Tuesday, January 31, 2017

KUAM: Former senator Jim Webb has strong ties to Guam

im Webb is a former US senator, Navy secretary, and democratic presidential candidate, he also has a long history with Guam, dating back to the 1970's  when he wrote a book about the strategic importance of Guam and Micronesia.
"The way that I started this many, many years ago was looking at the tail end of the Vietnam war and where the American bases were out in East Asia, and whether there might be a better way for us to address our national security interests out here by consolidating a lot of the ground units, consolidating our position in Guam and the Northern Marianas with a powerful Navy presence forward, and still being able to communicate the interests around here. So Guam is still really one of the key places, Guam and the Northern Marianas, for us to do that," he said.
As a member of the US Senate Webb took a keen interest in the military buildup in Guam.  But key colleagues, John McCain and Armed Services chairman Carl Levin, were among those who expressed concern about the initial size and cost of the buildup. But several years later with a reduced force, Webb says he'd like to see the relocation of marines move more quickly.

Navy pays $37K to settle discrimination suit

The Navy and a former civilian worker for a military facility in Guam have settled an employment discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed today.
The Navy’s internal investigation found that Robert Ballard’s allegations against his then co-workers were false and that no sexual harassment occurred, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in a statement today.
However, the Navy agreed to pay Ballard $37,200 to settle all of the plaintiff's remaining claims because the military has difficulty calling witnesses who may be stationed in different parts of the world, according to court documents.

The Nation: "Fraying US-Japan alliance"

Okinawa has remained a thorny issue between Japan and the United States since the end of World War II when the Island was given under American trusteeship and after when the Island was reverted back to Japan in 1972.
The matter of US marines on Okinawa is not settled yet.
Now all eyes are turned to see how President-elect Donald Trump would look at the issue: to move away from the military alliance with Japan; to continue to maintain troops on Okinawa Island? To ask Japan to pay the entire military cost of the alliance or to maintain its security on its own?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Japan already pays enough for US military bases, Nikkei poll says

TOKYO — Japanese citizens do not want to pay more for hosting U.S. military personnel and are now more likely to predict a downturn in bilateral relations, according to a Nikkei poll released Monday.
The survey taken this past weekend found that 57 percent of Japanese favored maintaining spending on U.S. bases at current levels, while 30 percent said Japan is spending too much. Five percent said Japan should spend more, the poll said.
Japan pays an average of 189.3 billion yen — or between $1.65 billion and $1.95 billion, depending on currency exchange rates — per year to support U.S. bases in the country as part of a five-year deal signed in 2015.
Japan spent an additional 176 billion yen last year for realignment of U.S. forces in the region, which includes transferring Marines to Guam in the 2020s.

Joint Region Marianas: Bolivar out, Chatfield in

ASAN, Guam—Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield relieved Rear Adm. “Bette” Bolivar during a change of command ceremony on Friday, Jan. 27.
Chatfield will serve as commander, Joint Region Marianas; commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas; U.S. Pacific Command, Senior Military Official Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau and Commander, Task Force West.
She reports to Guam after serving as U.S. Deputy Military Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.

Duterte asks US not to store weapons in Philippine camps

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked the United States on Sunday not to store weapons in local camps under a defense pact, saying his country may get entangled if fighting erupts between China and the U.S.

 Duterte said in a news conference that he would consider abrogating a 2014 defense pact that allows U.S. forces to temporarily station in designated Philippine camps if the Americans build weapon depots in those encampments.

 "They're unloading arms in the Philippines now," Duterte said, identifying three areas where U.S. forces were supposedly bringing in their armaments, including the western Philippine province of Palawan, which faces the disputed South China Sea.

 "I'm serving notice to the armed forces of the United States, do not do it, I will not allow it," Duterte said in the televised news conference after meeting top military and police officials.

Troops Who Cleaned Up Radioactive Islands Can’t Get Medical Care

RICHLAND, Wash. — When Tim Snider arrived on Enewetak Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to clean up the fallout from dozens of nuclear tests on the ring of coral islands, Army officers immediately ordered him to put on a respirator and a bright yellow suit designed to guard against plutonium poisoning.
A military film crew snapped photos and shot movies of Mr. Snider, a 20-year-old Air Force radiation technician, in the crisp new safety gear. Then he was ordered to give all the gear back. He spent the rest of his four-month stint on the islands wearing only cutoff shorts and a floppy sun hat.
“I never saw one of those suits again,” Mr. Snider, now 58, said in an interview in his kitchen here as he thumbed a yellowing photo he still has from the 1979 shoot. “It was just propaganda.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Philippines: US to start building facilities in selected military camps

MANILA (Tribune News Service) — Amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-U.S. rants, Americans will start constructing facilities this year inside selected camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

 The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), whose constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court last year, allows the U.S. to use temporary facilities in the country.

 “According to the Pentagon they will start constructing some facilities in the Edca chosen camps,” Lorenzana told reporters in a news briefing on Thursday.

 The camps where the facilities will be constructed are in Basa Air Base, Pampanga, Bautista Air Base in Palawan and Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan De Oro.

Okinawans hope for positive changes

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa’s governor plans to travel to Washington to lobby the new White House administration against relocation plans for a U.S. air base within the southern island prefecture.
The election of Donald Trump brought supporters of Gov. Takeshi Onaga and anti-base activists a glimmer of hope for changes to U.S. policy that could halt base construction plans decades in the making.
Onaga will arrive Jan. 30 and stay until Feb. 4, said a spokesman for the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s military affairs office. Onaga plans to meet with senior officials of the state and defense departments and members of Congress, although the meetings have yet to be scheduled. The governor will voice his opposition to moving Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from busy Ginowan to the island’s remote north. He also plans to speak at a symposium at George Washington University on Feb. 2.

Calvo meets with federal officials to discuss H2B issue

The governor announced that former Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work, who is familiar with the Guam military buildup, is now in the Trump Administration.
Guam - Fresh off a trip from the states, Governor Eddie Calvo says despite concerns about the H2 visa denials, there is some hope even in the new Trump Administration.
With a pending lawsuit and historic denials of H2B visas, the business community and the Guam Contractors Association is concerned about completing projects for the island, especially as the island reaches critical mass in a matter of months as a result of the military buildup.
Speaking to the business community during a meeting for the Guam Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Calvo said he had a bit of good news to report. He was in the states last week for various meetings and to attend the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Military notifies public of ongoing, pending exercises

The military has issued public advisories to Guam residents in connection with ongoing and upcoming military exercises, including an exercise that will involve the firing of blank ammunition to simulate an attack.
U.S. Marines from Japan are currently conducting an urban warfare training on Guam, until Feb. 4, according to the Marines, with most of the training happening at the island’s military bases.
Residents may notice increased activity on Jan. 30, and on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, the Marines stated.

Philippines says U.S. military to upgrade bases, defense deal intact

The United States will upgrade and build facilities on Philippine military bases this year, Manila's defense minister said on Thursday, bolstering an alliance strained by President Rodrigo Duterte's opposition to a U.S. troop presence.
The Pentagon gave the green light to start the work as part of an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a 2014 pact that Duterte has threatened to scrap during barrages of hostility towards the former colonial power.
"EDCA is still on," Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference.
EDCA allows the expansion of rotational deployment of U.S. ships, aircraft and troops at five bases in the Philippines as well as the storage of equipment for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

US defence chief heads to Japan and South Korea to strengthen ties

The new US secretary of defence, James Mattis, is to reassure Japan and South Korea of Washington’s commitment to the security of the volatile Asia-Pacific region, despite suggestions by Donald Trump that he was ready to scale down the US’s military presence there.
Mattis, a retired Marine general, will reaffirm America’s role in strengthening security ties with its two strongest allies in the region when he visits South Koreaon Tuesday and Japan the following day.
“The trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to our enduring alliances to Japan and the Republic of Korea, and further strengthen US-Japan-Republic of Korea security cooperation,” the Pentagon spokesman, Jeff Davis, said.

While Trump stresses military, Asian allies seek trade, too

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s “peace through strength” could mean more U.S. military power in Asia, reassuring allies about America’s resolve to counter China. That is, if they’re still looking to Washington for reassurance.
Trump called his speedy withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership a victory for American workers hurt by multilateral trade pacts. But his reversal of years of U.S.-led efforts may mean the loss of Asian nations’ trust and support in confronting an increasingly assertive Beijing after many of them, under Washington’s pressure, barrelled through similar domestic concerns over jobs and competition.
And a weakened partnership with East Asia’s key commercial powers could have wide-ranging consequences for Americans, beyond them missing out on the trade pact’s potential for lower prices and additional jobs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Japan Times: U.S. forces want suit over Mariana proposal, Marines' Okinawa-Guam move tossed

The U.S. military is seeking to have a federal lawsuit challenging its plans to expand operations in the Mariana Islands dismissed.
The Department of Defense claims the court does not have the authority to question the $8 billion international agreement that will move as many as 5,000 U.S. Marines from Japan to the Marianas in Dededo, Guam, The Pacific Daily News reported Monday. The military also plans to use some islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for training.
Earthjustice filed its lawsuit last July on behalf of several groups opposed to the military training.
The lawsuit says the U.S. Navy failed to evaluate the environmental impacts of training on Tinian and Pagan islands and did not consider alternate locations outside the Mariana Islands “where the marines could accomplish their mission with fewer adverse impacts.”

General notes Guam's 'over the top' patriotism

Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the director of the Air National Guard, had heaps of praise for Guam residents' military service, but also noted the involvement of some in a nationwide recruitment fraud.
Rice arrived Tuesday at Andersen Air Force Base.
The trip is a chance to "really see what Guam is,” Rice said, adding he brought about 25 members of his leadership team on the trip.
With Guam's small population – about 160,000 during the last census – Rice noted the number of island residents who signed up for military service is beyond high.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

McCain seeks $7.5-B of new US military funding for Asia-Pacific

WASHINGTON - The head of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee, John McCain, has proposed $7.5 billion of new military funding for U.S. forces and their allies in the Asia-Pacific, where tensions have been rising over China's territorial ambitions.
The funds, $1.5 billion a year for five years to 2022, could be used to boost U.S. munitions stocks in the region, build new military infrastructure, such as runways, and to help allies and partner countries increase their capabilities, an aide to McCain and a U.S. military official said.
The funding proposal was contained in a White Paper issued by McCain last week entitled "Restoring American Power." His committee is expected to discuss it at a budget hearing on Tuesday.

Tense Philippine-U.S. Relations Will Surge And Then Fall Under Trump

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has flipped his country’s old foreign relations formula on its back since taking office in June by pushing the United States away in favor of China. U.S. President Donald Trump shows early signs of pulling the Philippines back into its fold of friendly Pacific Rim countries, which it never totally left anyway.
Relations will improve for a while. Later they won't.
Duterte, in office since June, has threatened to cancel U.S. military aid after decades of cooperation as he courted aid and investment deals with China. The 72-year-old leader known for all sorts of bold remarks once called U.S. ex-president Barack Obama “son of a whore.” The United States should prepare to leave, he also said last year.
The Philippines and the United States, which colonized the Southeast Asian country for about 50 years through World War II, are expected to pick up their old friendship under Trump. Relations are already getting better.

McCain kicks off debate in Senate over military buildup

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain on Tuesday convened a Senate hearing and urged a costly and long-term build-up of the military to reverse years of falling budgets.

 The Arizona Republican fired the opening salvo in a coming political debate in Congress this year over President Donald Trump’s promise to rebuild a “depleted” military with an historic increase in defense spending for troops, ships and aircraft.

 Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee – in a possible preview of the party’s political strategy toward the Republican plans – shot back with calls to also fund domestic security programs, which also have been squeezed by spending caps in recent years. 

The defense budget fight is only beginning and the Armed Services Committee will play a central role in crafting 2018 military plans passed later this year by Congress. McCain is pushing for a $640-billion base defense budget that would shatter a $549-billion spending cap imposed by federal law, meaning Republicans and Democrats will need to reach an agreement to ease the limits.

