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Japanese White Paper says moving Futenma could hurt USMC

Date Posted: 2011-08-19

A just-approved Japanese White Paper on Defense addresses the nation’s apprehension about China’s military buildup, and endorses continuing with plans for relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to northern Okinawa, citing concerns any change could negatively impact the United States Marine Corps’ operations.

The White Paper explains that the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meetings confirmed the need for building the new airfield in Nago City’s Henoko district, and said it had to reject local demands for Futenma to be moved outside Okinawa Prefecture, saying “There is a concern that moving [the USMCAS Futenma outside of Okinawa] would impair the function of the Marine Corps, so both governments came to the conclusion that the alternative facilities for Futenma will be constructed within the prefecture.”

The report makes note of the fact that 74% of U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. “In the context of the current international security situation [the government] needs to tackle the Okinawa base issue firmly to reduce the burden as much as possible,” the paper said. “The scale of the return program for bases located in areas south of Kadena is currently being discussed with the United States.” As to whether or not this will be realized, it stated, “it will be possible to return these bases following the relocation to Guam and the relocation and return of the Futenma Air Station,” suggesting that Futenma’s relocation within Okinawa and to Guam is a condition for the return of bases located in areas south of Kadena.

The White Paper refers to the plan to move a portion of the Marine Corps personnel to Guam, saying, “Progress on the Realignment of U.S. Forces is very important in terms of reducing the burden on Okinawa.” The White Paper stated that since fiscal 2009 the government of Japan has transferred funds to the U.S. side as direct budgetary support.
It does not mention that the United States is facing financial difficulties and has reduced its budget allocation for the relocation to Guam.

The paper noted Japan’s concerns of China’s growing military presence in waters surrounding the country. It says Japan is wary of a change in the security environment surrounding Japan, citing the example of Chinese military vessels having passed between Miyako Island and Okinawa in June.

The White Paper also described rescue operations for the affected areas in the Great East Japan Earthquake by Japan’s Self Defense Forces (JSDF) and “Operation Tomodachi” by the U.S. Forces in Japan.

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