that exist today with the mission or current economic liability of Guam and/or the future missions as well,” she said. “Strategies are like tools. They can be policies they can be programs; they could be proposed legislation; proposed changes to military operations.”

The message, Werner added, is that “we want to make sure that GovGuam understands that these strategies are for everyone and not just for the military.”

“These are strategies that are compatible for everybody, and not just the military, and we try to bring all stakeholders together to identify fairly what everyone can do,” said Werner.

“For example, can they change their operations of a mission, meaning, the time they operate. Can we compromise. Can they maybe do it not on the weekends, possibly? What’s the compromise there?”

“Or flyovers where the area is heavily populated. Can they change that flight track?” Werner said this was one of the most complex and most difficult ones to change. “Because there’s a bigger entity: the [Federal Aviation Authority]. And there’s one above the FAA that we have no control over and that’s Mother Nature.”

Werner said education is two-way process. “We will try to educate the military on how GovGuam operates and what their plans are, how does legislation work, what the government’s vision is. And vice versa- what is the military trying to achieve and why are they trying to achieve it,” said Werner.

The first workshop on military buildup was held last night at the Tamuning Community Center. The second workshop is scheduled for tonight at the Dededo Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., followed by the last workshop scheduled for tomorrow at the Agat Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Japan stands up to US

Japan stands up to US

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 00:55
Varitey[sic] News Staff

JAPANESE leaders are standing up against pressures by the U.S. government to quickly proceed with the deal to move the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Base to a coastal area of Okinawa and transfer about 8,000 troops to Guam.

“I don't think we will act simply by accepting what the U.S. tells us, just because the U.S. is saying this, in such a short period of time,” international wire agencies quoted Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada as saying.

Okada made those remarks after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed Japanese leaders by insisting that Japan and the U.S. had negotiated this issue for as many as 13 years.

“But I told him that we, as an opposition party, had opposed the plan for those years,” Okada told Tokyo Broadcasting System Television. Okada said, “The will of the people of Okinawa and the will of the people of Japan was expressed in the elections.”

The transfer of the 8,000 Marines to Guam is causing many frustrations among the people and the government of Guam. It is mostly attributed to the lack of information.

Team to hear buildup concerns

Team to hear buildup concerns

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • October 28, 2009

Culture clash and the availability of resources were two primary concerns expressed by members of local government agencies, nonprofits and the general public on the Guam Compatibility Sustainability Study yesterday.

At a workshop sponsored by the governor's office, members of the governor's Advisory Consulting Team told the public that the study hinges on their voicing of concerns dealing with the compatibility issues caused by the impending military buildup.

"This is your opportunity to provide direction in the development of our roadmap for our children and future generations," Gov. Felix Camacho said. "Your participation at the public workshop is vital."

The compatibility study addresses the public's concern with regard to how to protect existing communities, and provide opportunities for economic development.

The Advisory Consulting Team primarily consists of members from the Matrix Design Group Inc., an interdisciplinary planning and engineering firm specializing in professional engineering consulting for the public and private sectors. The team will hear about issues the public has identified as areas of concern, and will provide a set of recommendations to the military and GovGuam on possible actions to take to ease the transition, the team's project manager and Matrix Design Group Vice President Celeste Werner said.

Dawn Cruz, a residential supervisor at Sanctuary Inc., said members of her nonprofit organization were interested in problems that may arise socially, such as new forms of bullying among youths. Additionally, she wanted to find out how the shift of 8,000 Marines and their families to the island would affect the number of youths that Sanctuary Inc. sees at its shelter.

"Are we going to have a long waiting list?" she asked. "We need to prepare ourselves for the demand."

She added that programs such as those for substance abuse prevention or family counseling may have to be altered to meet the needs of a new group.

Aside from social issues that may arise as a result of cultural differences, Guam residents said that establishing the infrastructure to support the influx of people on the island would be the biggest challenge.

"A lot of the infrastructure is a big problem. Having enough water to provide the number of people living on the island as well as power," Dededo resident Joann Fontenot said. "If we can have all that structured, then, of course, everyone will be living comfortably."

Meanwhile, Tamuning Vice Mayor Louise Rivera added that land use is of concern to her because she has seen several projects approved by the Land Use Commission, but very few that have been enforced in a timely manner.

The team also explained the process of drafting an environmental impact statement, in preparation for the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) projected for Nov. 20.

The EIS is a detailed study of the potential consequences a federal action -- in this case, the buildup -- might have on people or the environment, and potential alternatives that would avoid or reduce those impacts, the One Guam Web site states. Once the draft is released, the public has 45 days to review it before the final EIS is published in the Federal Register.

But on Friday, Sens. Judy Guthertz and Rory Respicio, in a letter to Maj Gen. David Bice of the U.S. Marine Corps, requested an extension of the time needed for the public to review the draft after its release.

Following U.S. Ambassador John Roos' indication that Washington may give the new Japanese leadership more time to review the U.S.-Japan agreement on the realignment of forces, the two senators said that the people of Guam should similarly be granted an extension to review the EIS.

"Japan has announced that their decision may not be forthcoming until next summer," the letter reads. "From our perspective, the extremely restrictive 45-day review period is simply a matter of bureaucratic convenience, unrelated to the broader public purpose that it should serve, and certainly no longer sensible, based on the extension given to Japan."

Bordallo, Navy to discuss EIS extension

Bordallo, Navy to discuss EIS extension

by Heather Hauswirth

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo will meet with U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Thursday (Guam time) to discuss an extension request for the comment period on the Comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the military buildup. Bordallo is hoping to convince the Navy to reevaluate its decision to only allow 45 days for public review and comment of the DEIS.

Bordallo noted that less comprehensive studies like the Mariana Islands Range Complex were allowed longer comment periods.

Hopes, concerns over US military build up in Guam

Hopes, concerns over US military build up in Guam

Sean Dorney, Guam

Last Updated: 21 hours 2 seconds ago

The business community on Guam is nervous about the possibility that the new government in Japan may try to change the agreement relating to America's proposed massive military build up on the island.

Under the 2006, deal brokered with the previous government, Japan would contribute billions of dollars to the relocation of 8,000 marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam.

"It is a huge's a ten billion dollar program with six billion dollars coming from the government of Japan and the remainder coming from the US government," said Captain Neil Ruggiero, a public affairs officer at the joint Guam program office.

Guam's government is excited by the prospect, but is wondering how it is going to cope.

Guam's business community, however, is less concerned and has been hosting a series of visits by foreign businessmen.

"There has been a couple of delegations from Australia that have come to the island looking at the opportunities, so the opportunities, the opportunities are huge," said Frank Campillo, chairman of Guam's Chamber of Commerce.

Apart from the concern over the new Japanese Government's commitment, there's an environmental issue to be resolved.

The proposed marine base is last remaining native habitat for a threatened bird species.

"There are two Marianas Crows left...they're two males, unfortunately, and we call the Heckel and Jeckelm," said Captain Neil Ruggiero.

"But by law we have to preserve the habitat where, if these species were going to be reintroduced in the future, you know, this is where they'd be reintroduced."

Under current planning, this massive military build-up will begin next year.

The United States already has a signifcant military presence in Guam, with large air and naval bases.

Environment workshops on buildup start today

Environment workshops on buildup start today

Tuesday, 27 October 2009 04:34
Varitey[sic] News Staff

(Adelup) -- Workshops on the Guam Compatibility and Sustainability Study and an orientation on the National Environmental Policy Act process regarding the military buildup will take place starting today until Thursday at the Tamuning, Dededo and Agat community centers.

The NEPA process is part of a national policy that was developed to help protect the environment and mitigate related concerns. The process, which relies on the analysis and review of information, including public input, will help guide and evaluate the impacts of the military buildup on the island community.

“It is imperative that our people understand the NEPA process and are well-versed on how to formally present their input,” said Gov. Felix P. Camacho.

As part of the NEPA process, according to Joint Guam Program Office officials, the official public review period for the military buildup draft environmental impact statement is set to take place sometime next month.

A major part of the workshop will be dedicated to the Guam CSS that is being prepared by the Guam Advisory Consulting Team. The primary goal of the Guam CSS will be to reduce the potential conflicts that may occur between the community of Guam and the military installations/ training areas while sustaining economic development, protecting public health and safety, and protecting current and future military missions.

“I encourage all residents to participate during these workshops, which will contribute to identifying both conflicts and solutions that concern many of our residents,” said Camacho.

To provide easy access for interested attendees, the workshop will be held at the following locations:

For more information, call Charlene Calip 475-9303 or 788-0589, or e-mail, or visit the One Guam website at

‘Guam can’t expect DoD aid for buildup’

‘Guam can’t expect DoD aid for buildup’

Tuesday, 27 October 2009 04:35
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

Second of a series

IT IS a policy of the Department of Defense not to provide funding for any buildup areas in a community, according to Celeste Werner, AICP president of Matrix Design Group, which is part of the governor’s Advisory and Consulting Team.

“There are a number of communities that are struggling with the exact same issues that Guam is experiencing as far as not having the funds to provide or get ready for the buildup,” Werner told Variety.

These communities, she added, are doing exactly what the government of Guam is trying to do, which is identify requirements.

“Identify them even though they don’t know what the real mission is because it’s changing. The draft environmental impact study is not out yet. They’re pulling their information together and in most cases, they’re in the same position,” said Werner.

While the consulting group can only provide input to the military, Werner foresees issues that need to be negotiated. “The military can say these are our projections and it may not be the same as ours, so there may be issues that need to be negotiated out,” she said.

Japan’s money

Werner noted that the funding that the government of Japan is providing is earmarked just for military construction projects.

“GovGuam has no control over that so we’re just focusing on what GovGuam can provide for revenues. We represent GovGuam. We worry about what GovGuam’s position is and make sure that it is fair and balanced across the board,” she said.

“Our documents will provide a third party objective, technical, professional review and opinion and recommendation that is not just coming from GovGuam. You can use those in plans and then go forward and identify more funds from different federal agencies,” said Werner.

Creative funding

Werner said the rush for federal funds is very competitive.

“Guam isn’t the only one vying for federal dollars for its own buildup. Some communities are being creative about how they are going to fund it,” Weerner said.

Some communities are doing public private partnership. Others are partnering with different nongovernment organizations involved with environmental issues that may have the same mission or goal as Guam in some specific areas that would require some additional funding.

“This is pulling both public and private in a partnering opportunity,” said Werner.