Young Okinawa director wants all to ponder U.S. base presence

January 25, 2017 at 09:00 JST

Like many young people who grew up in this southern prefecture, film director Ryugo Nakamura has mixed feelings about the presence of U.S. military bases in his native Okinawa.
Nakamura, 20, a Keio University junior, directed and released last year a fictionalized movie portraying Okinawan youths who have equivocal feelings, unclassifiable as pro or con, about the issue.
The Dec. 13 wreck of a U.S. military's Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which crash-landed off the coast of Nago in the prefecture, reminded Nakamura of the message he put into his film that he would like everyone in Japan to think about.
“No Osprey aircraft has ever crashed, after all,” a high school student says in one scene in “Girl of the Sea.” The latest accident overturned that premise.

Guam Daily Post - Editorial: 'Hire American' rule might be detrimental to Guam in the short term

President Donald Trump’s inaugural speech on Saturday outlined how he’d like to shape America.
“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American,” says a transcript of his speech.
Buying American-made goods first, and prioritizing American workers for jobs would help the nation’s factories, workers and the economy in the long run, but Trump’s rules could complicate what already is a looming crisis for Guam.

Guam EPA begins testing for Agent Orange

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency has started the process to test for traces of the chemical defoliant known as Agent Orange around the island. Retired veteran Leroy Foster, a Florida resident, claimed he sprayed hundreds of thousands of gallons of the herbicide while stationed at Andersen Air Force Base.
Agent Orange was one of the “rainbow herbicides” used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. Post news files state that it was also used to clear the perimeters of military bases to give service members a clear line of fire.
Veterans stationed in Guam, including Foster, have testified in several forums that they spread Agent Orange in military facilities and defense properties in Guam including tank farms, a cross-island pipe line, pump houses, hydrant pits and filtering systems at the air base, files state.

Guam EPA announces active Agent Orange investigation following Calvo order

The military last week told Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo that Agent Orange, a hazardous defoliant, was not used on Guam, but Gov. Eddie Calvo, citing statements from veterans, has instructed the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to test for traces of the chemical, according to the governor’s office.
Guam EPA announced Monday that investigations are already actively underway. A release stated that agency officials "have been involved in discussions with Department of Defense (DOD) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), engaging in an investigation into the claims made by retired Air Force Master Sgt. Leroy Foster and other veterans who were stationed in Guam in the 1960s and 1970s."
According to the release, "GEPA officials informed the governor that requests for signed affidavits from individuals who have publicly stated that Agent Orange was used on Guam have been made, with the intent of documenting and pinpointing any and all areas where the herbicide may have been allegedly used on the island."

McCain proposes $7.5 billion of new U.S. military funding for Asia-Pacific

By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON
The head of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee, John McCain, has proposed $7.5 billion of new military funding for U.S. forces and their allies in the Asia-Pacific, where tensions have been rising over China's territorial ambitions.
The funds, $1.5 billion a year for five years to 2022, could be used to boost U.S. munitions stocks in the region, build new military infrastructure, such as runways, and to help allies and partner countries increase their capabilities, an aide to McCain and a U.S. military official said.
The funding proposal was contained in a White Paper issued by McCain last week entitled "Restoring American Power." His committee is expected to discuss it at a budget hearing on Tuesday.

Trump Has Nothing to Offer Asia Except Threats

The president's all-sticks, no-carrots approach is scaring away allies and empowering America's enemies.
Donald Trump’s executive order ending America’s commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership has left U.S. allies like Japan and Australia aghast at the waste of time and effort on what was once a signature — and effective — policy in the region. His “America First” refrain in his inauguration speech, with all its suggestions of a widespread retrenchment of U.S resources from the Pacific, was equally disturbing.
But they should be at least as alarmed by the contrary indications that Trump is intent on a newly assertive foreign policy in Asia, one more reliant on hard power. That latter vision, especially in combination with the former, is no less dangerous for America’s friends in the region.

Senate Democrats could still thwart Trump's military buildup plans

WASHINGTON – Hopes that President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress will quickly pass the biggest military buildup in a generation are set to face hard political realities on Capitol Hill, a group of budget experts said Monday.

