News / Asia

US-Japan May Scrap Accord on Marines in Okinawa

U.S. Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit haul a 155 mm Howitzer onto the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown in Okinawa, Japan, February 2, 2012.
U.S. Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit haul a 155 mm Howitzer onto the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown in Okinawa, Japan, February 2, 2012.

The two sides appear headed toward canceling a 2006 accord to relocate a US military facility.

2006 accord, not implemented

Japan and the United States appear to be heading toward canceling a 2006 accord that would have relocated a strategic American military facility to a less crowded part of the island of Okinawa.  This comes as the city at the heart of the base controversy has elected a new mayor.

Impeded by activists and local politicians who want U.S.military bases and their personnel moved off Okinawa instead of relocated to other parts of the island, influential Japanese officials, according to sources, are concluding the agreed-to plan with Washington will not be implemented.

That would mean the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station remains operational in the middle of the heavily congested city of Ginowan.

Newly elected mayor, appeal for resolution

On Sunday, voters in Ginowan elected Atsushi Sakima as their new mayor.

Cheers of “banzai” erupted in Sakima's campaign headquarters when word came he was assured victory over a leftist anti-base hardliner.  But Sakima also campaigned on a pledge to have the Marine air station removed from the island.  

He reiterated that stance to reporters in his first comments as mayor-elect. Sakima said, along with Okinawa's governor, he wants to appeal to the central government for resolution of the issue of the air station and moving the Marines to reduce the burden on the local population.

De-linking relocation of air station from marine movement

Media reports last week said some U.S. Marines based on Okinawa, numbering about 1,500, would move to the Japanese mainland.  But the former U.S. consul general on Okinawa, Kevin Maher, said there are no signs that is being seriously considered.

“I have been told by people both in the Japanese and the U.S.governments that the idea of moving some number of Marines to mainland Japan, to Iwakuni specifically, is not something that is being discussed by the governments," he said.

They would be part of around 8,000 Marines, originally scheduled to move from Okinawa to Guam, based on the six-year-old agreement on realignment of American forces in Japan.

The United States and Japan jointly announced last week they are de-linking the relocation of the air station from the movement of the Marines from the island.

Maher, now a consultant, said the Japanese government has failed to explain to the Okinawans why the U.S. bases are vital.  The former head of the State Department's Japan office contends the bases are critical not only for Japan's security, but Okinawa's as well, especially at a time when China is quickly expanding its blue water naval capabilities.

“A lot of that is aimed at the southwest islands of Japan, the Ryukyu islands.  If you look at the first island chain strategy of the Chinese that includes the islands of Okinawa, the Chinese strategy of area access and denial very directly impacts the islands of Okinawa.  So the Okinawans just have to understand that they are in a situation and a location that is strategic," he said.

Okinawa hosts nearly half of the 50,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan, including 18,000 Marines.

Maher retired from government service last year, after alleged controversial remarks about Okinawans attributed to him were published by a Japanese news agency.  Maher has denied that he made any offensive comments during an off-the-record briefing to university students in Washington.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs