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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development 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.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid