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Asia Tensions Keep Okinawa Important

Date Posted: 2003-07-11

Okinawa’s role in north Asia remains important today, despite the end of the Cold War, because of destabilization caused by North Korea. Outgoing American Consul General Timothy Betts says threats of “North Korea over Japan, China, Russia and South Korea remain significant.’ Betts says the American government is studying the best way to deal with the issues, including the necessary size for American forces in the region.

Betts says “we will take hope of the Okinawa Prefecture’s people into consideration, and nothing has been decided yet.” He says it’s important that the United States and Japan stand fast with the SACO agreement, at least for now.

Looking back at his three years in Okinawa, he says the base issues have been a difficulty, while watching Okinawa’s new Graduate School evolve has been a real positive note. Betts says the military is taking prompt steps to curb incidents and accidents, and noted there is still work to do in providing more effective explanations to the public.

He says the graduate school is an “extremely great project” that will lead to “human resource development of Okinawa.” Betts predicts the new educational institution will provide significant influence in Okinawa’s internationalization.

Betts also addressed the Status of Forces Agreement issue on the eve of his departure. He notes that while “a large portion of the prefecture’s citizens are thinking it’s good to revise the SOFA in order to prevent future incidents,” he called the idea of rights of Americans to be ‘presumed innocent’ as very important too. He said “each side needs to fully discuss the issues with the other.” Betts leaves Okinawa later this month to become Political and Military Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

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