Daily Yomiuri Shimbun
Decision on Futenma Relocation Unlikely Until at Least 2011
Satoshi Ogawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
Aug. 22, 2010
WASHINGTON--It has become almost certain that essential details of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture will remain unresolved until at least 2011, as the Japanese and U.S. governments have basically agreed to abandon the Aug. 31 deadline they set earlier.
The two governments agreed Thursday on the outline of a report--to be released by working-level experts from both countries by the end of this month--regarding an exact location for the Futenma replacement facility and the design of its runway, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The outline calls for the forthcoming report to incorporate two plans as "feasible options" for the relocation facility: two runways in a V-shaped formation or a single runway, with the understanding that the facility will be located on the shore of the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture, they said.
Incorporating both plans into the report means postponing a final decision on the specifics of the replacement base, which runs counter to the Tokyo-Washington agreement reached May 28 to complete "without fail" the task of specifying the location, runway design and construction method for the facility by the end of August, the sources said.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government sees the extension as inevitable, because finalizing the details of the relocation at this time would further alienate the Okinawa prefectural government, they said. The Okinawa government has steadfastly opposed relocating the functions of the Futenma facility within the prefecture.
The bilateral consultations among experts took place for three days through Thursday at the U.S. Defense Department, State Department and elsewhere in Washington, the sources said.
Broad agreements were reached on two points. One, the facility should be built somewhere in the seaside area of Henoko in Nago, in a method similar to what was agreed upon by Japan and the United States in 2006. Two, the facility should be built on reclaimed land.
The U.S. side reiterated its position that a V-shaped formation of two runways, conatined in the 2006 accord, was the best option.
The Japanese side, however, insisted that a single runway be included as a possible alternative in the report, the sources said. It did so in a bid to prevent Okinawa residents from feeling that a decision was being made with no consideration for their wishes, the sources said.
At the start of the latest consultations, both the Japanese and U.S. governments intended to finish compiling a number of details, but they were once again unable to avoid putting off a decision, U.S. government sources said.
According to the Japanese sources, the failure to determine details of the planned relocation has made it extremely difficult to hold a meeting of foreign and defense ministers from Tokyo and Washington, or two-plus-two talks, to formally decide on the relocation issue before the forthcoming Okinawa Prefecture gubernatorial election scheduled for Nov. 28.
Given that the Futenma problem cannot be settled in time for U.S. President Barack Obama's scheduled visit to Japan in mid-November, there are strong indications that the relocation of the air station will remain unresolved until 2011 and perhaps even later, the sources said.
Prior to the release of the report at the end of August, the two governments will hold a final round of expert consultations on the Futenma issue on Thursday and Friday in Tokyo to finalize the wording of the report and how to release it to the public, they said.
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Gov't to Unveil Expert Report on Futenma Relocation by End of August
Aug 23 01:18 AM US/Eastern
TOKYO, Aug. 23 (AP) - (Kyodo) — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said Monday the government intends to disclose an expert report on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, due to be compiled by the end of this month.
"It is yet to be decided whether the whole of the report will be disclosed or just its summary but it will be made public in some way," Sengoku told a press conference earlier Monday.
The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed in a Japan-U.S. joint statement in May that a fresh study by experts on the location, configuration and construction method of the replacement facility for the Futenma base would be completed by the end of August.
The report is expected to incorporate two plans on the relocation facility for the Futenma base -- two runways in a V-shaped formation and a single runway.
On the subject of easing the burden on the people of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan, Sengoku said, "I believe the joint-statement agreed on May 28 covers the issue to a respectable degree." "We need to hold talks with the United States about the issue while taking note of what Okinawa has to say," he added.
In the joint-statement, the two sides recognized the importance of responding to the concerns of the people of Okinawa that they bear a disproportionate burden related to the presence of U.S. forces.
Kan Asks US to Cooperate to Reduce Okinawa Burden
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked for cooperation from the United States on reducing Okinawa's burden of hosting US bases.
Kan made the call when he met the commander of US military forces in the Pacific, Admiral Robert Willard, who was accompanied by US Ambassador to Japan John Roos in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Kan said this year marks the 50th anniversary of the revision of the Japan-US security treaty. He said the two countries' alliance is the core of Japan's diplomacy, and that he hopes to further deepen bilateral ties in broad areas.
Admiral Willard said the Japan-US alliance is in good shape, and that recognition of the importance of the alliance is deepening among countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Kan also referred to the issue of relocating the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. He said Japan will aim to build a replacement runway in the Henoko area in Nago City, also in Okinawa, based on a Japan-US agreement reached in May, but that it is important to obtain Okinawa's understanding.
Kan said he would like to ask for further US cooperation on decreasing Okinawa's base-hosting burden.
Futenma Move Flares Up As Budget Issue
Thursday, August 19, 2010
TOKYO (Nikkei)--The relocation of the American military's Futenma air base in Okinawa is becoming a flash point in the national budgets of both Japan and the U.S., which are at odds over how much Japan should pay for moving some of the Marines to Guam.
Japan is pushing to reduce its share of the costs of keeping U.S. forces stationed here -- dubbed the "sympathy budget" in Japan. The U.S. is not going along and wants Japan to put up more money for the move to Guam, which is part of a broader deal that includes replacing Futenma with another base in a less-populated part of Okinawa.
At a meeting Tuesday outside of Washington, D.C., foreign affairs and defense experts from both sides were unable to agree on the placement of the runway at the new base, or on how to build it. A decision is likely to be postponed until after the Okinawa gubernatorial election on Nov. 28. But Japan's Defense Ministry must submit its budget request for next fiscal year by the end of this month.
The multiyear bilateral agreement committing Japan to the sympathy budget expires next March, which marks the end of the government's current fiscal year. The ministry wants to include base spending for next fiscal year in a special budget category that pits programs against each other in an open debate over funding.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan would have the last word. Forcing the sympathy budget to endure this "policy contest" could strain negotiations with the U.S., says one diplomatic source.
A new agreement on the sympathy budget must be approved by the Diet. With the opposition in control of the upper house, deliberations could turn stormy.
The Defense Ministry aims to secure 500 million dollars, or about 42.7 billion yen, in fiscal 2011 budget funding for the Marines' move to Guam. That will not satisfy the U.S. side. On July 28, the House of Representatives advanced a bill that would provide 273 million dollars less for the transfer than the Obama administration had requested. The Senate is also leaning toward major funding cuts. The bill covers spending for Washington's fiscal 2011, which begins in October.
With the Futenma problem dragging on, there is little hope for completing the base-and-troop relocation on schedule in 2014. Washington sees this as a reason to ask Japan for money, but Tokyo is still clinging to the 2014 deadline. Both sides seem to be talking past each other.
(The Nikkei Aug. 19 morning edition)