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No common ground between U.S. & Japan

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by John Davis

Guam - There's only two months before the Japanned government is expected to give their final decision on closing down and relocating the Futenma Air Base, which was originally going to be relocated just north of its current position in the Ginowan province of Okinawa.  The only problem is neither government has found common ground to ensure benefits to all affected by the movement.

Although Guam residents know that at least 8,000 marines and 9,600 dependents will be making their way to Guam as a result of the 2006 U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.  Along with the migration of 17,600 military personnel and dependents from Okinawa to Guam, our island can expect to play house with an additional 62,400 people coming to Guam in association with the buildup.  These other folks making their way to Guam will seek better jobs, better public services and a better way of life for themselves and their families - and we can't fault them for it.  No matter what happens before the decision is made by the Japan government come May 2010; no matter what the people of Okinawa do to ensure all military bases are removed from the island, the U.S. Government holds the trump card when it comes to final decisions about the relocation of Futenma.

In national media reports, like the Christian Science Monitor, Pacific Marine Corps' Commander, Lt. Gen. Keith Stadler has stated alternative ideas such as moving the helicopters to Guam, or anywhere far from Okinawa, are unrealistic.  He says, "We can not separate the helicopters from the forces they are supporting, the helicopters have got to train with the Marines they are supporting or they become unproficient."  On the other hand, the newly elected Mayor of Nago, Okinawa, Susumu Inamine, says the negative impact such as, environmental destruction, noise pollution and danger to the community, outweigh any economic benefits that a new base might bring. Which is exactly why the U.S. Government can satisfy Japan's wants and desires by relocating the Futenma airbase and all of its military personnel to Guam.  Japan is already forking out 12 billion dollars for the original agreement and if the Japan Government wishes to honor the residents of Okinawa, I'm sure the Japanese people will be willing to pay extra for it too.  If that were to happen, residents of Guam can look forward to adding at least 5,000 more people to the guest list of the 80,000 who will call Guam their home or station by 2014, but at least the troops are near other troops and near potential training facilities, which makes a good recipe for proficiency - if you're the U.S. Military.

This only further increases possibilities of the entire Futenma Air Base being relocated to Guam.  Stadler says this option is unrealistic. But what is Guam to the U.S. military in the Western Pacific Region?  We are the tip of the U.S. Military's spear, which makes sense considering Guam is about just as close to China, Taiwan, and North Korea, amongst other areas of U.S. concern in the Western Pacific Region.

In the end, despite the pleas of the Okinawan people, despite the statements of Mayor Inamine, the U.S. Government has the authority and the power to simply deny Japan's request to re-evaluate the 2006 Accord and keep Futenma and the troops stationed on the Air Base in Okinawa, even if it means physical engagement from the Okinawan people, who played a major factor in blocking a proposed U.S. Military offshore landing strip in 2005. 

If Futenma is moved out of Okinawa, there's still a good chance the base and it's military personnel can be relocated to Guam.  The main reason for that is the people of Guam have no voice, no say and no seat at the table when determining what will happen with the Guam Buildup.  It'll be interesting to hear what the delegation from the Okinawa Peace Assistance Center will have to say about Futenma when they visit at the end of the month.  I wonder what their feelings are about the Futenma issue and how Japan might be able to help ensure Guam will benefit from the military buildup.

The views and opinions expresssed in KUAM Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Pacific Telestations, Inc. or its advertisers

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