Werner said her group will be able to provide solid factual data with a third party objective and show the justifiable need for whatever Guam needs to meet and sustain the challenges of the buildup.

A series of workshops will be held to address the socio-economic impact of the buildup as well as an orientation of the national environmental policy act process related to the buildup.

Submission of comments on Guam military buildup extended

Submission of comments on Guam military buildup extended

Tuesday, 27 October 2009 00:00
By Richelle Ann P. Agpoon - Variety News Intern

THE submission of comments for the draft of the CNMI’s strategic approach regarding the Guam military buildup is extended until Nov. 2, Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Sixto K. Igisomar said.

As of Oct. 16, only four people sent comments to Commerce, Igisomar said.
Most were from private individuals and discussed issues on culture, environment and local rights.

“I can safely say that the individuals have a strong desire for more community involvement and better communication,” Igisomar said.

The draft was posted online for public viewing and “for the purpose of gathering information on how we can market the CNMI,” he said.

The comments received will be considered in the revision of the draft, he added.
Project Management Operations, which wrote the draft, is under contract to finalize the document after the public comment period.

Early this month, Commerce presented to the public a written draft on how the CNMI will be able to use its natural resources in the upcoming military buildup and how the commonwealth will benefit from it.

The draft is entitled “A strategic approach: Utilizing CNMI’s Natural Resources to Provide Complementary Support to DoD.”

For more information, contact Sixto K. Igisomar at 664-3000. To view the draft, visit

Comments should be e-mailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or delivered to its office on Capital Hill.

Comments received after the deadline will not be included in the revision of the draft.

Q+A-Japan-U.S. base feud hits nerve ahead of Obama visit

Q+A-Japan-U.S. base feud hits nerve ahead of Obama visit

By Linda Sieg
10.25.09, 11:15 PM EDT

TOKYO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - A feud over plans to relocate a military base on Japan's Okinawa island as part of a broad reorganisation of U.S. troops is straining Washington's ties with Tokyo's new government ahead of President Barack Obama's Nov. 12-13 visit.

The row coincides with deepening questions about how China's rising military and economic clout will reshape the decades-old U.S.-Japan alliance, under which Japan hosts 88 American bases.

Below are some questions and answers about the origins of the dispute and whether an alliance crisis can be avoided.


Residents of Okinawa, 1,600 km (1,000 miles) south of Tokyo and reluctant host to about half the 47,000 U.S. military forces in Japan, have long resented what they see as an unfair burden in maintaining the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

The concentration of U.S. military bases on Okinawa, a major U.S. military forward logistics base in the western Pacific, is a legacy of America's occupation of the island from 1945 to 1972.

Many locals associate the bases with crime, noise, pollution and accidents, and outrage flares periodically -- most strikingly after the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen.

As part of a 1996 pact to reduce the U.S. military presence, the United States and Japan agreed to close Futenma Air Station, home to about 4,000 Marines and located in crowded Ginowan City, within seven years if a replacement could be found in Okinawa.

An initial plan for an off-shore facility in northern Okinawa was opposed by locals and environmentalists.

The current plan is for relocation to a northern site to be partly built within another U.S. base and on reclaimed land.


No, the issue is much broader. Washington and Tokyo agreed in 2006 on a "road map" to transform the decades-old alliance, the pillar of Japan's post-World War Two security policies.

Part of a U.S. effort to make its military more flexible globally, the realignment fit with efforts by Japan's then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to shed the constraints of its postwar pacifist constitution and assume a higher global security profile.

Central to the pact was a plan to reorganise U.S. troops in Japan, including a shift of about 8,000 Marines by 2014 to the U.S. territory of Guam from Okinawa. The Marines' move, however, depends on finding a replacement site for Futenma.

While Futenma and the Marines' move grab most headlines in Japan, a package of steps to improve U.S.-Japan military cooperation in areas such as missile defense is equally vital.


Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan, which took power last month, promised in its campaign that it would review the realignment pact as well as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing the U.S. military in Japan. Hatoyama had said moving Futenma's functions off Okinawa was best.

More broadly, the Democrats have promised to adopt a diplomatic stance less subservient to its close security ally Washington, a shift from the long-dominant LDP, which was defeated in an election in August.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates turned up the heat last week when he stated bluntly that the deal must be carried out and said Washington wanted a resolution by Obama's visit.

Anxiety is being exacerbated by questions about the overall future of the five-decade-old U.S.-Japan alliance as both face the challenge of China's rising economic and military might.

Some in Japan fear Washington will cosy up to Beijing, while some in the United States worry Tokyo is tilting towards Asia by promoting the idea of an East Asia Community trading bloc.


The United States appears unlikely to agree to reopen talks given its firm public rejection of that option and Obama's need to focus on other pressing issues such as the war in Afghanistan.

Japan might agree to the current plan as is, or with slight modifications, but bowing to U.S. demands could cause a rift with two tiny coalition partners whose backing is needed to pass laws smoothly, as well as within the Democratic Party.

The two sides might be able to turn down the heat and delay a resolution until after Obama's visit, if Tokyo can convince Washington that it doesn't plan to delay too long.

Appearing to dither or to endanger the U.S.-Japan alliance could undermine Hatoyama's public support, but caving in completely to U.S. pressure could also alienate some voters.


Few analysts expect bilateral strains to spill over into trade and investment ties between the world's two biggest economies, and financial markets have taken the row in their stride even as market players express concern.

But damage to U.S.-Japan ties could spell geopolitical uncertainty in a region home to a rising China and an unpredictable North Korea, eventually affecting investment flows.

Military base row threatens to overshadow US Obama visit to Japan

Military base row threatens to overshadow US Obama visit to Japan

Updated October 26, 2009 13:06:49

Japan's new Democrats government is facing its first major test as it finds itself squeezed between the Obama Administration in Washington and the people of the southern islands of Okinawa.

At the heart of the row is a U-S air base which the Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had suggested could be moved. But the US has rejected any talk of re-locating the base outside of Okinawa, and the row is casting a shadow over the US President's visit to Japan next month.

Presenter: Mark Willacy, North Asia correspondent
Speaker: Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary; Yukio Hatoyama, Japanese Prime Minister

Listen: Windows Media

MARK WILLACY: (SFX sound of jet plane)The United States has had air bases on Okinawa since 1945, when it occupied the island chain after a savage 82-day battle. There are now 14 US bases on Okinawa.

One of the biggest is Futenma, host of the 4,000-strong 1st Marine Aircraft Wing which is located right in the heart of the city of 90,000 people.

(Sound of Japanese protestors)

Residents have long complained of noise and air pollution and threats to public safety from fighter jets, transport planes and attack helicopters - a protest which intensified after the crash of a marine corps helicopter into an Okinawa University five years ago.

During the election campaign two months ago the Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama spoke of moving Futenma out of Okinawa - an idea embraced by residents of the main island.

"I'd prefer to move Futenma right out of Okinawa," says this woman. "There are too many US bases and personnel here as it is," she says.

"The Government must not ignore calls from the people of Okinawa to remove this base," says another resident. "It must go" she says.

But the United States Marines aren't going anywhere. While Washington has signed an agreement with Japan to move the Futenma base to another part of Okinawa, the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has rejected any talk of shifting the base out of the island altogether. And Mr Gates is prepared to play hardball with the Japanese.

ROBERT GATES: Without the Futenma realignment, the Futenma facility, there will be no consolidation of forces and return of land in Okinawa.

MARK WILLACY: This all casts a bit of a shadow over the visit to Japan next month by US President Barack Obama. Washington would like to see this spat resolved before Mr Obama's arrives but Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is refusing to be rushed.

(Hatoyama speaking)

"We won't have an agreement before Mr Obama's visit," says the Prime Minister. "We must take heed of the feelings of the Okinawan people," he adds.

Yukio Hatoyama has vowed to pursue a more equal relationship with Japan's closest ally but it seems on the issue of Okinawa, Washington will not budge.

US, Japan at odds over air base

US, Japan at odds over air base

By North Asia correspondent
Mark Willacy for AM

AM |

Play MP3 of Okinawa base not moving says US ( minutes)

Japan's new centre-left government is finding itself squeezed between the Obama administration and the people of the southern islands of Okinawa.

At the heart of the row is a US air base which the Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, had suggested could be moved.

But the Obama administration has rejected any talk of re-locating the base outside of Okinawa.

It has cast a shadow over the US President's visit to Japan next month.

The United States has had air bases on Okinawa since 1945, when it occupied the island chain after a savage 82-day battle. There are now 14 US bases on Okinawa.

One of the biggest is Futenma, host of the 4,000-strong 1st Marine aircraft wing, which is located right in the heart of the city of 90,000 people.

Residents have long complained of noise and air pollution and threats to public safety from fighter jets, transport planes and attack helicopters - a protest which intensified after the crash of a Marine Corps helicopter into an Okinawa University five years ago.

During the election campaign two months ago, Mr Hatoyama spoke of moving Futenma out of Okinawa - an idea embraced by residents of the main island.

"I'd prefer to move Futenma right out of Okinawa," one protester said.

"There are too many US bases and personnel here as it is.

"The Government must not ignore calls from the people of Okinawa to remove this base - it must go," another resident said.

But the US marines are not going anywhere. While Washington has signed an agreement with Japan to move the Futenma base to another part of Okinawa, the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has rejected any talk of shifting the base out of the island altogether.

And Mr Gates is prepared to play hardball with the Japanese.

"Without the Futenma realignment, the Futenma facility, there will be no consolidation of forces and return of land in Okinawa," he said.

Washington would like to see this spat resolved before Mr Obama arrives, but Mr Hatoyama is refusing to be rushed.

"We won't have an agreement before Mr Obama's visit," Mr Hatoyama said.

"We must take heed of the feelings of the Okinawan people."

Mr Hatoyama has vowed to pursue a more equal relationship with Japan's closest ally, but it seems on this issue Washington will not budge.

Governor asks for 120 more days for DEIS

Governor asks for 120 more days for DEIS

Posted: Oct 27, 2009 3:22 PM
Updated: Oct 27, 2009 5:21 PM

by Nick Delgado

Governor Felix Camacho has officially requested for 120 days for the public and government leaders to review and provide comment on the draft environmental impact statement expected to be released next month. In a letter to Joint Guam Program Office Director David Bice, the governor said the additional 75 days would ensure adequate time to examine and respond to the largest draft EIS in Guam's history.

