U.S. welcomes deal on relocating Futenma air base

WASHINGTON —

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Friday praised a decision by Japanese officials to allow the relocation of a U.S. air base at Futenma in Okinawa, calling it a “milestone” for relations with Tokyo.

Hagel welcomed the approval of the long-delayed move of the U.S. Marine Corps base, which he said would permit a redeployment of American forces in the area and bolster Washington’s strategic “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region.

“Reaching this milestone is a clear demonstration to the region that the alliance is capable of handling complex, difficult problems in order to deal effectively with 21st century security challenges,” Hagel said in a statement.

“Our alliance has helped underwrite regional peace, stability, and prosperity for more than half a century, and resolving these years-long issues will enable us to take our relationship to the next level as we revise the guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation,” he said.

After more than 17 years of debate and political wrangling, the local government in Okinawa has given a green light to moving the Futenma air station from a densely populated urban area to a new facility to be constructed on the coast.

Hagel said he had told Japanese officials that the Pentagon was “committed to working with the government of Japan to build a strong and sustainable U.S. military presence with less impact on the people of Okinawa.”

Relocating the controversial air base is part of a plan to cut back the overall US military presence in Okinawa. The Pentagon plans to reduce the number of Marines on the island from 18,000 to about 10,000 in coming years, with some redeployed to Australia and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Resolving the future of the air base in Okinawa clears the way for Washington’s so-called “pivot” to Asia, with plans to deploy more ships and troops in the Pacific.

“The realignment effort is absolutely critical to the United States’ ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and our ability to maintain a geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture in the region,” Hagel said.

The rebalance is designed to counter China’s growing military might and influence in the Pacific, amid growing tensions over territorial disputes.

U.S. defense officials called Japan’s decision a landmark step that eliminated the last political hurdle to the relocation and removed a time-consuming issue from Washington-Tokyo relations.

“It opens up the bandwidth at a senior level for other issues to be discussed,” said a senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The agreement calls for moving to a new base on Okinawa’s northern coast by 2022 but if Japanese construction efforts move at a faster pace, the United States would be ready to move earlier, officials said.

Republican lawmaker John McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the decision was a “major achievement for Okinawa, for Japan, and for the U.S.-Japan alliance—an achievement for which Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe and his administration also deserve much credit.”

McCain also said it was crucial that the estimated cost of the relocation of the base be “strictly adhered to over the years ahead.”

(c) 2013 AFP

  • 0

    Yubaru

    I will believe it when I see it!

  • 0

    toshiko

    I waqtched several USA news that mentioned thismove ( Hardly any news about Japan in my area in U/SA)/ IAll of them mentioned "One of Controversial US Military bases in Okinawa"

  • 5

    CrazyJoe

    For the United States, Okinawa is an important strategic base in East Asia and is the pivot of the national defense of Japan. China is holding back tears of desperation in an attempt to put a crack in the U.S.-Japan alliance.

  • 3

    Yubaru

    This will likely lead to more violence against Okinawa's people.

    You a fortune-teller too?

    If the primary responsibility of elected officials of the governments of Japan and Okinawa is to protect the lives of its citizens, then allowing these violent elements into the society, in the guise of "military protection" is a serious breach of trust.

    Evidently you are unaware of the actual situation and who is responsible for what. I

  • -2

    kaimycahl

    This plan which has been delayed in previous Japanese administration was orchestrated when Abe came to Washington this year. The conversation goes like this Obama to Abe how about giving the US the rights and ability to move our troops to the North to counter China’s growing military might and so that the US can have more influence in the Pacific. Abe response but what about, the growing tensions over territorial disputes between China, Japan and S.Korea? Obama response I would talk to S.Korea and in the mean time you can pay your respect at the shrine I got your back. Abe ok but i have to pay off the Okinawa government first Obama do what you gotta do lets make this happen. Abe yes Sir Mr.President in the mean time China signs an agreement to direct all travel through Niguragua to by pass the panama canal saying it will allow them to get more cargo ships faster to the US for trading , cargo ships mean subs and war ships. Its all a game of cat and mouse and the mouse never wins.

  • 0

    bajhista65

    At last USA technique worked big time after other plans failed. US Military really does not want to leave Okinawa , Japan for their own economic profit. For so many years, their maneuvering with JGov finally bear fruit with the unusual threat from China which IMO, USGov and Pentagon hidden forces got something to do with China's non stop bullying and threatening Japan in the issue of Senkaku Island ownership. Hehehe. Mmmmmm why not let USGov and Military Department handle all the expenses in building the relocation sites and be responsible in maintaining and supporting all their officials, staffs and military personnels and no single yen from JGov to shoulder. USA wanted to have a US Military Base in Okinawa so they have to pay the rent as what they do in other countries.. Let's hear their response. Hehehehe

  • 1

    YuriOtani

    Think USA needs to pay base expenses and ground rent.

