New realignment plan for moving U.S. Marine to Guam will not be tolerated – the situation must not go from bad to worse

February 5, 2012

The governments of Japan and the United States have commenced consultation on the proposed revised plan in which the U.S. Department of Defense has suggested distributing some of the approximately 8000 U.S. Marines who were originally down to move from Okinawa to Guam to locations in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Hawaii. This Guam relocation plan for the Marines stationed in Okinawa is the basis of the Agreement on the Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan between Japan and the United States reached in 2006, along with the conditional return of Futenma Air Station and relocation to an alternative facility to Henoko in Nago. Because their thought processes seem to have stopped on the issue of relocating to Henoko, resumption of talks on this would effectively be a step towards stalemate. The most important thing for Okinawans is the direction of the proposed revision of the realignment – whether it is towards the best or worst scenario for the people of Okinawa. We want to avoid potential worst case scenarios, such as these three points becoming part of the revision plan to realign U.S. forces: a) the facilities in question staying put at Futenma Air Station, b) the Henoko relocation plan remaining as is, c) the freezing of plans to return land of south of Kadena. This would be absolutely unacceptable to us.

We want to eliminate the risks posed by Futenma Air Station – which U.S. officials have described as “the most dangerous air base in the world” – as soon as possible. To avoid accidents, we want to reject the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing transport aircraft in Okinawa because it has been described as having inherent defects. These standpoints represent the views held by the vast majority of the Okinawan public. If the governments of Japan and the United States place a high priority on human rights or human life, and would like to normalize relations between Japan and United States supported by the trust of the Okinawan people, the best course of action would be the unconditional return of Futenma Air Station to the Okinawan people or to relocate those facilities either outside the prefecture or abroad.

According to the U.S. media, the Obama administration is planning to move 4500 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, with another 4000 being rotated to Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii. This policy change is premised upon the Henoko relocation plan being implemented. On February 3, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba clearly stated, “There is no change in the thinking that relocating the facilities at Futenma to Henoko is the best course of action, and that approximately 10000 Marines will remain in Okinawa.”

If both governments continue to move in this direction, in addition to the facilities at Futenma Air Station staying where they are, the issue of relocation to Henoko could be just pushed onto the back burner, neither abandoned nor advanced.

To safeguard its national interests, the United States Government aims to redeploy the Marine Corps to match its new Asia-Pacific strategy. Nearly 4500 members of the Marine Corps will be transferred to Guam from Okinawa, with another 4000 being rotated to different locations, but maintaining the option to come back here at any time. Furthermore, both governments are reconsidering the plan to return land used by the U.S. military in the area south of Kadena being included in the realignment of U.S. forces. We speculate that they intend to preserve that space to accommodate 10000 Marines. Such a development would be a nightmare for the Okinawan people.

The Japanese government must not simply repeat the foolhardy practice of following meekly behind the United States and forgetting about the citizens of Okinawa. The people of Okinawa must also seek to calmly identify the intent behind the policies of both governments and patiently continue our demands for the base issue to be resolved.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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