On that note, the Matrix Design Group is holding the first of several town hall meetings this evening, as they attempt to educate the public about a compatibility sustainability study and the National Environmental Policy Act process related to the military buildup. This evening's town hall meeting, which begins at 6, is being held at the Tamuning Community Center.

Another will be held at the Dededo Community Center and a third town hall meeting will be held at the Agat Senior Citizen's Center on Thursday evening from 6-8:30.

The company has been contracted by the government to review the voluminous draft environmental impact statement when it is released to the public on November 20.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Japan govt coalition partner rejects US base proposal

Japan govt coalition partner rejects US base proposal

(AFP) – 1 hour ago

TOKYO — A coalition partner of Japan's centre-left government on Saturday voiced opposition to a fresh proposal for keeping a controversial US base within the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Friday the Marine Corps Futenma Air Base should not be moved off Okinawa but could be merged with other US military facilities in the island.

But Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, one of the two minor coalition parties, rejected the proposal and insisted that the base must be moved off the island.

"I oppose the hasty and coercive proposal," Fukushima told reporters. "We should not be in a hurry even if it takes some time before reaching a final conclusion."

The government has previously said it will review a 2006 agreement to move the base from a crowded urban to a coastal area of Okinawa by 2014, and has even suggested the facility be moved off the island.

A row over the planned relocation cast a shadow on the Japan-US security alliance ahead of the first visit by US President Barack Obama to Japan on November 12-13.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates bluntly pressed Japan to "move on" quickly with the previously agreed plans to move Futenma operations to the the coastal area near the US Camp Schwab site, central Okinawa.

The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, now has 47,000 troops stationed there, more than half of them on Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved

Top U.S. military officer warns Japan against reneging on Futemma plan

Top U.S. military officer warns Japan against reneging on Futemma plan

Oct 23 09:38 AM US/Eastern

(AP) - TOKYO, Oct. 23 (Kyodo) — Visiting U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen on Friday warned Japan against reneging on a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord concerning the relocation of a U.S. military airfield within Okinawa, saying not honoring the pact would "diminish the security support for Japan."

Navy Adm. Mullen told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that he sees the planned transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in downtown Ginowan to the northern Okinawa city of Nago as "an absolute requirement in terms of whole realignment pieces."

"I don't believe, from the military standpoint, it is possible to provide the kind of security and defense support to Japan and to the region without it," Mullen said, referring to the current bilateral accord on moving the Futemma facility by 2014.

"Moving it (the Futemma base) somewhere else diminishes the security support for Japan and the region," he said.

Mullen's remarks are in line with the tough stance shown earlier this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates toward Japan's new government, which has been reviewing the bilateral negotiations leading to the 2006 accord in its attempt to seek more "equal" Japan- U.S. ties.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said his government will seek to move the heliport functions of the Futemma facility outside Okinawa, or even outside Japan -- a proposal that would contravene the bilateral pact that took years to reach.

Mullen also expressed hope that the Hatoyama Cabinet will reach a conclusion on whether to alter the realignment accord by the time U.S. President Barack Obama visits Japan on Nov. 12 and 13.

The top U.S. uniformed military officer met Friday with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and confirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, according to Japanese government officials.

In their meeting, Okada told Mullen that Tokyo will try to reach a conclusion on the Futemma issue as soon as possible, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Okada also told the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff that Japan has been considering new support measures for Afghanistan, such as vocational training, following the scheduled end in January of the Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around the war-torn country.

At the embassy, Mullen cast doubt on the idea of a no-first-use nuclear doctrine advocated by Okada, saying it would "dramatically reduce our flexibility."

He called for careful discussions on the doctrine as the U.S. nuclear deterrence extended to Japan has been serving well and the matter concerns the security of Japanese peop

Japan: Base must stay on Okinawa

Japan: Base must stay on Okinawa

October 24, 2009

TOKYO (AP) -- A major U.S. Marine base set for relocation must stay on the southern Japan island of Okinawa, the country's foreign minister said Friday as he tried to ease a deepening rift with Washington.

Katsuya Okada said the Marine airfield in Futenma, a crowded city on Okinawa, should be relocated to another part of the island and not moved elsewhere in Japan or overseas as some of his party's leadership had suggested.

The relocation of the base, which had been agreed to under previous conservative administrations in Tokyo, had become a sticky issue between Washington and Japan's newly elected government because of local opposition to the move.

"Starting from scratch on other ideas would not serve the best interests of the people of Okinawa," Okada said. "We should not spend too much time on this. Our time is limited."

He said, however, that it will be difficult to resolve the issue in time for President Obama's Nov. 12-13 visit to Japan.

After more than a decade of negotiations, U.S. and Japanese officials agreed three years ago to shift 8,000 Marines on Okinawa to Guam by 2014. But the plan, which includes the relocation of the Futenma airfield, has met intense local resistance.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who assumed office last month and vowed to put Japan's relations with Washington on a more equal footing, had said he wants to review the plan and had been unclear whether he would support moving the airfield elsewhere on Okinawa.

On Friday, he said that a resolution should be made "sooner than later," but didn't elaborate.

Okada's statement Friday was the new government's clearest to date that it will accept the move of the base to another location on Okinawa.

Stalled efforts

While the existing plan would lighten Okinawa's share of hosting more than half of the U.S. troops in Japan, it has met with resistance from opponents who expressed reservations over base-related crime, the cost and environmental issues.

