Japan: Relocate Futenma to Guam
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno • Pacific Daily News • January 12, 2010
If you think the current plan to move 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam would be too much of a population boost to Guam in a few years -- how about thousands more?
The United States side of the U.S.-Japan agreement on the relocation of Marines to Guam has not indicated it would move additional Marines to Guam -- at least nothing's been said publicly at this point.
A Japanese government panel still considers Guam as a relocation option if it succeeds in calling for all U.S. troops to move off Okinawa completely.
Japan's Social Democratic Party panel plans to suggest a location outside Okinawa to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station, Japanese media NHK reported on its English TV broadcast and online edition yesterday.
"The Social Democrat's working panel says one new location for the base would be Guam," NHK reported as one of a few options.
The Japanese government and ruling parties panel studying the relocation issue say it will make every effort to decide the relocation site by May, NHK reported.
The working panel is headed by the Social Democratic Party's planning chief Kantoku Teruya, who is a Lower House lawmaker from Okinawa, according to NHK.
The U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station has been a flashpoint for Okinawans' clamor for U.S. troop pullout.
The air station occupies a fourth of the total area of Okinawa's Ginowan City, and is right in the center of the city. Roads, waterworks and sewage systems have to make a detour to avoid the air station, according to Globalsecurity.org.
During the Bush administration, in 2005, Japan and the United States agreed to ease the presence of Marines on Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan by moving 8,000 of them and their 9,000 dependents to Guam. But the U.S. did not agree to move all U.S. troops out of Okinawa.
What had been agreed was to move Marines out of the center of the Okinawan city, but keep some of them -- still on Okinawa -- but farther away from city bustle. As part of the deal, Japan agreed to pay $6 billion of the $10.27 billion cost to move some of the Marines to Guam. Japan and the U.S. have provided their respective shares of the first year's funding -- totaling almost $1 billion.
But earlier this year, newly elected Japanese officials began to ask for complete removal of U.S. military presence in Okinawa. Some of the new elected Japanese officials have even called for moving all U.S. troops out of Japan.
The U.S.-Japan "realignment roadmap" was based on what was then a mutual understanding that some U.S. troops would have to remain in Okinawa, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in an October 2009 press conference, said changing the terms of the Futenma relocation is not negotiable.
"First of all, we are very sympathetic to the desire of the new government in Japan to review the realignment road map," Gates said in a transcript of the press release.
"Our view is clear. The Futenma relocation facility is the lynchpin of the realignment road map. Without the Futenma realignment, the Futenma facility, there will be no relocation to Guam. And without relocation to Guam, there will be no consolidation of forces and the return of land in Okinawa," according to Gates in October.
"Our view is this may not be the perfect alternative for anyone, but it is the best alternative for everyone, and it is time to move on," Gates added.
A request for the Joint Guam Program Office for comment yesterday on the NHK news was referred to the State Department. The State Department could not be reached yesterday.
The Joint Guam Program Office oversees military buildup readiness for the Defense Department.