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Obama warns Senate Guam cuts could hurt Japan-U.S. relations

Date Posted: 2011-11-25

The U.S. Senate is proposing to slash funding cuts for infrastructure projects on Guam, and U.S. President Barack Obama’s issued a warning to the legislators their actions could endanger U.S. – Japan relations.

The Senate bill would cut $156 million from construction projects on Guam that are linked to the 2006 U.S.-Japan agreement to shift Marines from Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and other bases on Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The bill also directs the Department of Defense to consider moving Futenma to Kadena Air Base, instead of building a costly new facility at Camp Schwab in Nago City’s Henoko district.

“The administration has serious concerns with the limitation on execution of the U.S. and Japanese government funds to implement the realignment of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam,” says the White House Office of Management and Budget, speaking for the president. “The bill would unnecessarily restrict the ability and flexibility of the president to execute our foreign and defense policies with our ally, Japan. Deferring or eliminating these projects could send the unintended message that the United States does not stand by its allies or its agreements.”

Two senior Democratic senators, Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and James Webb, chairman of an East Asia subcommittee, are opposed to Okinawa spending. So is former presidential contender John McCain, a Republican. Their position, say Levin, is that “this bill prohibits expenditure of funds for Marine Corps realignment from Okinawa to Guam until we receive an updated force lay-down and a master plan detailing construction costs and a schedule of all projects necessary to carry it out.”

Obama’s position supporting Okinawa shifts was echoed this past week during his visit to Asia, one day after he and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement that 2,500 Marines would soon be deployed to Darwin, in northern Australia, starting next year.

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