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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid