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Futenma to Kadena? American plan rejects Henoko airport construction

Date Posted: 2005-05-19

A US commission is offering a couple of new plans for eliminating the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, but none include the formal plan being executed by the Japanese government.

The Commission on Review of Overseas Military Facility Structure of the United States says in its new interim report that Kadena Air Base or Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture should absorb the Futenma mission, or split it between the two. Japan is currently preparing to build a replacement offshore airport near Henoko, on the northern part of Okinawa.

The commission also take the position that “all other Marine assets should remain in Okinawa,” a stance that flies in the face of calls for a reduced U.S. presence on the island. “Okinawa is a strategic lynchpin to U.S. operational capabilities in East Asia,” the report notes. “Diminishing our combat capability on the island would pose great risk to our national interests in the region.”

The interim report provides an overview of the final document due to the President by August 15th. The members say “our presence on Okinawa is related to commitments to Japan, South Korea, the Taiwan Straits and other locations in East Asia, and calls for “a slowed and reordered” realignment of U.S. forces both in East Asia and in Europe.

The commission document is not legally binding on the President, but is expected to serve as a critical policy guidance tool as the administration continues its program to revamp America’s military presence overseas. It emphasizes the need to keep a power position in the Asia Pacific region, including a call for adding a second aircraft carrier strike group, perhaps located in Hawaii, beefing up the missile defense system, and initiating other measures to address increased terrorism and weapons of mass destruction threats.

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