News From Okinawa: Mayor Iha Demands Base Removal

Ginowan mayor gives opinion on agreement to relocate U.S. Marines to Guam
Okinawa’s Ginowan City Mayor Iha Yoichi at a House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs meeting on April 8 stated his opinion on the Japan-U.S. agreement to implement the relocation of a part of the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa to Guam. The gist of his statement is as follows:
“The plan to relocate about 8,000 U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam gave us hope that Ginowan citizens would be relieved of the burden of hosting the present U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station and that Okinawans’ burden of U.S. bases would be reduced if the land to the south of the U.S. Air Force Kadena Base site is returned to Okinawa.
However, listening to government explanations, I do not see any indication of reducing the Okinawans’ burden of U.S. bases or of removing the danger associated with the Futenma base.
The set of plans to promote the relocation of a part of the U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam and to push ahead with the construction of a new U.S. base in the Henoko district of Nago City should also include a plan to return the land south of the Kadena base to Okinawa. The plan was to be completed by March 2007, but the government has done nothing.
On the contrary, we have not been informed as to which U.S. Marine Corps units in Okinawa will be relocated to Guam. Eventually, the government explained that when it said that 8,000 U.S. Marines will be moved to Guam, it is not a real number but just a target number. What is more, it was shocking to hear the government say that 8,000 out of 15,000 U.S. Marines -5,000 more than the number of U.S. Marines actually stationed in Okinawa as cited during the bilateral negotiations aimed at completing a ‘Roadmap’ for implementing the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan- would be relocated to Guam.
U.S. government reports have made me believe that all U.S. Marine Corps air units stationed at the Futenma base, except for KC-130 refueling aircraft units, were moving to Guam.
Why does the government assert that 8,000 marines, who are going to Guam from Okinawa, are mainly command-related personnel and that it is not the actual number of personnel to be relocated? If the government is paying about six billion dollars for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps to Guam, it should first relocate all operational units from Okinawa because they are the heaviest burdens for the people of Okinawa. As for the Futenma base, I demand that it should be relocated out of Japan as early as possible and that the government achieve its elimination in order to reduce the burdens of the bases on Okinawa.
At the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in February, I met with Raymond Greene, the secretary in charge of political-military affairs at the embassy, and I was shocked to hear him explain that even after the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, another 10,000 U.S. military personnel will be brought in to maintain the fixed troop level at 18,000. If that is true, it is unacceptable to most Okinawans.
If that is what the ‘roadmap’ is really about, the government should immediately withdraw all the plans, including the construction of a new base in the Henoko district of Nago City, and should also freeze Japan’s financial support for the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam. I really hope that the Diet in the relevant committees of the both Houses will fully discuss whether or not the relocation plan will actually ease the burdens of the bases on Okinawans to the extent that it can convince all Japanese people.”
– Akahata, April 9, 2009
_Excerpts from Japan Press Weekly

In another related story….

Japan’s Diet approves funds for Guam move

By David Allen and Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, May 16, 2009
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan’s Diet approved a bilateral accord Wednesday that obligates Japan to pay $2.8 billion for the move of 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam.

The money is to be used for construction projects related to the move of the major Marine commands on Okinawa. In all, Japan has agreed to pay $6.09 billion of the estimated $10.27 billion cost for the project.

The remaining money will be paid in loans and investments, which do not require approval by Japan’s legislature. The $6.09 billion does not include the cost of building a new air facility on Camp Schwab to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The move of the Marines to Guam is expected be completed in 2014.

“I am greatly pleased that the Diet endorsed the accord, which has a significant meaning to reduce the burden of Okinawa while maintaining the deterrence power of the military in the region,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirofumi Nakasone told reporters in Tokyo following the Diet vote.

“The government of Japan will continue to hold consultations with local government bodies, in accordance with the road map of realignment agreed to in May 2005, to steadily implement the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, including moving of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.”

Not everyone was happy about contributing so much money for the project. The bill was rejected by the House of Councilors, dominated by opposition parties, Wednesday morning. However, the House of Representatives, dominated by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its allies, overruled the upper house vote.

The bill is considered a treaty and is expected to be enacted 30 days after passage.

The pact on the Guam move was signed by Nakasone and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in February.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima was cautious in making a comment on the Diet’s action.

“I understand that the accord is to give a legal ground for the Japanese government to carry out realignment projects,” Nakaima said, according to Susumu Matayoshi, chief of the prefecture’s Military Affairs Office.

“I believe the realignment, which involves moving Marines to Guam from Okinawa and the closure of military bases located south of Kadena Air Base, contributes to reduction of the burden. In this sense, it should be steadily carried out.”

He stressed, however, that he was still opposed to current plans for the new airfield on Camp Schwab. Nakaima wants the V-shaped runways, planned to be built on the tip of Cape Henoko and extending into Oura Bay, to be placed farther offshore.

In a prepared statement from his Tokyo office, Osamu Ashitomi, Liberal Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Okinawa, welcomed the passage of the accord.

“It is a big step toward a new era for Okinawa,” he said. “The accord will facilitate both closure of military bases on Okinawa and the move of Marines to Guam. The people of Okinawa must cope with the changes with strong commitment and determination.”

Okinawa groups opposed to the new air station voiced their displeasure with the Diet’s action.

Kantoku Teruya, a Social Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives, complained that the move “is in a package deal that includes construction of a new gigantic military facility at Henoko. For Okinawa, such changes are rather a growth of military presence.”

Added Teruya: “It is absolutely unacceptable that the government uses our taxpayer money to help move a foreign military.”