Gearing up for combat readiness abroad -- Akahata editorial, October 21

Japan and the United States are discussing plans for the U.S, forces in Japan and the Self-Defense Forces to share each other's military bases as part of realigning the U.S. Forces in Japan. However, the plans are already under increasing criticism from municipalities and residents out of concern that they will allow the bases to be used perpetually and will go against the demand that damages from the military bases be reduced.

Some of the plans reported are: a transfer of the headquarters of the Air SDF to Yokota Base from Fuchu City (Tokyo); a transfer of Air SDF and Maritime SDF, which presently use Naha Airport, to the U.S. Kadena Air Base; a transfer of some of the U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to the SDF Yausubetsu exercise field in Hokkaido, and co-use of Shimojishima Airport in Okinawa by U.S. forces and SDF.

While promoting a plan to relocate the 1st Army Corps command to Zama with the aim of transforming Japan into a U.S. operational control center overseeing operations in the Asia-Pacific region, integrating and reorganizing some bases, the U.S. forces attach importance to the joint use of bases by the Japanese and U.S. forces as a way to incorporate the SDF more deeply into the U.S. preemptive attack strategy through increased operational integration with the SDF on a daily basis.

In reviewing its global military posture, the U.S. government also attached importance to military realignment for its allies. Richard Armitage, U.S. deputy secretary of state, said a picture of the realignment would become "clearer" both to the United States and Japan at a news conference in Tokyo on October 3.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith gave the need for greater roles for allies, and new and enlarged partnerships as the first of the five keys to realignment. He said that the review in the U.S. posture on a global scale is aimed at helping allies and friends modernize their own forces, doctrines, and strategies (U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee meeting on June 23). The U.S. intention is to urge its allies to make their forces stronger so that they can play a greater role in the U.S. administration's policy of anti-terror war and preemptive attack strategy.

Maintaining the same equipment as the U.S. forces and conducting joint exercises with them, the Self-Defense Forces have become one of the world's major military forces. It has gone as far as to join multinational forces operating in the Indian Ocean and in Iraq. However, because of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, the government has maintained the premise that the SDF units in Iraq are only operating in non-combat areas without using force. Considering Article 9 as a "restriction", the U.S. government is putting pressure on the Japanese government to revise the Constitution. It is attempting to strengthen the capability of the SDF and enable them to strike abroad jointly with the U.S. forces.

A joint use of bases by the U.S. forces and the Japanese SDF will pave the way for achieving that goal. Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, commander of Marine Forces Pacific, said, "If we we're going to grow into an ever tighter alliance with the Japanese, who support our mutual interests in the Pacific ... maybe it's also time to talk about combining the bases." He stressed the need for the U.S. and Japanese forces to conduct joint exercises and live together. By relocating the Air SDF to a U.S. base, Japanese troops will live together with the U.S. forces and learn to imitate their lifestyles as a part of base culture. The relocation plan also aims to cut the U.S. costs by requiring the SDF to be responsible for base management.

Instead of the current system, which allows the U.S. forces to temporarily use SDF bases, the new plan for a joint use of bases is to establish a structure for the U.S. and Japanese forces to jointly conduct wars abroad.

Base troubles increase

The plan for U.S. and Japanese forces to share bases is under the premise of perpetuating the U.S. bases in Japan. Instead of reducing the burdens of U.S. bases on Okinawa, it will spread problems caused by U.S. bases all over Japan. Such a plan must be scrapped. (end)

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