Article on CNN website advocates that U.S. Marines in Okinawa be moved to the United States

Article on CNN website advocates that U.S. Marines in Okinawa be moved to the United States

Michael O'Hanlon (on the left) and Mike Mochizuki


November 6, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

“Rethink U.S. military base plans for Japan,” an article co-written by Mike Mochizuki, professor at George Washington University specializing in U.S.-Japan relations and Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings specializing in U.S. security and defense policy, was published on the website of Cable News Network (CNN) on November 4.
Mochizuki and O’Hanlon cast doubts on the possibility of relocation of Futenma Air Base to Henoko in Nago, referring to strident opposition to the current relocation plan from Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and Okinawan Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.
Mochizuki and O’Hanlon propose that Washington should relocate about 8000 of the Marines currently in Okinawa to California instead of Guam. They claim that, “American capabilities in East Asia – the crucial matter – can then be sustained (if not actually enhanced) if Japan and the United States purchase extra equipment for those Marines and place it on maritime prepositioning vessels in Japanese waters where it can be quickly put to sea in the event of conflict and sailed to where forces are needed.”

Amid a growing number of voices in the U.S. Congress calling for the scaling down of U.S. military bases overseas, this article advocating the relocation of the U.S. Marines on Okinawa to the United States could influence the Futenma issue in the future.

With regard to the current relocation plan, Mochizuki and O’Hanlon said, “There are however two major problems with the existing plan.” They refer to the fact that in January 2010 voters in Nago elected a mayor who is clearly against the current relocation plan, and that Hirokazu Nakaima was re-elected as the governor in November 2010 on the basis of his opposing the current relocation plan. Mochizuki and O’Hanlon doubt that the current relocation plan is feasible, saying, “Okinawan Governor Hirokazu Nakaima was re-elected in November 2010 on a platform opposing the current relocation plan; and he is almost certain to reject the upcoming application for a landfill, which is necessary to build the new airfield.” “If the Japanese government were to force the construction of proposed Henoko facility, this is likely to provoke a physical clash with anti-base activists and erode the willingness of Okinawans to host more important U.S. bases on Okinawa, such as Kadena Air Force Base.”

They go on to state, “Second, and just as importantly in the era of American budgetary austerity, the Guam/Henoko plan is way too expensive. Lots of costly construction would be needed to make it happen – about $15 billion for each of the two countries.” “If Tokyo and Washington shared in the costs, equipment for the relocating Marines and ships to hold it in Japanese ports until needed could be purchased for around $5 billion, far less than the costs of the new construction projects.”

They wrote, “But a better approach would be to bring those Marines home to California where the inevitable downsizing of the broader U.S. Marine Corps will create space for them at existing bases.” “Keeping U.S. forces at existing bases in Japan is in fact a bargain, since Japan pays most of their local costs and since having Navy and Air Force capabilities in particular in forward-deployed locations is a big net positive for the United States. They can operate in the region from existing facilities on Okinawa and Japan’s main islands, with aircraft within combat radius of North Korea and the Taiwan Straits and ships within a couple days’ sail of each place.”

Mochizuki and O’Hanlon claim that attack submarines and unmanned aerial vehicles could be based on Guam due to highly advanced military technologies, and continued, “The incorrect perception that the United States was weakening its commitment to the Western Pacific with such a move could be countered in several ways.”

The fact that an influential media organization such as CNN has published this article reflecting the viewpoint of Mochizuki and O’Hanlon that casts doubts on the feasibility of the current relocation plan may have an impact on American public opinion.

Mochizuki hosted “Okinawa Question,” an international symposium, in which experts on U.S.-Japan security discussed the issue of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa and U.S.-Japan security policy.

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

Go To Japanese

Rethink U.S. military base plans for Japan(CNN)

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