Sunday, November 01, 2015

Buildup Visit

A top Japanese government official visited Guam this past week in order to check on buildup projects. I'm waiting to hear if Governor Calvo will act on the request of Our Islands are Sacred, who encouraged him to reach out to the Governor of Okinawa and have a delegation visit them to discuss what problems they have with the US military presence there. Here are some articles about the recent visit.


Japanese chief cabinet secretary assess buildup-related construction
by Nestor Licanto
October 30, 2015

The top Japanese official charged with scaling back Marine presence in Okinawa is here for a tour of military facilities. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga got a firsthand look at buildup-related construction in Guam, which has a direct impact on marching orders.

Secretary Suga was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe specifically as minister for the mitigation of the impact of US forces in Okinawa. "And also the specific instruction I received from Prime Minister Abe is to do whatever you can to achieve this impact mitigation in Okinawa and also realize a visible outcome through the joint endeavor of  Japan and the United States. And so I'm very encouraged to see that now the development of the facilities to accommodate the 4,000 US Marine Corps in Guam is being progressed," he explained.

The secretary was invited to Guam by Congresswoman Madelien Bordallo, during her previous visit to Japan with a US congressional delegation. Suga had lobbied with the representatives to help unfreeze funding for ongoing Guam military buildup construction.  He said he wanted to see first-hand the progress on the projects, telling KUAM News, "I made my case strongly to you and also other members of the delegation that the use of the budget should be unfrozen, and  thanks to your great effort and also your colleagues effort we now see that the use of this budget is finally unfrozen, and we're now seeing that the construction work is taking place, actually on the ground in Guam."

Suga says in all, 9,000 of the 28,000 Marines - about 30% of the force - are expected to be moved out of Okinawa.


Suga, U.S. commander agree to push Marine transfer to Guam

A Japanese minister in charge of issues concerning U.S. military bases in Japan’s southern island prefecture of Okinawa agreed with a U.S. commander on Friday to cooperate in promoting the transfer of U.S. Marines to Guam.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is in Guam for a two-day trip aimed at showing the Japanese government’s efforts to reduce the base-hosting burden on Okinawa Prefecture by pushing for the Marine transfer to the U.S. territory.

His visit comes amid intensified wrangling over a controversial plan to relocate a key U.S. base within Okinawa despite strong local opposition.

Suga explained his government’s efforts so far to move forward on the relocation plan during talks with Lt Gen John Toolan, commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, at a hotel in Guam.
“I would like to reaffirm our cooperation in efforts to reduce the burden on Okinawa in a tangible manner and other areas in which we can cooperate,” Suga said at the outset of their meeting, which was open to the press.

Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman who doubles as minister in charge of reducing the burden on Okinawa from hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan, is making a rare overseas trip at a time when tensions remain high between officials and residents in Okinawa and the central government.
In line with an accord with the United States, the Japanese government is seeking to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma air station from a crowded residential district in Ginowan to the less-populated Henoko coastal area of Nago.

But the prefectural government and residents have been clamoring for the base to be moved outside of Okinawa. Despite their efforts, the central government on Thursday launched landfill work for the relocation of the U.S. military facility in Okinawa.

Toolan, in his talks with Suga, expressed his support for the Japanese government’s actions.
As part of the broader realignment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and the United States agreed in 2006 to move around 9,000 out of the roughly 19,000 U.S. Marines stationed on Okinawa to Guam and elsewhere in the early 2020s.

Tokyo is expected to shoulder up to $2.8 billion of the $8.6 billion needed for the transfer to Okinawa.

Suga’s Guam trip from Thursday also included an inspection of Andersen Air Force Base.
Rarely has a chief Cabinet secretary, who is in charge of crisis management at the national level, visited a foreign country. Suga is the first chief Cabinet secretary to do so since Takeo Fukuda visited China in 2003.



 Japan official checks on Guam buildup
 by Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
October 31, 2015

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga arrived Thursday afternoon for a two-day visit to follow up on the progress to relocate almost 5,000 Marines from Japan to a base that has yet to be built on Guam.