Such opposition has stalled efforts to settle on a final plan for where the base should be relocated, although the Camp Schwab area, which is in a less crowded part of Okinawa, remains the most likely candidate.

US-Japan alliance gets a jolt

US-Japan alliance gets a jolt

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The US-Japan security alliance has been strained as Tokyo’s new centre-left leaders, in a row over a US military base, make good on their promise to be less subservient to Washington, analysts say.

The five-week-old government has repeatedly signalled it may scrap an agreement to build a new airbase on the southern island of Okinawa, where many residents have long objected to the existing American military presence.

The tone hardened this week when US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government to quickly “move on” and resolve the issue before President Barack Obama visits Japan next month.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada shot back later, saying “I don’t think we will act simply by accepting what the US tells us.” Reviewing the base issue, he added, reflected the will of the people. On Friday, Okada relented somewhat, saying new facilities could be built on the island but suggesting they be merged with another US site, the Kadena Air Base, a plan also not favoured by the United States.

Political observers have taken notice of the new tone in Japan. “Hatoyama’s ‘no’ is the first time Japan is rebelling against the US in decades,” said political analyst Minoru Morita, warning that “Japan-US relations are in danger.”

Some commentators warned that Japan’s new government is allowing domestic politics to threaten the security alliance that protected Japan through the Cold War and ever since. The conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun in an editorial said the government lacked responsibility and should take seriously Gates’ comments as a “warning that the Japan-US alliance could come to a rupture.”

Hatoyama signalled during his election campaign that although he values the US alliance, he would also seek a “more equal” relationship. His government, which ended half a century of conservative rule, has said it will end a naval refuelling mission that has supported the Nato-led Afghanistan campaign since 2001.

Washington initially played down such comments as campaign rhetoric by Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which had never been in government. But concern has grown, especially over the base issue. The Washington Post on Thursday quoted an unnamed US State Department official as saying: “The hardest thing right now is not China. It’s Japan.”

The flashpoint has been the new government’s pledge to “review” a 2006 agreement to reign the 47,000-strong troop presence in the country, where American soldiers have been based since World War II.

Under the plan, the Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Base, located in an urban area of Okinawa, would be closed and replaced with a new facility in a coastal area of the island by 2014, while 8,000 Marines would be moved to Guam.

Gates warned on Wednesday that reneging on the Futenma deal would unravel the wider pact, including the handover by Washington of the current base on Okinawa, an island dubbed America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier”.

Okinawa is of key strategic importance for the US military, as it lies near mainland China and Taiwan, close to North Korea, and can act as a stepping stone to Afghanistan and the Middle East. Takehiko Yamamoto, professor of international politics at Waseda University, said: “The current uncertainty over the Futenma airbase is accelerating a sense of distrust toward the DPJ, especially among Pentagon officials.”

Mikitaka Masuyama, politics professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said moving the base off Okinawa would sour relations with Washington, but doubted such a scenario would occur.

“Even if it has promised in its election campaign to relocate the base outside Okinawa, it must by now have realised that in reality there is no such option,” he said. “If there was, the LDP government would have done it much earlier.”

Rising Seas, Rising Awareness

Published on Thursday, October 22, 2009 by The Baltimore Sun
Rising Seas, Rising Awareness
Climate change threatens to drown Maryland's coasts and islands, but it's not too late to act
by Mike Tidwell

Here's an idea: Why don't the residents of Smith Island - at the fragile center of the Chesapeake Bay - rent a few scuba-diving suits and hold a town hall meeting under water?

Scientists say a huge part of the Chesapeake region could be below water in a few decades due to rapid global warming. So why not practice up? Just grab a few wetsuits and goggles and rehearse for the aquatic life to come.

A similar rehearsal took place last week in another island area: the archipelago nation of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Sitting at underwater tables, atop underwater chairs with fish darting about, the country's president and Cabinet ministers held a "global warming summit" to ask the world to stop the rising seas that could eventually submerge their entire country.

But as TV networks broadcast this bizarre meeting back to the U.S., you could almost hear the "tsk, tsk." We comfortable Americans tend to view really big catastrophes - things like famines and tsunamis - as far-away matters involving people usually too poor or under-educated to plan better.

This mindset helped blind us to the pre-Hurricane Katrina dangers of New Orleans. And it's blinding us today to the shared threat of climate change in places like Smith Island, not to mention Manhattan Island and most of south Florida.

Smith Island - just 80 miles east of the White House in the main stem of the Chesapeake - is home to 300 fishermen, artists, boat-builders, shopkeepers and retirees. The island covers four square miles and is, on average, less than 2 feet above sea level.

If, thanks to global warming pollution, the Greenland ice sheet continues its satellite-verified meltdown, then Smith Island will almost certainly disappear even faster than the Maldives and faster than several much-publicized South Pacific island nations. The whole eastern third of Maryland, in fact, is in big trouble, from Ocean City to Solomons Island to Annapolis. James Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, says we'll be measuring sea-level rise in meters by 2100 if current trends continue.

That's a lot to take in, for sure, and skepticism might be the natural response to such climate predictions. So don't take it from Greenpeace or Al Gore or even James Hansen. Listen instead to Allstate Insurance Co.