“It’s not Christmas in July,” despite a sense of euphoria and optimism in defense circles, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

 Senate Democrats could still block any moves to get around defense spending caps – the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Trump’s estimated $80-billion annual hike for troops, ships and aircraft, Eaglen and other experts on the defense budget said during a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, another Washington think tank.

Detention of Okinawa activist sparks cries of political oppression

The three-month detention of a prominent anti-base activist in Okinawa has sparked cries of political oppression that activists say is aimed at weakening opposition to new U.S. military facilities in the prefecture.
On Friday, supporters of Hiroji Yamashiro submitted a letter with the signatures of about 18,000 people from over 60 countries to the Naha District Court calling for his release. The signatures were mainly collected online.
One of the organizers, writer Satoshi Kamata, said at a news conference the same day that he believes Yamashiro, who has led civic groups opposed to the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture, was arrested for political reasons.
“Crackdowns on the peace movement by a military state have begun,” Kamata said. “I believe Yamashiro’s arrest was politically motivated.”

US force ignores “Iejima aggregation” conducting training without warning

January 13, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo
The U.S. air force conducted parachute drop training over the Tsuken Island training area in Uruma City around 11:00 a.m. on January 12. The training was done without any notification being given to Okinawa Prefecture or the city. Soldiers as well as supplies were dropped. There were some fishing ships sailing around the same area. The prefecture and Uruma City Have demanded training be conducted in the ocean only around Ie Island area based off the report by the Specian Action Committee on Okinawa, so called SACO, yet the request was once again ignored. 
On January 11, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) announced multiple trainings will be held in the U.S. Kadena Air Force Base on January 17. However, the notification was deleted on January 12. This marks the eighth training conducted offshore of Tsuken Island since the SACO agreemend was made. The previous training was done in August of 2015.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Marianas Variety Op-Ed: The U.S. Military

TWO nephews saw action as Marines in the Middle East, with one returning to use the GI Bill through community college, earning a bachelor’s degree. 
He segued back to the disciplined lifestyle though no longer with the armed forces.  His brother did the same save he stayed with the service, got a master’s degree while on duty, and took his watch back to a military line of defense, leaving his wife and family with mother-in-law in Southern Cal.
Another nephew headed the National Guard in his state, retiring as a colonel with no complaints.  With the military salute providing easy access to disciplined management practices useful in the private sector, to call my posture to be anti-military is a stretch of the imagination.  But I am dubbed as such.  It is no comfort that a majority of soldiers do not trust the president as well.

Injunction, possible settlement considered in H-2B suit

Kyla P Mora , kmora@guampdn.com3:35 p.m. ChT Jan. 18, 2017
District Court of Guam Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan on Tuesday held a three-hour court hearing on a request by local businesses to force the U.S. government to continue issuing visas to temporary foreign laborers, pending the outcome of their federal lawsuit.
A dozen Guam companies in October filed a lawsuit, alleging the recent high rejection rate for H-2B visas constitutes an unlawful change in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service policy. The lawsuit claims some employers might be forced out of business because they no longer have access to the foreign workers needed to complete military and private projects.
U.S. immigration officials used to approve 95 percent of requests to import foreign labor, but last year rejected nearly all requests, the businesses have argued.

Labor lawsuit argued as Guam reaches ‘critical mass’

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — It may be just two more months before Guam reaches “critical mass” between projects that need to be completed and the number of H-2B workers still on island to help complete them, according to attorney Jeff Joseph, who represents various local companies and the Guam Contractors Association in a lawsuit against federal labor authorities.
Counsels for both parties met Tuesday in the District Court of Guam to argue their cases regarding a preliminary injunction motion filed on behalf of local companies, which could force federal officials to provide some initial relief on the H-2B issue in Guam.
Since December 2015, there have been few to no federal approvals of temporary worker petitions. Approval rates have declined from nearly 100 percent in years past to just about 4 percent in 2016, according to Joseph.    

U.S. troops could move to Taiwan from Okinawa: Trump adviser

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – John Bolton, a foreign policy adviser of United States President-elect Donald Trump, said U.S. troops could be stationed in Taiwan as a response to protests in Japan and to Chinese “belligerence.”
The suggestion from the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations came in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece published Tuesday. Bolton has frequently been described as a “foreign policy hawk” with strong views on Taiwan.
His comments were expected to cause further unease in China, which was angry  at Trump accepting a phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen last month and at his tough talk over trade with Beijing.

