Part of the U.S. Marine Corps fighter jet drills relocated to Guam from Okinawa

October 5, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 4, Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa announced that in keeping with the agreement reached to help ease the base-hosting burden of Okinawa, from October 10 the Japanese and U.S. governments will relocate some of the U.S. Marine Corps fighter jet drills currently held at the U.S. Kadena Air Base to Guam.

This is the first time since the agreement was entered into that Japan and the United States will implement the relocation of such drills to Guam, and on this occasion, drills involving about 20 F/A-18 Hornet fighters based at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture will be transferred to Guam.

The shift of venue is scheduled to continue until October 31 and this particular relocation is reported to be the largest carried out to date.

The Japanese government will cover three quarters of the cost of the relocation, with the U.S. government bearing the remaining one quarter.

The transfer of the drills, including the one scheduled to be held from 10 October, is due to be carried out in two or three phases until next March and then to be continued beyond fiscal 2012.

Ichikawa said, “Noise in the areas around Kadena Air Base is a serious problem. We would like to continue deliberations on this issue with U.S. military and do our best to reduce noise to the greatest extent possible.”

The ministry also intends to transfer drills for pilots of U.S. Air Force F-15s from the Kadena base to Guam.

But at the same time, local residents in Okinawa are not all confident that the drill relocation will actually reduce the noise level, because in the past during such relocation of drills other U.S. military aircraft based in South Korea have come to conduct exercises at Kadena. However, a ministry official expressed the view that on the this occasion the U.S. military will refrain from holding other exercises there while the relocation is carried out, saying, “The Japanese government has reached an agreement with the U.S. government on that matter.”

With regard to the relocation of the drills, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba talked to the press on October 4, saying, “This is a concrete measure designed to resolve the noise issue, and it contributes to the reduction of Okinawa’s base-hosting burden. While engaging in ongoing discussions with the U.S. government, we need to do even more to resolve issues such as incidents [of crime], accidents and the problems of noise.”

Both the Japanese and the U.S. governments have been expanding efforts to relocate some of the U.S. Marine Corps fighter jet drills held at the U.S. Kadena Air Base to Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases outside Okinawa Prefecture. Both governments reached agreement on the relocation of the drills to Guam and are in the process of arranging the specific timing of its implementation.

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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