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Negotiators are discussing realignment plans without resolving Okinawans' hardships

The Japan-U.S. talks on the realignment of U.S. military bases in Japan are focused on where the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station should be relocated, from the present site in the middle of the residential area of Ginowan City, Okinawa.

The United States is urging Japan to resolve the issue as quickly as possible in return for the relocation of some U.S. Marine Corps facilities and the return to Japan of some base sites.

The realignment talks are solely aimed at maintaining and strengthening the U.S. Marines and their bases in Okinawa. Negotiators are not discussing about reducing the unbearable burdens that Okinawans have been forced to endure for half a century.

In his meeting on October 13 with Nukaga Fukushiro, chair of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel on national security affairs, Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense for Asia-Pacific affairs said that if the question of the Futenma base is resolved, the United States would consider pulling out some of the U.S. Marines from Okinawa.

On the same day, Lawless told Democratic Party President Maehara Seiji that the relocation of the Futenma base and the relocation of U.S. Marines headquarters in Okinawa should be resolved as a package.

Okinawans are demanding return of base site without condition

Reportedly, Japanese and U.S. negotiators are discussing several steps to reduce the U.S. Marine Corps presence in Okinawa, including:

- Relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Courtney in Okinawa and personnel for supplies and logistics to Guam;

- Returning the U.S. Marine Makiminato Service Area in Urasoe City; and

- Relocating the mid-air refueling unit based at the U.S. Futenma base to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Kanoya Base in Kagoshima Prefecture.

It is also reported that they are discussing transferring part of the U.S. Air Force training facilities with F-15 fighters (now based at the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa) to a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base on Japan's mainland.

What we want is to get the USMC 3rd Expeditionary Force withdrawn without condition, because its mission is to intervene militarily in regional conflicts in disregard of the purpose of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. For example, the U.S. Marine Makiminato Service Area, which is not in use, should be returned to Japan immediately without condition.

The U.S. plans to keep and even strengthen the 3rd Expeditionary Force and major U.S. bases in Okinawa.

Okinawans are forced to endure unbearable hardships caused by the fact that U.S. bases in Okinawa are used as major stepping-stones and training grounds for lawless U.S. interventionist wars like the Iraq War. But the U.S. and Japanese governments are not interested in resolving this problem. Most of the vast U.S. base sites will remain under the plans that the two governments are considering. The Okinawa Times rightly reported: "There will be no visible reduction in burdens that Okinawans are forced to endure" (October 14).

U.S. seeks state-of-the-art bases in Okinawa

The plan to relocate the refueling aircraft based at the U.S. Futenma Air Base is nothing but a step to continue to shift burdens onto Japan by just changing base sites. In fact, opposition to this plan has already been expressed by the local government and residents near the Maritime Self-Defense Force Kanoya Base.

The United States wants to relocate the Futenma base as a way to get a state-of-the-art training and forward-deployment base. This is why it has rejected the Japanese proposal for building an air base within U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab (Nago City and Ginoza-son Village) and insists on constructing one on the reef in shallow waters off Camp Schwab.

The U.S. plan also includes a deployment on the new base of the state-of-the-art Osprey aircraft that are used for transporting ground combat troops.

Any plan to shift even heavier burdens on Okinawans will necessarily be repudiated by them. -- Akahata, October 15, 2005

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