EDITORIAL: Full review of SOFA is needed, particularly over jurisdiction

A Japan-U.S. supplementary agreement to narrow the scope of the “civilian component” legally protected by the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has taken effect.
The new deal is part of the two governments’ efforts to prevent brutal crimes linked to U.S. military bases following the slaying of a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa Prefecture last April. A U.S. civilian worker at the Kadena Air Base in the southern island prefecture has been indicted in the case.
The supplementary agreement more clearly defines the term “civilian component” by introducing eight categories of American citizens covered by SOFA. One category is “civilians employed by the U.S. government budget.”

Bordallo, DOD discuss Agent Orange on Guam

U.S. Department of Defense senior officials continue to assert Agent Orange “was not used on, stored or transshipped through Guam during the Vietnam War,” according to a statement issued Thursday by Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo.
Bordallo released the statement after meeting with senior Defense Department officials on Jan. 18 to discuss multiple reports of Agent Orange being used on Guam’s military bases during the war.
“This was an initial meeting to discuss the deep concerns that have been raised in our community,” Bordallo said.
Given the military’s assertion, Bordallo said she looks forward “to reviewing their records that support this claim and continuing to engage with the DOD and local stakeholders so that we have all the facts on this issue.”

Guam Contractors Association discusses foreign labor issues

Just days after a district court hearing over H-2b visa denials, the attorney representing the Guam Contractors Association addressed its membership today at the Hilton. Attorney Jeff Joseph says the preliminary injunction hearing was only the first step in this entire case. He adds starting next month, he expects to see some critical mass in terms of a real need for workers on military related projects.

U.S. military helicopter makes emergency landing in Okinawa

A U.S. military helicopter made an emergency landing Friday evening in Okinawa Prefecture, local government and police officials said, the second incident involving U.S. aircraft in just over a month in Okinawa where public opposition is strong to the huge U.S. military presence.
The chopper was an AH-1 attack helicopter based at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, a Japanese Defense Ministry source said.
The chopper landed in an attempt to avoid a potential accident as it had mechanical trouble, according to a central government source. The helicopter “conducted a precautionary landing,” the U.S. Marines Corps said in its statement, adding “there was no damage to the aircraft and no injuries.”

Fierce foe of US military bases on Okinawa detained for three months

By ANNA FIFIELD | The Washington Post | Published: January 20, 2017
TOKYO — One of the most vocal opponents of U.S. military construction on Okinawa has been in detention for 95 days on relatively minor charges, triggering accusations that the Japanese government is trying to silence him.
Hiroji Yamashiro, a 64-year-old who had led protests against new U.S. Marine Corps facilities on Okinawa, was arrested Oct. 17 and has been behind bars ever since.
"I can't help but think this smells like a political judgment, not a judicial one," Yamashiro wrote from his prison cell in Naha in response to questions from The Washington Post that were passed to him through his attorney.

Anti-US base activists push for Okinawa protester's release

Activists opposing the US military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa are protesting the ongoing detention of one anti-US base activist over a series of minor offenses.
Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, had been leading protests against the construction of a new US marine corps installation, before he was arrested on October 17 last year. The island already boasts 32 such facilities.
Yamashiro and his supporters have claimed he is being detained for politically-motivated reasons and that the Japanese government is trying to silence him.

Abe kicks off Diet session with vow to strengthen U.S. military alliance

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to “further strengthen” Japan’s military alliance with the United States on Friday, in his key annual policy speech for 2017 kicking off a six-month ordinary Diet session.
In recent policy speeches Abe has covered economic issues first and foreign policy later. But this year he started with diplomatic policies, apparently trying ease concerns over ties with the U.S. under incoming President Donald Trump, who has criticized Japan on issues from trade to security.

