在沖縄米海兵隊 移転促進へ「普天間」の前進を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 5, 2010)
Move Futenma base, move U.S. marines
在沖縄米海兵隊 移転促進へ「普天間」の前進を(8月4日付・読売社説)

Ensuring steady progress in the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station will be essential to minimizing any delay in the planned transfer of marines from Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.

The U.S. Defense Department recently revealed that the transfer of about 8,000 marines to Guam originally scheduled to be completed in 2014 likely will be delayed by up to six years.

The Pentagon blamed the holdup on the unexpectedly long time needed to construct social infrastructure, such as electricity generation, water, sewage and roads. The transfer will increase Guam's population by more than 10 percent.

But the marines' transfer from Okinawa to Guam is intricately entwined with the Futenma facility relocation. The bungled handling of the Futenma move by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's administration has certainly resulted in the marines' shift being put on ice.

Hatoyama fanned expectations among local Okinawa governments and residents that the air base might be moved out of the prefecture--or even outside the country. However, he ended up returning to the 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement that stipulated the facility would be moved to the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture, and then abruptly quit as prime minister. Washington's decision to hold off the marines' transfer speaks volumes of the "negative legacy" Hatoyama has left.

Hatoyama bears grave responsibility in this regard. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who supported Hatoyama as deputy prime minister in the previous administration, also cannot evade his responsibility for these unfortunate developments.

Careless comment

A recent statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku further muddied the waters. He said Japan and the United States would hold in-depth talks on the premise that both countries would be positive about constructing social infrastructure in Guam. Washington could have interpreted this statement as a willingness by Japan to share a greater financial burden in the transfer of the marines.

We think Japan, in principle, should not readily concede to shouldering additional financial burdens involved in the transfer.

It was pointed out before the two governments reached an agreement in 2005 that the cost of shifting the marines, projected at about 10.2 billion dollars, might swell in the future.

Following tough negotiations, Japan set the upper limit of its share at about 6.1 billion dollars. A Japan-U.S. agreement concluded last year includes a clause stipulating Japan will not cover additional burdens.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan originally must have bristled at suggestions that Japan should fund the building of a U.S. military facility in U.S. territory. Sengoku's statement, which could heighten expectations on the U.S. side, is imprudent.

DPJ must lift its game

In diplomacy, keeping the proper distance from the other side is imperative. But the DPJ-led administration is entirely untrustworthy on this point. The excuse that the government is short on diplomatic experience does not pass muster.

Tokyo and Washington set the end of August as the deadline for a final decision on the location and construction method of a replacement facility for Futenma Air Station. The Kan administration is trying to clear this hurdle by presenting several options to the U.S. side.

With the Okinawa gubernatorial election set for November, the government is understandably wary of deciding on a specific plan that might disregard the wishes of local governments. However, it would be unfortunate if the government fails to soothe its ties with Okinawa and delays making any decisions on matters affecting the prefecture. This could eventually result in the Futenma facility being left where it is--permanently.

The government can reduce the burdens shouldered by Okinawa Prefecture by resolutely relocating the Futenma base within the prefecture. Only through clearly showing its resolve to achieve this goal will the Kan administration regain the confidence of people and local governments in the prefecture.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2010)
(2010年8月4日02時02分 読売新聞)

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