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Inamine blasts plans for JSDF to increase role on Okinawa

Date Posted: 2005-03-25

Okinawa’s governor, Keiichi Inamine, is irate that Japan wants to bring more Japanese Self Defense Forces to the island as U.S. forces begin a drawdown.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has told U.S. President George W. Bush he wants to make structural changes in the military alignments in Japan, with more JSDF troops coming to Okinawa. He also envisions a future that has U.S. troops sharing Japanese military bases.

Inamine, in a just-completed visit to the U.S. to voice his opposition to continued American military presence in Okinawa, lashed out at the proposal. Inamine’s thinking is that there should be no forces in his prefecture. The governor has, in recent months, become vocal in his thoughts about the American presence in Okinawa, calling for removal of U.S. forces, starting with Marine Corps combat troops scheduled to return from Iraq next month.

Some 2,000 members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are enroute back to Okinawa, together with nearly two dozen aircraft. An advance party is already back in Okinawa to reactivate the bases which have been near ghost towns during the MEU’s absence.

The governor is particularly angry about plans to have Marines and aircraft return to the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan. He calls it dangerous, and has pledged to continue lobbying to keep them out. He wants Futenma closed immediately, despite Special Action Committee on Okinawa agreements that call for the base to remain open until a new airport is built. There are plans for a new base at Henoko, near Camp Schwab, but it is mired in political and environmental issues.

Inamine says Koizumi’s plan to raise the number of JSDF troops on Okinawa does nothing to reduce the burden on his constituents. He wants the forces transformation to remove both American and Japanese military units from the country’s southernmost prefecture, despite the increased tensions with China and North Korea.

He says Okinawa’s bases need to be returned to the landowners.

The Japanese Defense Agency Director General Ono is in favor of JSDF increases on Okinawa. Speaking with American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Ono said that while it’s important to reduce the burden on Okinawa, it’s equally important to modernize the alliance between the two nations, and to preserve deterrent capabilities. At the same time, Ono says he doesn’t think the presence of U.S. Marines on Okinawa is as essential as it once was, but added that the military presence has been a historic necessity.

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