Is Guam an ideal locale for an air base? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Is Guam an ideal locale for an air base?

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Japan Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa returned to his home country today with a clearer picture of where more than 8,000 U.S. Marines currently stationed in Okinawa will reside and train when they are relocated to Guam.  While Japan and the United States continue to disagree on the relocation of the Marine Corps' Futenma air base, the official's visit may have been all the proof Japan needed to realize that Guam isn't a realistic location for the air base.

Kitazawa understands that his country has a very difficult decision to make.  After inspecting various military installations on the island, Kitazawa told reporters during a late afternoon press conference on Wednesday that he realizes Japan has a responsibility to proceed with the military buildup planned for Guam as he saw first hand the work already in progress in preparation for the relocation of 8,000+ Marines and their dependants from Okinawa to Guam.

Kitazawa's visit was also to determine whether Guam could also be home to the highly controversial Marine Corps Futenma air base.  According to the 2006 Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Japan, the two countries agreed that Futenma would be relocated to an area in Northern Okinawa at Camp Schwab in Henoko.

The Democrat Socialist Party, however, has made a significant push to have Futenma moved to Guam.  But after yesterday's tour of Andersen Air Force Base, Naval Base Guam, NCTAMS, and Finegayan, Kitazawa was asked whether he thought moving Futenma to the island was a possibility.

The defense minister reiterated that there is already an agreement between the U.S. and Japan in place that decided to move Futenma to Camp Schwab.  Kitazawa noted that if they were to move the air base to Guam, the entire agreement could be messed up.  He added he thought it would be impossible to have the air base on the island.

The United States has already reiterated its position that if Futenma is not relocated to Henoko, as was agreed to in 2006, the relocation of 8,000 Marines to Guam will not occur.  While he wouldn't comment on his thoughts about the U.S.'s stance, Kitazawa noted that it's obvious preparations for the buildup have already started on the island and it's his opinion that the Guam buildup cannot be changed.

While there have been numerous media reports that the high-level working group sessions consisting of U.S. and Japanese officials, have been suspended, the defense minister maintains the working group still exists but Japan's government will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out a way to resolve this situation.  

As for when he expects the issue over Futenma to be resolved, he said, "After I return to Tokyo I will report the association regarding Guam to the prime minister and other ministers however at this moment as the defense minister I cannot say when we will see the result of negotiations since it should be determined after the negotiations with the United States what we agreed upon we will see the result at the earliest so at this moment; I'm not sure I can say when we will see this resolved of this negotiation."

But how soon that will occur remains to be seen.

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