Suga’s Guam visit builds on Japan Prime Minister Abe’s most recent Washington, D.C., visit, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said.

Bordallo and Suga held a joint press conference at the Hotel Nikko Guam less than two hours after the Japan official’s Guam arrival.

The U.S.-Japan alliance in the Asia-Pacific is important, Bordallo said.

The government of Japan was initially confused by the mixed signals from the U.S. government after Congress froze some funding for the Marine relocation, Suga said.

Japan appreciates that Congress has lifted the freeze on authorization to spend more funding for the relocation of Marines to Guam, Suga said. He said Bordallo and her congressional colleagues who were instrumental in it deserve thanks.

Suga said he wears a second hat in the Abe administration as the man in charge of mitigating the impact of the large presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa.

Suga said Abe had specifically instructed him to minimize the impact — to the local community — of the presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa.

He said he’s encouraged by the progress in Guam to develop facilities that would host Marines being relocated from Okinawa.

“I came here, first of all, to express my appreciation,” he said of the efforts in Guam to prepare to host the Marines from Okinawa.

His visit is also meant to “see the status of the relocation, ... the progress in Guam, and to see it with my own eyes,” Suga said, speaking through a translator.

There are about 28,000 U.S. troops in Okinawa, and Japan looks forward to the U.S. move to relocate about 9,000 of them, including more than 4,000 to Guam, Suga said.

Suga is expected to visit Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam Friday, confirmed Lt. Tim Gorman, Joint Region Marianas public affairs officer. Suga is following up on the progress in Guam to relocate the Marines, Gorman confirmed.

Suga is described in Japanese media reports as Prime Minister Abe’s point man on the issue of alleviating U.S. military presence in Okinawa, and a key national security adviser to the prime minister.

The chief cabinet secretary will visit military construction projects that were funded in part with Japan government money to support development of facilities for the Marines who are being relocated from Okinawa.

He’s the second high-level Japanese official to visit Guam during the past two years.

In 2013, Japan Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera also visited U.S. military facilities in Guam to check on the progress of the relocation efforts.

The cost to relocate Marines to Guam from Okinawa has been reduced from the previous estimate of more than $10 billion to $8.7 billion, according to a January 2015 inter-agency office of inspectors general report on the Guam relocation.

Japan is contributing $3 billion to the Guam relocation and about $1 billion has been paid to the U.S. government, previous military relocation documents show.

The proposed new Marine base will be built on existing federal government-held land near Andersen Air Force Base, and housing for the Marines will be developed within the fence at Andersen to avoid using more of Guam’s scarce civilian land.

Almost two dozen Japanese journalists are covering Suga’s Guam trip, which comes under renewed pressure from Okinawans to reduce the presence of U.S. military troops there.

Suga has scheduled meetings with government of Guam officials, including Gov. Eddie Calvo.
Bordallo met Suga during a congressional delegation visit to Japan last year.

Calvo, Suga seek each other's supportby Robert Q. Tupaz
Guam Daily Post

Japan’s point man in ensuring the execution of the transfer of Marine Expeditionary Forces from Okinawa to Guam, Hawaii and Australia noted his satisfaction with the progress of projects that he’s been able to witness and learn of in Guam.

Meanwhile, Gov. Eddie Calvo implored him to aid the island with future talks between Japan and the United States relative to the components and execution of The Guam International Agreement and collateral agreements.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga met briefly yesterday with Calvo at Adelup and asked for the island’s continued support to ensure a “rapid completion of the process.”

Suga said he was able to tour facilities and construction projects at Andersen Air Force Base. Suga was also reportedly whisked to Big Navy for further visits with military leaders after his visit with Calvo.

The construction projects Suga spoke of are intended to support the island’s military buildup and pave the way for the relocation of up to 4,000 Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam. Japan has committed to providing $2.8 billion to aid in the cost of relocating 9,000 of 28,000 Marines stationed and rotated per duty assignment.     