TV network's coverage of anti-U.S. helipad protests in Okinawa sparks outcry

Citizens groups submitted a petition to a Tokyo TV network on Jan. 19 to protest a program claiming that demonstrations against the construction of U.S. military helipads in northern Okinawa Prefecture are "radical" and "dangerous."
    The program in question, Tokyo Metropolitan Television Broadcasting Corp. (Tokyo MX)'s "News Joshi (girls news)" -- a show aired every Monday at 10 p.m. and hosted by Yukihiro Hasegawa, deputy executive editor of the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper -- was aired on Jan. 2. The show, sponsored by a subsidiary of a major cosmetics company, invites guests such as policy analysts and TV personalities to debate social issues.

    How the US Marines Spread Fake News About an Afghan ‘Terrorist’ In Okinawa

    In December 2016, a long-term Afghan resident of Japan and more recently, Okinawa, was accused of being a terrorist — without any proof — by an American military unit that is stationed in the prefecture. Rumors spread quickly across social media and the local American military community before being debunked by Japanese bloggers, the Okinawa police and the Japanese media. The incident is an illustration of how “fake news” is created and distributed, leaving little ability to hold anyone to account.
    According to the Ryuku Shimpo, a Japanese-operated newspaper serving Okinawa Prefecture, sometime in the early evening of December 23, 2016, a number of messages appeared on the Facebook and Twitter accounts belonging to employees of the Okinawa branch of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), a shopping service aimed at American military service personnel.

    PDNN: CNMI report sent to Congress

    A panel of CNMI and White House officials sent a report to Congress Tuesday, detailing joint recommendations on how the federal government can help CNMI immigration and balance U.S. national security interests in the western Pacific region.
    The recommendations include extending beyond 2019 the transitional CNMI-only worker program the local economy relies upon for its tourism-based economy. Without the extension, the CNMI will have limited access to foreign workers. The CNMI’s local labor pool is so limited it needs foreign workers.
    The joint panel also seeks an increase in the annual foreign worker cap to 18,000.
    The recommendations also include a pathway to U.S. citizenship for long-term guest workers, and their families.

    Realtors brace for H-2B impact

    With contracts hanging in the balance, Many employers on Guam are watching closely as the lawsuit over H-2B temporary worker visa denials plays out in the court systems — but they aren’t the only ones.
    Guam realtors already know it's a challenging market. Add to that the impending military buildup and the effective stoppage of skilled labor, and those challenges can become full-scale obstacles.
    Realtor Patrick Supple is concerned about what the H-2B limits mean for housing costs.
    Supple, who works at The Real Estate Professionals with realtor Kishin Advani and principal broker Christopher Murphy, said that Guam’s housing inventory is mostly sufficient for current demand, but just barely.

    Inrreasing U.S. Military Presence in the Pacific

    The Marine Corps this spring is sending its largest aircraft element to date -- four tilt-rotor Ospreys and five Super Cobra and four Huey helicopters, all out of Hawaii -- to the next $25 million rotation of Marines to northern Australia as the Corps continues to redistribute its forces around the Pacific.
    The Marines are moving to four major forward areas of operation over the next decade -- Japan, Guam, Hawaii and Australia -- as part of a "distributed laydown" that seeks to deter growing threats in the vast Asia-Pacific region, particularly from from China and North Korea.
    The Osprey, with its long range and speed, is seen as a key connector for the Marine Corps in its new island-hopping strategy.

    902 report includes region’s labor demands

    A means to address the labor demands of the Marianas region was one of the recommendations in the final 902 talks report that was submitted to congressional leaders last week. It is hoped that Congress would then take the necessary action on the concerns submitted.
    According to the report, which was backed by both special representatives in the 902 panel—federal and CNMI government—they support some leeway on certain immigration policies as a means to address the region’s anticipated workforce shortage.
    Recommendation No. 4 states: “The [special representatives] support [United States] Congress’ consideration of extending and expanding existing immigration policies or developing new policies to address systemic regional workforce challenges currently being experienced in both Guam and the CNMI.”

    Detention of Okinawa activist sparks cries of political oppression

    The three-month detention of a prominent anti-base activist in Okinawa has sparked cries of political oppression that activists say is aimed at weakening opposition to new U.S. military facilities in the prefecture.
    On Friday, supporters of Hiroji Yamashiro submitted a letter with the signatures of about 18,000 people from over 60 countries to the Naha District Court calling for his release. The signatures were mainly collected online.
    One of the organizers, writer Satoshi Kamata, said at a news conference the same day that he believes Yamashiro, who has led civic groups opposed to the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture, was arrested for political reasons.

