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Okinawa troop realignment does not include departure

Date Posted: 2005-03-18

Conditions were tossed onto the table in Washington this week as Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine lobbied for the removal of U.S. troops from the island.

Michael Green, the White House National Security Council senior director for Asia says there will likely be reductions in the burden on Okinawa, but not at the expense of moving American troops off the island. Inamine had traveled to Washington to argue his case for both reducing troop levels and shifting American forces out of Japan.

Inamine wanted four things: revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, elimination of an Army live fire range at Camp Hansen, moving Marines off the island, and adjustments to Kadena Air Base to reduce noise levels and increase safety.

The U.S. thinking, as relayed by Green to Inamine, is that consolidations will occur to simplify things for the Okinawans, but that the troops and bases must stay as part of strategic requirements for protecting Japan and Asia. “The transformation of the forces will, overall, be beneficial for Okinawa,” he told the Governor. Green didn’t go into detail, promising that specific proposals will be coming off the table soon.

Inamine still wants a 15 years limit placed on the new military airfield being planned for Henoko, near Camp Schwab. That base would replace the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. He also wants the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to stay away from Okinawa; the MEU is currently on its way back to the island from Iraq.

Meanwhile, vice-ministerial level talks on military issues are under way in Washington. Some strategic announcements are expected within a week.

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