Calvo assured Suga of the island community’s support for the transfer, though acknowledging concerns from island residents who do not support the buildup.

He, too, asked Suga for his country’s support in ensuring that the United States government adheres to its commitment to the people of Guam to mitigate impacts resulting from the buildup.

Cautious optimism

Both agreed the freeze of funding for Guam projects by the United States Congress delayed the buildup. Still, both spoke with cautious optimism regarding the execution of the realignment to Guam.

Calvo specifically asked that Suga help ensure that the funding for the buildup and adherence to agreements under the programmatic agreement and One-Guam approach are carried out.

“We look to whatever assistance you can give to us as I address these issues,” Calvo told Suga before a packed conference room of local, federal and Japanese officials and the a media pool of over a dozen journalists from Japan.

Calvo recalled the elements of the two standing agreements relative to the Guam buildup. “I’m concerned about the commitment in adhering to the One-Guam Approach and the programmatic agreement,” Calvo said. “My concern is that if the federal government, for whatever reason, does not go forward ... it puts our administration in the position where we must reevaluate how we move forward in this regard.”

Calvo said, “The Obama administration and the (U.S.) House of Representatives have been very supportive. But in the U.S. Senate, there are concerns. So I am asking to see what you can do maybe to discuss with Sen. (John) McCain and others of the Armed Services Committee, how important it is to keep to the commitments that were signed within the programmatic agreement.”

The One-Guam approach includes four pillars that include, among other provisions, the shrinking of the Department of Defense footprint by the end of the buildup; unimpeded access to the Chamorro cultural and historical sites; ensuring civilian infrastructure is improved; and utilizing the “Green Guam” approach to bolster island sustainability and protect natural resources.

Areas that concern Calvo with regard to the programmatic agreement include the construction of a cultural repository, and a public/mental health lab.


Suga admitted that he, too, had some issues in Okinawa, especially with the prior Japanese government administration. “Unfortunately, under the previous administration, we experienced a major, major confusion with regard to the issue of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station,” Suga said through a translator.

A report in the Nikkei Asian Review spoke of discontent in Okinawa as Japan's central government pushed ahead Thursday with the landfill phase of a U.S. military base project in Okinawa over a procedural roadblock erected by the local governor. The Futenma replacement facility was previously linked to any final movement. 

According to the Nikkei report, both sides are preparing for a court battle over plans to replace the Marine Corps' Futenma airfield with a new facility on the Henoko coast, which Tokyo and Washington insist is the only solution to Futenma's noise and safety problems.

An October 2020 target date has been set for completing the new installation.

Tokyo is forging ahead with construction despite Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga's revocation of approval for the landfill phase. And it is girding for a legal battle to settle the dispute. The Okinawan government is showing no signs of giving in.

Suga traveled to Guam on Thursday at the direction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the invitation of Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo.

Suga told Bordallo that the Japanese government is determined to carry on with the landfill phase and asked for her cooperation on the troop transfer.

Suga’s travel to Guam is significant, according to Japanese media. The Nikkei reported that chief Cabinet secretaries are expected to hold down the fort during domestic crises and rarely travel abroad. The last time a chief Cabinet secretary traveled out of Japan was 12 years ago.

Suga's trip to the island was done at the behest of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, underlining the central Japanese government’s efforts to lighten Okinawa's “burden of hosting American forces.”

Abe's government has taken a number of steps in this regard since his December 2012 return as prime minister, such as overseeing the reversion of a U.S. military site to Okinawa and confirming the timetable for other land givebacks. It has also set the date for the start of the Marines’ transfer.

As with Guam, the Abe administration committed to provide economic aid to Okinawa, promising 300 billion yen ($2.47 billion) through fiscal 2021.

“This gentleman is looking at alleviating the burdens of Okinawa,” Calvo said after the meeting. “(He) must also look and take into consideration some of the issues that have been brought up and some of the commitments that have been made in regards to mitigating the movement of Marines and some of the potential negative impacts with this movement to Guam.”

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