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

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora