Saturday, 28 April 2012

US Japan Reach Agreement on Okinawa Base Move

The United States and Japan have reached an agreement to relocate 9,000 US Marines to other bases in the Asia/Pacific region.  The noisy base has been a major irritant to Okinawa residents.  Some also considered the Marines as rowdy and violent.  No big surprise there, when you have large groups of aggressive young men in a relatively small area.

 “I am very pleased that, after many years, we have reached this important agreement and plan of action,”said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The 9,000 US Marines based at Okinawa, Japan have long been a sore point for the Japanese government.  An earlier plan in 2006, which was never executed due to financial and political road blocks, eventually cost Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama his job in 2010.  While there were other factors, Okinawa played a large role. 

Marines are to be relocated from Futenama to Guam and other bases in the region, as soon as suitable facilities are available.   The cost of the move is estimated to cost $8.6 Billion, of which Japan will contribute $3.1 Billion. 

Since this is a major economic hit for Okinawa, it is no surprise that there are mixed messages coming from Japanese officials, which question the Japanese commitment.  Officials have offered a less populated strip on Okinawa.  Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said, during a press conference, that the 2006 plan was still the only valid solution and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said that other relocation options for the Futenma base might be considered.

Congress, which controls spending on base construction, said that no plan should be considered without the support of Congress.

Moving 9,000 troops with their equipment is a large undertaking and obviously there can be many hidden costs, including sustainment of the new bases.

It appears that this is far from a done deal and may run into some obstacles in Congress and among Japanese politicians.  At least there is an agreement. 

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