    PDN: Military wants buildup lawsuit dismissed

    Steve Limtiaco , slimtiaco@guampdn.comPublished 10:44 a.m. ChT Jan. 23, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago
    A federal lawsuit by several groups, challenging the U.S. military’s buildup plans for the Mariana Islands, should be dismissed, according to the military. The Department of Defense argued the court does not have the authority to second-guess the international agreement that will shift U.S. troops from Japan to the Marianas.
    The July 2016 lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of groups opposed to military training in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, asked the federal court to throw out the 2010 and 2015 records of decision for the buildup, which could stop the military’s plans for Guam as well.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    Cambodia says China not behind scrapped US military drill

    World Bulletin / News Desk
    Cambodia has cancelled upcoming military exercises with the United States, the defence ministry said Tuesday, denying the decision was made to appease regional ally China, with which it conducted joint drills last month.
    American and Cambodian troops had been due to take part in the annual "Angkor Sentinel" joint exercise this summer, which has been held for the past seven years. 
    But defence officials in Phnom Penh said the exercise had been halted because Cambodian troops were needed to carry out an ongoing drug crimes purge and prepare for upcoming local elections due to be held in June.

    Cambodia cancels military exercise with US

    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia has informed the United States that it is canceling an annual joint military exercise this year, even though planning for the event had already begun, officials from both countries said Monday.
    Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Chhum Socheath said the Angkor Sentinel exercise had to be postponed because Cambodian forces would be unable to fully participate as a result of two important events: local elections in June and a six-month campaign to eradicate drug-related crime.
    U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman confirmed in an e-mail that the exercises for 2017 and 2018 have been canceled. He said military exchanges and training programs are not affected. After the local elections in June, Cambodia will hold a general election in 2018 in which long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to face a strong challenge.

    AP: Caroline Kennedy leaves Japan after 3 years as US ambassador

    TOKYO (AP) — Caroline Kennedy is stepping down Wednesday after three years as U.S. ambassador to Japan, where she was welcomed like a celebrity and worked to deepen the U.S.-Japan relationship despite regular flare-ups over American military bases on the southern island of Okinawa.

    She ruffled some feathers early on by tweeting her opposition to Japan's dolphin hunt, shortly after her embassy issued a statement expressing "disappointment" that Japan's leader had visited a shrine that memorializes World War II war criminals, among others.

    During her tenure, though, the conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and liberal U.S. President Barack Obama built a relationship of trust despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum. 

    As Kennedy steps down from ambassador post, observers see a mixed legacy

    The first woman in the role. The daughter of a U.S. president. In some ways, Caroline Kennedy was a unique U.S. ambassador to Japan.
    The daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy was so popular at the start of her stint that thousands of spectators flocked to see her when she presented her credentials to Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in November 2013.
    But despite her popularity, critics say Kennedy will leave behind a mixed legacy when she finishes her assignment Wednesday. While she played a great role as a goodwill ambassador, critics say she showed relatively little interest in policy issues and lacked the experience needed to lead and manage a high-profile institution like the U.S. mission to Japan.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Military Reforms Indicate China's Readiness for Geopolitical Standoff With US

    Beijing is preparing for a shake-up in the command ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In recent years, Beijing has been implementing a large-scale military reform aimed at adjusting China’s military capabilities to the emerging geopolitical challenges.

    The Chinese military is undergoing a massive reshuffle in the command ranks. Nearly 50 high-profile officers, including 18 generals, will soon step down, the South China Morning Post reported, citing military sources.

    In particular, among the 18 generals to be relieved of their command is Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the PLA Joint Staff Department. 

    "The coming changes are aimed at promoting a new generation of officers, with veterans giving way to younger talent to take over the leadership," according to the sources. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to optimize the effective forces of the Chinese military and increase its firepower by introducing new technologies in the defense sector. The Chinese leader expects a breakthrough in China’s defense capabilities in the 13th five-year period (2016-2020).