TMCnet News

2ND LD: U.S. asks Japan to pay 75% of $10 bil. to move Marines to Guam+
[March 14, 2006]

2ND LD: U.S. asks Japan to pay 75% of $10 bil. to move Marines to Guam+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)WASHINGTON, March 14_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: ADDING MORE INFO, DETAILS)

The United States has come up with a $10 billion cost estimate for relocating U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and has asked Japan to pay $7.5 billion, or 75 percent, through outright grants and loans, a U.S. Defense Department official said Tuesday.

The official said the United States has offered to move "at least" 8,000 Marines in Okinawa to Guam instead of an earlier agreed plan to move 6,000 to Guam and 1,000 elsewhere in Japan, meaning that more than 8,000 troops will leave Okinawa in an upcoming implementation plan for a broad bilateral accord on realignment of the U.S. military presence in Japan.

In a controversial move that may aggravate China and other Asian neighbors, the official, speaking to some Japanese reporters on condition of anonymity, also revealed that the United States has proposed providing facilities in Guam to Japan's Self-Defense Forces to keep its troops and aircraft squadron on a "full-time" basis for more training opportunities there.

But the official stressed that the U.S. side is prioritizing the planned relocation of the Marine Futemma Air Station within Okinawa, urging the Japanese government to work out the strong local opposition and pave the way for its implementation before the two nations proceed with cost and other substantive talks on the Guam relocation.

The official said the Pentagon is "flexible" about making "technical adjustments" such as changing the currently planned construction plan of a coastal airfield to an offshore one in the same U.S. Marine Camp Schwab site in Nago if the Japanese government and local communities agree and make a proposal.

"The first we have to get the Futemma base moving and on track...then it is possible to move ahead on Marine relocation," the official said.

Against this background, he cautioned that the Guam estimate is just a "preliminary" figure with "so many variables," indicating that it will be lowered before the two nations nail down total cost.

The official said he is "optimistic" about the two nations working out the implementation plan as agreed by the end of the month for the broad realignment accord they reached in October, which includes the Guam and Futemma base relocation plans as well as greater SDF training opportunities in Guam.

But he expressed U.S. reluctance about holding the so-called two-plus-two top security meeting of ministers in charge of defense and foreign affairs to endorse and release the plan, especially amid lingering local opposition and some unsolved issues.

Japanese government sources said earlier that Tokyo plans to send Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga to Washington on April 1-2 for the meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"There is no point in getting the top-level officials together and have them pretend everything is completed," the official said, noting that there are "still many open issues" led by "a lack of consensus" on the Futemma plan between the Japanese central government and Okinawa.

In the October accord, the two nations came up with a new plan of building an airfield on part of Camp Schwab's land and adjacent waters in place of a planned construction of a civilian-military airport on the reef off the camp that had been stalled for nearly 10 years.

The agreed new plan was proposed by Japan, while the United States had favored an offshore airfield in shallower waters off Camp Schwab.

As for the Marine relocation on top of the 8,000 troops moving to Guam, the official said "hundreds" will move out of Okinawa in line with a planned relocation of Futemma base's KC-130 tanker aircraft to either the U.S. Marine Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture or Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force's Kanoya base in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Based on the Pentagon's calculation model, 8,000 uniform military personnel will come along with 9,000 dependents, the official said, noting that a total of about 17,000 people will move from Okinawa to Guam.

The official said the estimated cost comprises $8 billion for building on-base facilities and $2 billion for off-base infrastructure such as utility and roads.

Japan has proposed offering loans, with the United States paying them back later, as part of its contributions to the cost, particularly by adopting the privatization format the Pentagon is promoting for housing, the official said.

Under the public-private partnership scheme, private developers build houses with the loans and lend them to the U.S. military.

The official said the two nations remain committed to their goal of completing the realignment by 2012.

[ Back To's Homepage ]