  • 0

    toshiko

    got old info how much Japan pay USA to have US Military in Japan ''

    The Japanese Gvt paid $2.17 billion as annual host-nation called budget of compassion. The U.S. government employs over 8,000 Master Labor Contract (MLC)/Indirect Hire Agreement (IHA) workers on Okinawa (per the Labor Management Organization) not including Okinawan contract workers. Immediately after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, 9,720 dependents of United States military and government civilian employees in Japan evacuated the country, mainly to the United States.,,,,,,

  • 0

    Stephen Knight

    Funny how the environmental issues that were so much a part of the original opposition to the Nago/Henoko landfill and development get almost no mention anymore at either the national or international level... in a way, I suppose that represents progress, in that people are more focused on the big-picture controversy. In another way, though, should the project finally be completely green-lighted, the question of environmental impact is likely to be swept to the side.

  • 1

    Serrano

    I hope they don't turn Futenma into condos and shopping malls, lol.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    I hope they don't turn Futenma into condos and shopping malls, lol.

    They will. Probably along with a new Ginowan City office building, and another "drinking" district too.

  • -1

    atrueokinawan

    Better to have Condos, Shopping Malls, a new Ginowan City Office building and another drinking district that can be used by all the people than a PX, Commissary, Military Club, or any other Military Facility that the overwhelming majority of Okinawan people cannot have access to.

  • -1

    Osaka_Doug

    So I (we) learn again that offering lots of money is how to get your way in Japan.......just as the government did with the atomic plants? Hasn't society learned yet?

  • 0

    toshiko

    Sure US wants to keep its bases in Japan. Right now, US is almoset bankrupted. It can not afford to close any bases in Japan, Not to protect Japan from China, both Korea, Taiwan, etc. Because big chunk part of more than 2 billion dollars in one year Japan pays to USA for keeping bases in Japan.

  • 1

    lincolnman

    Sure US wants to keep its bases in Japan. Right now, US is almost bankrupted. It can not afford to close any bases in Japan, Not to protect Japan from China, both Korea, Taiwan, etc. Because big chunk part of more than 2 billion dollars in one year Japan pays to USA for keeping bases in Japan.

    From your comments, I’m assuming you believe that the US-Japan Security Treaty is somehow unbalanced, and that one side receives more benefits than the other – that it is “unfair”. I would agree with that view, but perhaps from a different perspective.

    Under the most current 2012 budget, Japan contributed 186 billion yen towards the Special Measures Agreement supporting US forces (most recently signed in 2011) – support is provided in the following five categories;

    • Partial assumption of welfare costs for Japanese employed by USFJ (since 1978)
    • Establishment of the Facilities Improvement Program (FIP) which provides funds for the maintenance and upgrade of facilities and areas provided to USFJ (since 1979)
    • Partial assumption of labor costs for Japanese employed by USFJ (since 1987)
    • Partial assumption of utility costs for USFJ (since 1991)
    • Assumption of USFJ training relocation costs (since 1996)

    Note that while this support does help defray US stationing costs, who else benefits from these programs?

    • Japanese employees (salary and retirement)
    • Japanese construction companies
    • Japanese utility companies
    • Japanese transportation companies

    So the money Japan’s spends on supporting US forces goes directly back into the Japanese economy.

    What does the US pay for? Everything else to include;

    • The salaries (and pension costs) of the 50,000 US military members assigned
    • All the F15s, F-16s, KC-135s, FA-18s, C-130s, P3s, P8s, HH-60s and other rotating special missions aircraft stationed in Japan
    • All ships, to include the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and her Battle Group
    • The Minuteman ICBMs, B52/B1/B2 aircraft, and Trident submarines that defend Japan under the US nuclear umbrella
    • All personnel, facilities and infrastructure costs not covered by the SMA (there are many categories that the SMA will not fund)

    In addition, Japan receives a guarantee that the US will come to its defense should it be attacked – note that this obligation is not reciprocal – the Treaty does not require Japan to come to the defense of the US if it is attacked.

    In my view, the benefits of the Security Treaty are heavily skewed in Japan’s favor. Though I am a supporter of the Treaty and think it is in both nation’s interest to maintain and advance it.

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