Perspectives :: Guam set to oppose relocation of 8,000 Marines to island from Okinawa
The local community in the U.S. territory of Guam is leaning toward rejecting the planned relocation of about 8,000 U.S. Marines to the island from Okinawa Prefecture.
The local governor, who had initially expressed his willingness to host the troops, is now calling for a delay in the deadline for the relocation, set at 2014.
While Japanese legislators and government officials insisting that U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma be moved out of Japan hope Guam will host a substitute facility, growing anti-base sentiment in the island community has cast a shadow over even the already agreed-upon relocation of some 8,000 Marines.
The recent dispute in Guam over the relocation of Marines suggests that the situation on this resort island is similar to that of Okinawa, where residents are protesting the excessive burden of hosting U.S. bases in Japan and historically unequal relations between the island prefecture and the central government.
Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and an adviser to President Barack Obama on environmental issues, met with local legislators on March 23 to ask for their opinions on the planned relocation of Marines to the island.
The Mainichi Shimbun has obtained the minutes of the talks, held behind closed doors, in which Sutley and the U.S. government were roundly criticized. [Comment Added: Pacific News Center, Guam Senators Hammer Sutley On Draft EIS for Buildup, http://www.pacificnewscenter.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3951:guam-senators-hammer-sutley-on-draft-eis-for-buildup&catid=45:guam-news&Itemid=156] One of the legislators declared that islanders will fight against any forcible expropriation of their land, and pointed out that the expansion of U.S. bases there would drastically change islanders' lives over the next 300 years.
Another criticized the federal government for extending no assistance to finance infrastructure building necessary to expand the bases, while one other demanded that historically unequal relations between the federal government and Guam be rectified.
Overwhelmed by the furious legislators, Sutley only said the federal government will do its best to ensure the expansion of the bases will benefit local residents, and promised to convey their opinions to Washington. However, she failed to make any specific pledge. Her bureaucratic response only disappointed the attendees.
The local community's anti-base sentiment was sparked by an interim report on the environmental assessment released by the U.S. military in November last year. The report called for additional forcible land leases, which one local legislator describes as "a bolt from the blue," and a large-scale dredging of the harbor.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected the assessment as inadequate, and advised the military not to implement the relocation as planned, sending shockwaves throughout the island.
The U.S. military has explained that the additional land lease is necessary to build a firing range for the Marines, and harbor dredging is needed to allow a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to enter the port.
During construction work, the island's population is estimated to increase by 50 percent to approximately 260,000. Nevertheless, the military has failed to work out any plan to build additional water supplies or sewage facilities to cope with the increase.
In its written opinion, the EPA expressed grave concern that the island would be seriously short of water, and that excessive sewage water could cause serious health problems, such as the spread of infectious diseases.
Moreover, the EPA pointed out that dredging could damage the 28-hectare coral reef off Guam.
(Mainichi Japan) April 3, 2010
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Perspectives :: Tokyo under pressure to foot infrastructure bill for expansion of Guam base
Japan is under mounting pressure to foot the expenses of building infrastructure necessary to expand U.S. bases on Guam to accommodate about 8,000 Marines to be relocated out of Okinawa Prefecture, as Washington has failed to shoulder the financial burden.
The Guam territorial government estimates that $3.9 billion, or approximately 370 billion yen, will be necessary to build an additional sewage treatment facility, power station and improve roads and bridges. The amount is eight times the annual budget of the island.
A high-ranking Guam government official expressed grave concern that the island could go broke, pointing out that the federal government has stopped short of pledging to foot the costs. He then asked if Tokyo will shoulder the financial burden.
Military bases cover 30 percent of the land area of Guam, with Andersen Air Force Base situated in its north and Apra Harbor Navy Base on its west coast.
Furthermore, a total of 17 servicemen from the island have died in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, and in a Feb. 15 address Guam Gov. Felix Perez Camacho emphasized that Guam dedicated more lives and land per resident to war than any other state or territory in the United States.
Angered by a federal government that is trying to force the islanders to make further sacrifices, the Guam legislature adopted a resolution on Feb. 11, demanding that the plan to expand bases in Guam be revised, and in his Feb. 15 address Gov. Camacho insisted that the expansion of U.S. bases in Guam be delayed beyond 2014.
The Social Democratic Party, a ruling coalition partner in Japan, has demanded that U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture be moved to Guam. However, Guam's legislature and governor are increasingly critical of the already agreed upon plan to shift some 8,000 Marines in Okinawa to Guam.
(Mainichi Japan) April 3, 2010