Joint use of US training area by SDF for anti-guerilla exercises could entail burden increase

October 5, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 4, it was discovered that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) has a plan to conduct joint use of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area as a training area for the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to engage in anti-guerilla warfare training. The information was revealed at a hearing before the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly in response to a question by Assemblyman Osamu Toguchi of the Japan Communist Party, who posed his question on the basis of a 2012 internal MOD document titled “Regarding dynamic defense cooperation between Japan and the United States.” Vice Governor Mitsuo Ageda expressed opposition to the increase in burden borne by Okinawans in conjunction with joint use, saying, “The government is always saying that it will reduce the base burden on Okinawa. Whether it’s the U.S. military or the Self-Defense Forces, the base burden on Okinawans cannot be increased.”

The Japanese government asserts that building new helicopter landing pads (helipads) will enable the return of more than half of the Northern Training Area, thus entailing a reduction of the base burden on Okinawa. However, joint use by the SDF as an anti-guerilla warfare training area raises the concern of yet another base-related burden being placed on Okinawa.

Plans have also been revealed that involve permanent joint use by the SDF of U.S. military facilities in the northern part of Okinawa Island, such as Camp Schwab and Camp Hansen. With the most recent revelation of planned joint use of the Northern Training Area, it appears that the SDF and the U.S. military troops in Okinawa are becoming integrated.

Assemblyman Toguchi was critical, saying, “Even the SDF are being concentrated in Okinawa. Not only is this not a reduction of burden, it is in fact a reinforcement of burden.”

With respect to the Northern Training Area, in his policy speech on September 26, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asserted that the return of land in conjunction with the new helipad construction would lead to a reduction of burden borne by Okinawa, emphasizing that “roughly 20% of land used for U.S. military facilities in Okinawa will be returned, the largest land return since Okinawa was restored to Japanese administration.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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