Prayer zone for a better, empowering, inspiring, promoting, prospering, progressing and more successful life through Christ Jesus

Posts tagged ‘Marine Corps Air Station Futenma’

Japan Gets Okinawa Approval for Controversial US Marine Base Move.


Image: Japan Gets Okinawa Approval for Controversial US Marine Base MoveJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima gesture during their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on Dec. 25.

TOKYO — The governor of Japan’s Okinawa on Friday approved a controversial plan to relocate a U.S. air base to a less populous part of the southern island, but said he would keep pressing to move the base off the island altogether.

The nod from Okinawa, long a reluctant host to the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan, is an achievement for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has promised a more robust military and tighter security ties with the United States amid escalating tension with China.

Skeptics, however, said it remained far from clear whether the relocation – stalled since the move was first agreed upon by Washington and Tokyo in 1996 – would actually take place given persistent opposition from Okinawa residents, many of whom associate the U.S. bases with crime, pollution and noise.

The approval came a day after Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, seen in parts of Asia as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, infuriating China and South Korea, and prompting concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the Asian neighbors.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima told a news conference he had approved a central government request for a landfill project at the new site, on the Henoko coast near the town of Nago. His approval for that project, required by law and a first step to building the replacement facility, was the last procedural barrier to eventually replacing the U.S. Marines Futenma air base in the crowded town of Ginowan.

“The government has recently met our requests in compiling a plan to reinvigorate Okinawa. We felt that the Abe government’s regard for Okinawa is higher than any previous governments’,” Nakaima told a news conference.

The governor, however, added that he still believed that the quickest way to relocate the Futenma air base would be to move it to an existing facility with runways outside Okinawa.

About 2,000 people gathered in front of the Okinawa government building to protest against Nakaima’s decision, with a few hundred of them staging a sit-in at the lobby of the office building, Jiji news agency said.

The United States and Japan agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma base but plans for a replacement stalled in the face of opposition in Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the U.S. forces in Japan. Okinawa was occupied by the United States after Japan’s defeat in World War II until 1972.

“WILD CARDS”

Japan’s ties with the United States were strained when then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who took office in 2009, sought to keep a campaign promise to move the U.S. base off Okinawa.

The Futenma base has been a lightning rod for criticism because of its location in a densely populated area.

Activists living in tents have been staging a protest near the site of the proposed Henoko base for almost 10 years and have promised demonstrations if Nakaima approves construction.

An election for the mayor of Nago next month could prove problematic if incumbent Susumu Inamine — who opposes the plan — is re-elected, while the central government could face a dilemma if demonstrators try to block construction.

“There are so many potential wild cards, so much that has to be done, that every small decision moves the process forward but by no means guarantees a final conclusion,” said Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think-tank.

In April, the United States and Japan announced a plan to close Futenma as early as 2022.

Abe said the government would study whether that plan could be accelerated and would begin negotiating an agreement with the United States that could allow for more local oversight of environmental issues at U.S. bases.

That would address Nakaima’s call to revise the bilateral Status of Forces agreement that has applied to U.S. military in Japan since 1960 but has never been officially revised.

Abe’s government has also earmarked 348 billion yen for Okinawa’s economic development in the draft budget for the year from April, a 15.3 percent increase from this year.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

US Paying More for Overseas Bases Even as Forces Draw Down.


The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says.

The exhaustive, yearlong investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on costs and burden-sharing as the United States spends more than $10 billion a year to back up the U.S. military presence overseas, with 70 percent of the amount expended in the three nations. The figure does not include military personnel costs.

The panel’s report, obtained by The Associated Press in advance of its Wednesday release, found the financial contributions by those host countries lagging behind costs or increases in U.S. spending. The report identified inherent problems and missteps in the compensation system as the U.S. returns a growing number of its upgraded facilities on foreign land to the host countries.

Urgent: Do You Support Background Checks on Gun Buyers? Vote in Urgent Poll

The report insisted that the American presence in the countries is vital, especially with bellicose threats from a nuclear North Korea, China’s military growth and Germany’s partnership with the U.S. in NATO. However, the Pentagon is now facing the pressure of deficit-driven, smaller budgets while looking to scale back or close overseas and U.S. domestic bases.

The cost arrangements with allies have drawn greater congressional scrutiny — and frustration.

“The growth in our share has really been pretty stunning. And I think we’ve got to stop that direction,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, said in an interview. “We cannot carry these greater and greater and greater percentages of the costs of maintaining these facilities. The ones that we give back, we’re going to have to be given appropriate consideration for the improvements, and the ones that we keep will have to have a much fairer burden-sharing than has been the case in the last 10 years.”

The size of the U.S. force in Germany is expected to drop in the coming year as the Army plans to deactivate one brigade combat team next year and possibly reduce the force even further with a cut of around 2,500 soldiers. Currently, the U.S. has 48,000 active-duty personnel in Germany at a cost of $4 billion.

The amount does not include military personnel costs of $3.9 billion.

The troop reductions — the Army already deactivated one heavy brigade combat team in October 2012 — have resulted in excess military facilities. However, instead of getting cash for the buildings, the U.S. has been negotiating residual value, in-kind payments of services or facilities with a cash value.

Cash payments would be placed in an account and only used for maintenance, repair and environmental restoration. In-kind payments can be directed to military construction.

The committee identified some questionable military construction projects from this arrangement. About $200,000 of residual value, in-kind payments were directed to add sunrooms to senior officer homes in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2007.

“Before the 200-square-foot additions, the homes were each 2,490 square feet, well above DoD‘s minimum size standard,” the report said.

The report found that the U.S. has negotiated the return of more than 100 facilities to Germany since 2005, yet they haven’t been included in the residual value settlements between the two countries. Their current value is nearly $1.1 billion.

In South Korea, where there are 28,500 troops, the U.S. plans to move its forces from the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul to Camp Humphreys, about 40 miles south of the capital. The U.S. must provide most of the military family housing and cover the cost, estimated at $7 billion.

In return, South Korea gets prime real estate in downtown Seoul. During the transition, the U.S. will be responsible for maintaining both sites at a considerable cost. The project also calls for a $10 million museum at the newer base.

In January 2009, the two countries signed an agreement on South Korean contributions. The report found that “while the agreement increased South Korean contributions in subsequent years to keep up with inflation, South Korea’s contributions have not kept pace with U.S. costs.”

The United States’ non-personnel costs in South Korea were $1.1 billion last year. U.S. spending in the country was expected to exceed South Korea’s contributions by $330 million.

The Americans have about 50,000 troops in Japan, about half stationed on Okinawa. The cost is estimated at $2 billion in non-personnel costs for the U.S.

Urgent: Do You Support Background Checks on Gun Buyers? Vote in Urgent Poll

In 1992, Japan contributed more than $1 billion to the facility improvement program, an amount that has dropped to $200 million in recent years. Further complicating the situation, the report found, some 20 percent of that amount is reserved for Japanese projects, often ones requested by local communities.

For nearly two decades the closure of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and the construction of a replacement facility in northern Okinawa have been in the works. In hopes that the new facility was imminent, repairs and other work at Futenma remained undone and many of its 50-year-old-plus facilities show their age.

Only a few projects were financed at an installation that been “closing since 1996,” the report said.

Last month, the committee approved the report by voice vote.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 Source: NEWSmax.com

 

Tag Cloud