Heads of Japan, U.S. assert “Henoko is the only solution”, with no mention of pledge to close Futenma

Heads of Japan, U.S. assert

The maritime area of U.S. Marine Corp Camp Schwab, where the governments of Japan and the United States plan to relocate the Futema airfield. (Photograph taken on February 5.)

February 12, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Sakae Toiyama reporting from Washington D.C.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump held their first summit meeting at the White House on the afternoon of February 10 (the dawn of February 11 Japan Time).

The heads of the two states agreed to promote the plan to build a new base at Henoko, Nago, as “the only solution” for returning the U.S. Futenma airfield.

The two leaders included this issue in the joint statement.

President Trump for the first time officially confirmed he would support the Japanese government in promoting the construction of new base in Henoko.

The prime minister did not seek assurances from the U.S. side that the Futenma base would be deactivated within five years despite the Japanese government’s promise to achieve this by February 2019.

The two leaders agreed to strengthen the bilateral alliance, and they confirmed they would apply Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which states that the United States will defend Japan, to the Senkaku Islands dispute.

The statement stressed the strengthening of cooperation in the security and economic fields.

“It is the only solution that avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma,” the statement reads regarding the construction of the new U.S. base in Henoko.

The phrase “Henoko is the only solution” was included in the joint statement issued by the security consultative committee, the so-called “2+2” meeting between defense and foreign ministers. It is the first time this phrase has been included in a statement from the summit meeting.

The prime minister stressed at the joint press conference that the two governments would work together to advance the Henoko relocation, which he claimed was the only solution to achieve the whole return of the Futenma airfield.

He stated that he would grapple with the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan to preserve deterrence and reduce the burden on Okinawa at the same time.

Meanwhile, Trump told reporters at the joint press conference, “The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Pacific region,” and he thanked the prime minister for hosting U.S. military bases. However, he did not refer to Okinawa.

It is speculated that the prime minister requested the U.S. to speed up the plan, which includes transferring a portion of the U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa and returning the U.S. facilities located south of Kadena Air Base, in order to reduce the burden on people in Okinawa. However, the joint statement did not refer to the reduction of the burden.

(English translation by T&CT)

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