WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 – The United States and Japan have agreed to „delink“ two aspects of the planned relocation of U.S. forces in Japan, according to a statement released today.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the U.S.-Japan joint defense posture statement affirms both nations are committed to relocating Marines within Okinawa, and also to moving some of those forces to Guam.
„Both sides have agreed to delink the movement of Marines to Guam and resulting land returns south of [Kadena Air Base, home to the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing] from progress on the Futenma replacement facility,“ Little said. „By doing this, we can work the details of and make progress on each effort separately, yet we remain fully and equally committed to both efforts.“
The two countries are reviewing how to effectively work together to achieve the goals of the 2006 Realignment Roadmap and the 2009 Guam International Agreement, he added.
The 2006 roadmap signed by Japan and the United States would relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, now in the center of Okinawa’s Ginowan City, to a more remote area of the island. Futenma is about seven miles from Kadena Air Base. The Guam agreement provides for a further move of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Both agreements have been the subject of intense prefectural and national political debate in Japan.
Today’s statement reads, in part, „We remain committed to mitigating the impact of U.S. forces on Okinawa, as well as to the construction of the Futenma replacement facility at the Camp Schwab Henoko-saki area and adjacent waters. We believe that the current Futenma replacement facility plan is the only viable way forward.“
Little noted that the Defense Department’s new strategic guidance emphasizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific region, and the rebalancing of U.S. defense priorities toward and within the region.
„A critical component to the success of this strategy continues to be our presence and military cooperation with our longstanding ally, Japan,“ the press secretary said.
The two troop movements are designed to ease the impact of the Marine presence on the Okinawan people; develop Guam as a strategic hub with an operational Marine Corps presence on Guam; and maintain a presence in the region that is geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable, he added.
U.S. and Japanese officials began two-way working-group discussions Feb. 6 for the latest round of effort in the ongoing troop movement plan, and those discussions likely will continue for some time, he said.
„No decisions will be announced until the details of the way forward are agreed upon by both countries,“ Little added. „Therefore, right now, it’s premature to discuss troop numbers or specific locations associated with the relocation of Marines from Okinawa.“
The two nations‘ alliance is dedicated to Japan’s security and to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the press secretary noted, adding that the efforts announced today will continue to strengthen that alliance.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)