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US senators discuss buildup

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The question of whether the military buildup is still a possibility for Guam was raised during a meeting between two US senators and local leaders Monday night. The recent disaster in Japan and the federal government's efforts to slash the deficit are both issues of concern that have elected officials on Guam, asking if there will be money available for the military buildup.

It was part of the discussion Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and Senator Jim Webb of Virginia had with local senators in a closed door meeting last night. Speaker Judi Won Pat says Webb and Levin made it clear they are faced with some fiscal challenges. "They're just not willing to go out and continue to fund at the level that they are saying because they have been asking questions that we've asked it that there is no master plan, they don't know when the completion date is, they don't know how much this is going to cost," she said.

"Senator Levin actually started to say that we are here to find out is this buildup reasonable, is it something that the people of Guam really want, he talks about being realistic also about the buildup," Won Pat added.

According to Won Pat senators Webb and Levin made it clear to island leaders that the buildup is not a done deal, and will continue to meet with the parties involved to determine if it's still possible. "I want to listen people here as in this meeting and meetings we are having tomorrow just to see what the reactions are to where we are at right now," noted Webb.

Levin continued, "We appreciated the opportunity to learn a lot about the issues from the perspective of the people who live on Guam and their elected officials and to see basically what the feelings are about an increased military presence here. We learned a lot...from my perspective a lot will depend upon what we learn in the next four days."

Senator Levin who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee says they will be heading to Okinawa and Tokyo to hear the concerns of the people in those Japan cities. Buildup committee chairperson Senator Judi Guthertz says they discussed the issues they felt have been missing from the buildup equation. Guthertz says she got assurances that if the buildup moves forward, then plans would have to be realistic for everyone involved.

She adds the two senators will be making a final assessment of their trip, saying, "Based on their assessment they will be able to conduct their hearings with the DOD and other federal agencies to determine the course of action of the buildup from the perspective of the senate of the US."

The senators also got an ear full of other issues such as self-determination and war reparations. "I for one touched on the need to resolve those unresolved issues such as war claims, I told them I said many of our people most especially some of the war survivors find it ironic that this was a Japan-US agreement and it was the same two countries that 67 years ago they were victims of the conflicts that existed back then," said Senator Frank Blas, Jr.

While Webb and Levin explained it not a dead issue, Blas Also expressed the need to ensure the buildup is good for Guam, as it will be for the military. Local senators also provided the resolutions that ensure the "One Guam" approach is taken seriously. "The fact that if these issues are not being addressed then the buildup should be held in abeyance," said Won Pat. "These two who came actually made up for the 15 who didn't and its actually very good dialogue and they feel that we need to continue to this dialogue."

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