U.S. and Japan announce buildup delays - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

U.S. and Japan announce buildup delays

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - "For more than 50 years, the alliance between Japan and the United States has been the cornerstone of security in the Asia-Pacific region," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After this week's U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting or 2+2 the two countries emerged with announcements that they plan to continue the alliance with deepening and expanding cooperation in a broad range of areas.

Clinton said, "Today, we discussed our countries' ongoing work together and reaffirmed our commitment to maintain these efforts for as long as they are needed." According to Japanese Defense Minister Tashimi Kitazawa, the recent disasters in their country demonstrated the strong bond the U.S. and Japan share. "The understanding of the significance of the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan, including the Marine Corps in Okinawa, I believe has been understood that has brought a greater sense of security to the Japanese people," he said through an interpreter.

Aside from the country still recovering from the disasters, a joint announcement was made about the delay in the construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility, along with an agreement on how it will be built. The FRF has been a bone of contention for Okinawans who don't want it in their backyard. "We also decided on the v-shape configuration for the runways in connection with the Futenma relocation issue, and I think this is very important progress towards the relocation of the facilities. We decided to remove the deadline of for its completion, but - in order to avoid the continued - forever continuing use of Futenma Air Station. We also confirmed a mutual strive for earliest possible relocation," Kitazawa added.

"Opinions in Okinawa are very harsh and we confirmed in our meeting today that we and Japan will do our make our best efforts to try and get the understanding of governor Nakaima and the local people there."

Without a Futenma Replacement Facility, the Marines relocation from Okinawa to Guam cannot occur. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates along with Kitazawa and Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Clinton affirmed their commitment to the 2006 agreement realigning U.S. forces in Japan. Matsumoto said, "With regard to U.S. forces, a realignment, that we also reaffirmed that we shall continue the consultations, the work that has been underway...the purpose of the realignment is to maintain deterrence and reduce burdens on local entities, and the agreement this time is to achieve both."

Gates said, "As a Pacific power, the U.S. remains committed to maintaining a robust forward presence in East Asia…the decision announced today on the Futenma Replacement Facility configuration, along with other elements of the 2006 Realignment Roadmap, shows we are making steady progress toward modernizing U.S. forward presence in the region…it is critical that we move forward with the relocation of Futenma and construction of facilities in Guam for the U.S. Marines. Doing so will reduce the impact of our presence on local residents in Okinawa while allowing us to maintain capabilities critical to the alliance in Japan."

When asked by Japanese media however on concerns from Congress about the realignment, both Japan continue to defend they did not plan to deviate from the 2006 agreement. As we reported U.S. Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Ranking Member John McCain and Senator Jim Webb called the plans for Japan as well as Korea, "unworkable, unaffordable and undoable".

"Secretary Clinton and I both informed our colleagues this morning that the letter from Senators Webb and Levin about the realignment is really a manifestation of growing congressional impatience with the lack of progress...we both reaffirmed the U.S. Government's commitment to the 2006 realignment plan, but at the same time emphasized the importance of concrete progress over the course of the next year," said Gates.

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