In 2006, Allstate announced it was no longer issuing new homeowners' policies in states up and down the East Coast. In Maryland, the company shut its doors to new customers across 11 eastern counties, including parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Why? First, the company said, sea levels are definitely rising worldwide based on irrefutable science. Second, Atlantic hurricanes are getting bigger and more intense as the planet warms. Hence, Smith Island and much of the rest of eastern Maryland just aren't good insurance risks anymore, Allstate acknowledged. The potential for catastrophe is too great.

Allstate is not a Republican corporation. It's not a Democratic corporation. This is rational private capital talking. The idea of an underwater town hall meeting near Smith Island seems less alarmist when a major insurance company is abandoning customers just a stone's throw from our nation's capital.

Thankfully, the Maryland General Assembly has done its part on global warming. It passed a statute last spring mandating a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 2020. But like the tiny nation of the Maldives, Maryland can't solve global warming by itself. The U.S. Senate must pass an even stronger federal carbon cap by mid-December, ahead of international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. With a congressional bill in hand, President Barack Obama must then go to Copenhagen and push China and the rest of the world for a strong global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol.

The good news is that this Saturday, for the first time ever, activists from Maryland and the Maldives - as well as Greenland, Australia and myriad places in between - will be speaking with one voice on global warming. The much-heralded "International Day of Climate Action" involves more than 4,000 events in more than 170 countries, including a "human circle of hope" outside the White House. (Learn more at

And while there's no word yet about an aquatic town hall meeting at Smith Island, there are rumors of wetsuits and goggles available for loan from the president of the Maldives. It's time to follow in his wake.

Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun
Mike Tidwell is executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network based in Takoma Park. His e-mail is

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.

US Customs poised to control NMI borders

US Customs poised to control NMI borders

Full access to airport facilities sought for up to 53 officers

By Haidee V. Eugenio

Friday, October 23, 2009

Key officials of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection led by Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations Thomas S. Winkowski personally told Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, lawmakers, and other local officials yesterday that CBP is “fully ready” to secure CNMI borders by Nov. 28 as required by the federalization law.

“From an operational standpoint, we're ready,” Winkowski told House Speaker Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), Senate President Pete P. Reyes (R-Saipan) and other members of the 16th Legislature on Capital Hill yesterday morning.

In their “operational readiness visit,” the federal team sought “full access” to the immigration facilities at the Saipan and Rota airports ahead of the Nov. 28 federalization to be able to install equipment and prepare for the takeover of border control.

Fitial gave CBP access to the facility, which the officials visited yesterday afternoon, said Winkowski.

Press secretary Charles Reyes confirmed that Fitial assured the federal officials that they would get the necessary access to the airports over the next several weeks to do their job.

“The federal officials agreed that they would make every effort not to interfere with the Commonwealth's enforcement of its immigration laws through Nov. 27,” Reyes said in a statement.

Winkowski said the team has had “productive meetings” with local officials.

“This is an operational readiness visit. I want to be sure that come Nov. 28, we're going to be up and running and you can't do that by sitting in Washington, D.C. You have to come out here and look at the facility, have meetings that we have today with the Legislature, with the governor, and work through any type of issues,” he told reporters.

Up to 53 CBP personnel

Winkowski said between 45 and 53 CBP personnel will be temporarily assigned to the CNMI, primarily at the Saipan International Airport, to screen some 400,000 passengers a year. Others will also be detailed at the Rota airport.

He said qualified CBP personnel from Guam and other U.S. states will be temporarily stationed until permanent hires are in place.

“I'm estimating it will take a year to eliminate temporary personnel,” Winkowski told lawmakers.

Jerry Aevermann, the current assistant port director for CBP Guam, has been named CBP interim port director for the CNMI.

Winkowski said a working group, to be led by Aevermann, is being formed to ensure a smooth transition to federal immigration control.

Besides Winkowski and Aevermann, seven other CBP officials from Washington, D.C. and Guam are visiting the CNMI.

They include CBP Assistant Commissioner for Information Technology Charles Armstrong; David Morrell, executive director of the Office of Field Operations' Mission Support; Cheryl Peters, program manager of the Office of Field Operations; Richard Vigna, director of Field Operations in San Francisco; Bruce Murley, area port director in Honolulu, Hawaii; Rocky Miner, port director in Guam; and Fraim Leon Guerrero of CBP Guam.

The team visited Guam before coming to Saipan Wednesday night. The officials leave Saipan today.

Rep. Rosemond Santos (R-Saipan) and other lawmakers wanted assurance from the federal officials that the current CNMI immigration personnel will be absorbed by CBP.

Winkowski said consideration is being given, but said qualification requirements will still need to be followed. He added that CBP will issue other job announcements for needed positions.

Immigration inspection

In answering questions from Rep. Ray N. Yumul (R-Saipan), the visiting federal officials said by Nov. 28, those who have already undergone immigration screening on Guam will not be screened again when they enter Saipan and vice versa.

However, those boarding on Saipan or Guam to other destinations will still undergo screening when they fly to Hawaii and other U.S. states and territories.

The CBP officials also said that travels between Saipan, Tinian and Rota will not need immigration screening.

Rep. Justo Quitugua (D-Saipan) and Rep. Diego Benavente (R-Saipan) asked whether nonresident workers can freely exit and enter the CNMI throughout the transition period starting on Nov. 28 without having to secure a U.S. visa.

CBP officials said this is still being worked on by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

CBP and the USCIS are among the component units of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is the lead agency implementing Public Law 110-229 (the Consolidated Natural Resources Act) in the CNMI. DHS is required to staff and equip six ports of entry in the CNMI by Nov. 28.

Winkowski said it's only a happenstance that they're in the CNMI when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced she will be exercising her parole authority to allow Chinese and Russian tourists to enter the CNMI without a U.S. visa even when federalization begins Nov. 28. (See main story)

Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) asked CBP to conduct public outreach on the agency's activities and policies, to which Winkowski said this is also being worked on.

Winkwoski, when asked about human trafficking and drug smuggling concerns, said there will be investigators that work for DHS to address these issues.

The CBP officials met not only with Fitial yesterday, but also with officials of the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the Office of the Attorney General, the CNMI Division of Customs, the CNMI Division of Immigration, and the Department of Labor.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP), in a statement, said he has “been assured that all the necessary equipment to do the pre-screening and monitor visitor exits will be in place by Nov. 28.”

“I have been very concerned about the department's operational readiness, but I'm beginning to see some forward motion. I also think that we have to be sure that this capacity is also present for the Rota and Tinian tourist markets. This isn't just about Saipan,” said Sablan.

Japan to craft new U.S. base plan by year-end: report

Japan to craft new U.S. base plan by year-end: report

Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:31pm EDT

OKYO (Reuters) - 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, the Sankei newspaper reported on Friday.

The report comes days after the U.S. defense secretary bluntly called for a planned realignment of U.S. troops in Japan to be implemented, sparking concern about worsening ties between Washington and Japan's new government.

A broad deal to reorganize U.S. forces in Japan was agreed in 2006 between Washington and Japan's long-dominant conservative party, which was ousted by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Democratic Party in an August election.

Central to the deal is a plan to move the functions of the Futenma air base to northern Okinawa, while shifting 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam, partly at Japan's expense. Japan is host to about 47,000 U.S. military personnel as part of the decades-old security alliance.

Hatoyama had said he wants the base moved off the island, where many complain about crime, noise, pollution and accidents associated with U.S. bases, but U.S. officials have ruled that out, saying it would undermine broader security agreements.

The Sankei reported that the government plans to come up with a new relocation site within Okinawa, citing unidentified government sources.

Hatoyama said on Thursday that Japan needed more time before making a decision on the Futenma base issue and that he did not regard Obama's November 12-13 visit as the deadline for Japan to reach a conclusion.

"It's about how both sides avoid risks. There is no need to rush," Hatoyama was quoted as saying on Friday by Kyodo News Agency.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Navy eyes sonar operations in Marianas

Navy eyes sonar operations in Marianas

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NOAA's Fisheries Service is seeking comments now through Nov. 19 on its proposed rule to authorize impacts to marine mammals during Navy training exercises around the Mariana Islands. The NOAA proposal includes protective measures designed to minimize effects on marine mammals.

The Navy has requested an authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, because the mid-frequency sound generated by tactical sonar, and the sound and pressure generated by detonating explosives, may affect the behavior of some marine mammals, or cause a temporary loss of their hearing sensitivity.

NOAA's Fisheries Service does not expect the exercises to result in serious injury or death to marine mammals, and is proposing the Navy use mitigation measures to avoid injury or death. However, exposure to sonar in certain circumstances has been associated with the stranding of some marine mammals, and some injury or death may still occur. Therefore, the proposed authorization allows for a small number of incidental injuries to marine mammals.

NOAA's Fisheries Service said it has made a preliminary determination that these effects “would have a negligible effect” on the species or stocks involved.

Under the authorization, the Navy would have to follow mitigation measures to minimize effects on marine mammals, including:

-establishing marine mammal safety zones around each vessel using sonar;

-using Navy observers to shut down sonar operations if marine mammals are seen within designated safety zones;

-using exclusion zones to ensure that explosives are not detonated when animals are detected within a certain distance;

-implementing a stranding response plan that includes a training shutdown provision in certain circumstances, and allows for the Navy to contribute in-kind services to NOAA's Fisheries Service if the agency has to conduct a stranding response and investigation.

“These measures should minimize the potential for injury or death, and significantly reduce the number of marine mammals exposed to levels of sound likely to cause temporary loss of hearing,” NOAA said in a statement.

Additionally, the proposed rule would require the Navy and NOAA's Fisheries Service to meet yearly to discuss new science, Navy research and development, and Navy monitoring results to see if changes to mitigation or monitoring measures are needed.

NOAA's Fisheries Service and the Navy use independent, experienced vessel-based marine mammal observers (as well as Navy watchstanders), and passive acoustic monitoring to help better understand how marine mammals respond to various levels of sound and to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures.

The Navy has been conducting training exercises, including the use of mid-frequency sonar, in the Mariana Islands for more than 60 years. Exercises range from large, 10-day long joint multi-strike group exercises using multiple surface vessels, submarines and aircraft, to multi-hour exercises designed to target specific skills or weapons systems, such as missile tracking. Some exercises involve explosives.

NOAA's Fisheries Service will accept comments on the application and proposed authorization through November 19. Comments should be addressed to:

Michael Payne, Chief of the Permits, Conservation, and Education Division
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Electronic public comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal using the identifier 0648-AW91. (NOAA)