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.
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.”