American Army To Pull Out 9,000 Marines of Okinawa Futenma Base
The United States and Japan on Friday announced they had agreed to relocate thousands of Marines from the Okinawa island, in a bid of the Japanese authorities to ease the burden of the American presence in their country amid popular displeasure with pollution, accidents, and crime.
The Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa has been seen for decades as a deterrent of the Chinese aggression in the region. However, over the years, people living next to the base have been annoyed by the constant noise on it, and the violent behavior of some of the troops camped there convinced the Okinawa people to demand that the American base be relocated.
In a statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that he was very pleased that the agreement was reached after very many years. The failure to find a suitable place for the Futenma base has been cause for delay of the treaty, but now that the agreement is signed the barrier to moving to Guam is removed and the troops can be taken to Guam or anywhere else as soon as accommodations are made ready for redeployment.
The plan to relocated in 2006 was met with financial difficulties in both Japan and the United States, and this led to a huge amount of frustration, which caused the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, in 2010.
According to the terms of the new agreement, the United States government will pay for the relocation of 9,000 troops $8.6 billion, while the Japanese government will pay $3.1 billion to facilitate the moves.
5,000 Marines will go to Guam and a smaller number will go to other locations such as Australia, or Hawaii. Still, some of the Marines, about 10,000 will remain in Okinawa under the previous agreement.
Japanese officials offered mixed messages about the solution to relocate the remaining members of the base to a less populated place in the Okinawa island. The Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said in a press conference that the 2006 plan was the only plan valid, while Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said that other places may be considered for the relocation of the Futenma base.
Some of the American military high staff are though preoccupied with the fact that the move may alter the balance of power in the region. They said that cooperation with American administration and Japanese government are still required in order to achieve all objectives in the region.
Three Senators earlier this week wrote a letter to Leon Panetta, expressing their concern over the cost, the force management, and the military sustainment of such an agreement. They argued that no plan should be considered without the support of the Congress, which controls spending in base constructions.
State Department officials said that the Okinawa business has been deterring Japan and the United States from cutting deals on other field of their mutual alliance. Cybersecurity, intelligence sharing and missile defense are some of the fields in which the Japanese-American cooperation is expected to thrive as soon as the agreement gets on the road.
Japanese-American cooperation is deemed essential in deterring the Chinese military ambitions and the protection of the area in case NKorea decides to start a war. The fact that the Asia-Pacific area becomes more and more an “uncertain security environment” is said to require a robust American military presence.
The moving of the troops to west Pacific would allow Americans to have a force in the region, which would be less vulnerable because it is geographically distributed.
In November 2010, Hirokazu Nakaima, 71, won the elections for governor of Okinawa with the promise to intervene for the immediate removal of the Futenma Air Station, as the Japanese population was becoming more vocal about this issue.
The population at that moment was highly determined to demand that the base shut down altogether in stead of being just transferred to another part of the island. The Japanese government had been under a lot of stress in the past from the American government to leave the American base in place.
However, the flares with China and Russia in 2010 made it clear for the former government of PM Naoto Kan that the American support was needed at the time, making acceptable an agreement which was called by American president Obama as a “cornerstone.”
The most tensioned moment in the history of mutual relations between Japanese people and the American military troops in the Futenma base occurred in 1995, when a Japanese girl was raped by three U.S. Marines.11