News

    Plan to Move Marines Off Okinawa Faces Challenges

    FA-18 air fighters prepare to take off on the U.S. carrier George Washington in the Pacific near Minamidaito Island in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, during a joint drill with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. (2010 File)
    FA-18 air fighters prepare to take off on the U.S. carrier George Washington in the Pacific near Minamidaito Island in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, during a joint drill with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. (2010 File)

    Friday's announcement by the United States and Japan that 9,000 U.S. Marines will be transferred from a base on the Japanese island of Okinawa is being hailed as a major diplomatic accomplishment. But there are also concerns the actual transfer will be fraught with numerous complications.

    The revised realignment plan, agreed to by Japan and the United States, is seen as both a compromise and a work still in progress.

    It calls for moving nearly half of the 19,000 U.S. Marines off Okinawa. Up to 5,000 are to be re-deployed to the Pacific island of Guam and 4,000 moved to either Hawaii or rotated in and out of Australia.

    No timelines were revealed.

    Related story - US, Japan Reach Agreement to Move 9,000 Marines

    Political analyst and adjunct senior fellow Richard Baker at the East West Center in Hawaii says the agreement comes after complex negotiations involving political, technical, financial and infrastructural issues.

    "And I don't think it was inevitable that they would be able to make a meeting of the minds of that sort, so that is the good news," he said. "Now the bad news is that the public handling of this has got to be as sensitive as the negotiations were and as nuanced."

    Still unresolved is what to do with a Marine air station in the middle of a congested community on Okinawa. Most analysts believe that a proposed move to a site farther north on the island is unlikely to occur because of strong opposition locally. But the new airfield plan has officially not been scrapped.

    Many Okinawans prefer to see all the Marines permanently vacate the  islands.  That is also unlikely in an era when concerns about China's rise mean other Asia-Pacific nations want a reassuring presence of U.S. military forces in the immediate neighborhood.

    The Obama administration has been telling its allies that the United States is making renewed and long-term military commitments to the region.

    Baker, a retired veteran U.S. diplomat, acknowledges that repositioning troops from Okinawa to Guam and Hawaii may be viewed as a move in the wrong geographical direction.

    "Critics will be tempted to say that this belies the intended pivot to Asia. I think that would be an unfair criticism given the realities of the negotiations and the realities of the very, very longstanding problem in Okinawa that this is designed to solve," he noted.

    Japan is to partly fund the $8.6 billion cost of a buildup on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

    It will be the largest military presence on the island since the Vietnam War when U.S. Air Force B-52s made daily bombing runs from Guam.

    Guam, with a population of about 180,000, already hosts more than 7,000 military personnel, primarily assigned to Andersen Air Force Base, and a facility on the western side of the island known as “Big Navy.”

    "The key thing, I think, for most people in Guam, is just to make sure that our infrastructure is developed so we can handle the new capacity," stated Senator Judi Guthertz who chairs Guam's legislative committee on the military buildup. "And that everyone has a deep respect for each other here so that we're able to maintain the new identity and the unique tropicalness and beauty of the island. And I think our military partners are aware of that."

    Originally there were plans to move twice the number of Marines -- 9,000 in all, to Guam.

    That will somewhat ease concerns over the expensive infrastructure upgrades.

    Lawmakers and the public in Guam still have many concerns and unanswered questions. Among them: the location for firing ranges and a port where visiting U.S. Navy aircraft carriers will berth.

    The indigenous Chamorros have objected to any range site trespassing on ancient grounds while the initial anchorage site in Apra harbor has upset environmentalists and the tourism sector because dredging would destroy or damage more than 25 hectares of coral.

    Guam Senator Guthertz supports the move of more Marines to the island but faces other questions from her constituents.

    "Questions that remain are will the military be building housing to accommodate the Marines or will they be using housing available in the community? What kind of services will they need in the community from our private sector companies that are anxious and able to provide responses to their requests for proposals? So the economic benefits, I think, will occur but we're not sure in what shape or what form yet," he said.

    Several powerful U.S. senators have been concerned about the plan's overall cost and its impact on America's regional military strategy.

    The simultaneous announcement Friday in Tokyo and Washington addressed some of their concerns.

    After the joint announcement the senators (Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Jim Webb, both Democrats, along with former Republican presidential candidate John McCain) issued a statement saying they “still have many questions about the specific details” and its implications for force posture in the Asia-Pacific region.



    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Scott
    April 28, 2012 7:43 PM
    @ Miguel it's the Okinawans, not the Japanese, that want the Americans off the island. Big difference. Okinawa was an independent kingdom conquered by the Japanese. Many Okinawans along with Chinese and Koreans were conscripted into the Japanese army during WWII and suffered great losses.

    by: Scott
    April 28, 2012 7:42 PM
    @ Henry can't sell the land; Japan already owns and pays for all US base land in Okinawa. But I share the sentiment that the bases should be closed. Futenma is very dangerous located in the middle of a major city.

    by: Henry
    April 28, 2012 4:38 PM
    This is an odd piece to me. First off why did we have to negotiate with Japan? Are we afraid they might attack?! (sarcasm)

    We should just bring all our troops home and sell what's left of the military base to Japan. China may rattle a saber or two, but they are not going to attack anyone. I believe their goal is economic dominance - not territory.

    by: Miguel
    April 27, 2012 8:05 AM
    The reason we don't speak Japanese on the US mainland is partly because of the Marine presence in Okinawa - With the Chinese Movie industry reviving the Rape of Nanging in the minds of their people, and China aggressively claiming sovereignty over its neighboring seas - the Japanese are fools to run the Yanks off their soil. Japan may soon find itself alone to face a future Chinese claim that they too are part of greater China.

    by: Mike
    April 27, 2012 7:27 AM
    Perhaps we have no need for these troops at all. I know that the troops are intended to be a trip-wire for Chinese actions but lets be real: there is absolutely nothing a few thousand troops on a remote island can do to influence the Chinese, unless the troops were actually stationed in disputed waters. Better to re-arm Japan itself, perhaps with nuclear-capable weapons. Then China would have to be more respectful.

    by: Ken
    April 27, 2012 5:05 AM
    I think one thing the policy makers in DC fail to take into account is the will of the people in those regions. No surprise as its not done at home. They don't want us there, and our troops have not been warmly recieved.

    The US and a few corrupt governments in the area are all that worry on China. Are we truely defenders of "peace and Freedom" or of keeping on top and forcing others to act as we deem?

    Which is known as Tyranny.

    by: Gerry Roy
    April 27, 2012 4:57 AM
    Bring ALL our troops home. The cost of keeping them overseas is overwhelming. They can perform their original obligation - keeping America safe - right here. If a foreign nation wants us to play policeman for them, let them pay for the service.

    by: W74
    April 27, 2012 4:29 AM
    Why we need troops stationed on Islands is beyond me. This isn't 1942 and we're not fighting hard-scrabble battles to take marginal guano fields to use as stepping stones.

    Japan is a big-boy country now and wants to build it's own military capability back up. Guam can suck it. And what do we need our troops in Australia for? The Aussies are bad-ass (talked to enough of the blokes downrange in Iraq) and far more disciplined than US troops are.

    by: Steve
    April 27, 2012 4:23 AM
    Move the 19,000 U.S. Marines off Okinawa and put them on the US boarder with Mexico.

    by: JG
    April 27, 2012 4:18 AM
    It is time to let Japan determine how they want to defend their country. It is not the job of any country to force how they will be protected. The Japanese are aware of the global threats as well as those next door. Let's pull back and use our manpower for other good.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    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 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 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 Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    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 With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke 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.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora