News / Asia

Strategy to Break Okinawa Impasse Sparks Controversy

Protesters form human chain around the U.S. Futenma airbase in Okinawa, Japan, May 16, 2010 (file photo).
Protesters form human chain around the U.S. Futenma airbase in Okinawa, Japan, May 16, 2010 (file photo).

Japanese and U.S. officials are discussing a possible compromise on a long-stalled plan to move thousands of American Marines off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. The transfer is considered a critical part of a realignment of U.S. forces in the Pacific region at a time when China is increasing its military strength.

Japanese officials say Washington and Tokyo are looking to separate the issue of Okinawa base closures from the transfer of Marines off the island.

The matter has been under review by officials in both countries for years, without a resolution, and it is hoped that separating the issues will break the impasse.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking in parliament Tuesday, called it premature to discuss specifics of a new deal, explaining that his government wants to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and be flexible about solutions.

According to Japanese officials, solutions under discussion include moving fewer than 5,000 Marines -- well below the 8,000 originally planned -- from the Futenma base on Okinawa to the island of Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. Japanese political leaders say other Marines would go to an existing Marine Corps air station at Iwakuni on the mainland, as well as to other places in the Asia-Pacific region, on a rotational basis.

In Seoul, government officials denied media reports that some of Marines would see temporary assignments in South Korea, which presently hosts more than 28,000 U.S. military personnel.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said he cannot confirm any new agreements out of the latest round of talks, which began Monday, with visiting Japanese officials at the State Department.

"We’ve been meeting for years now with our Japanese counterparts to discuss the Futenma relocation plan and the potential move to Guam," said Little. "The bottom line is that we remain committed to the road map and we’re continuing to have discussions with the Japanese."

Longstanding tensions

The presence of the Marines on Okinawa is unpopular with many islanders.

The air station at Futenma is surrounded by a congested urban area. The United States and Japan agreed in 1996 that the facility would be shut down. But plans to build a replacement base for the Marines in a less congested coastal area of Okinawa have met strong resistance from environmentalists and other groups.

But now word of a possible compromise that would de-link personnel transfers from the base closure is creating new controversy. Anti-base groups on Okinawa, which shoulders the majority of the U.S. military presence in Japan, worry that separating the issues will mean further delays in closing Futenma.

In Iwakuni, Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda says people in his community will be reluctant to host more Marines. Plans are already in progress to transfer fighter jets used on U.S. aircraft carriers to the air station there.

"Although Iwakuni desires to resolve the issue," said the mayor via interpreter, "the city's stance is not to take on additional burdens related to military activities.

Sekinari Nii, governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where Iwakuni is located, also expressed opposition, saying that if the central government pushes the relocation, he may retract a December pledge to approve sales of land for U.S. military family housing.

Japanese and American officials are hoping to have agreement on a revised overall plan in time for Prime Minister Noda's visit to Washington, which is expected to occur in the next few months.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs