Funding slashed for Guam transfer

Kyodo

Funding for the envisioned transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam will be slashed dramatically in fiscal 2012, the government decided Saturday.

It is earmarking just ¥7.3 billion for the transfer in next year’s fiscal budget, down from the ¥51.8 billion set aside in the fiscal 2011 budget.

Total defense spending, meanwhile, will be reduced by 1.3 percent to ¥4.71 trillion.

The decision to cut funding for the Guam transfer comes in the wake of the U.S. Senate’s recent approval of a defense authorization bill effective through next September, cutting the entire $150 million in funding from Washington for the planned relocation.

The reduction in the U.S. has cast a shadow over the future of a Japan-U.S. accord on relocating the Futenma air base within Okinawa Prefecture, from a densely populated area of Ginowan to the Henoko district in Nago.

The relocation plan, fiercely opposed by many in Okinawa who want the base moved out of the prefecture, is linked to the transfer of the marines to Guam as part of the overall plan to reconfigure U.S. military forces in Japan.

The planned budget for fiscal 2012 allocates ¥3.7 billion, including funds for environmental research, to cover costs related to the Futemma relocation. No funds are earmarked for designing and constructing a new base.

Overall expenses for the realignment of U.S. forces will decrease to ¥59.92 billion, down 41.6 percent from the ¥102.65 billion earmarked for the current year.

As part of efforts to boost air security, ¥39.5 billion has been included to acquire four F-35 stealth jets. The F-35 was recently chosen as the Air Self-Defense Force’s next mainstay fighter. The overall costs will be ¥60 billion after spending on other systems, such as a flight simulator, is included.

In response to China’s growing assertiveness at sea, ¥1 billion will be allocated for land acquisition and other expenses linked to the dispatch of Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Yonaguni Island to boost security in the remote Nansei Islands in the southwest.

The proposed defense budget also includes ¥800 million for training and other purposes in the event of disasters, including nuclear accidents.

Arms export ban to go

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said Saturday the government intends to relax restrictions on exporting weapons.

“In the past, we have made exceptions, but we would like to create a new framework based on new guidelines,” Ichikawa said.

The administration plans to relax the ban to enable participation with other countries in joint development and production of weapons systems, and to provide equipment to countries for humanitarian objectives, such as construction machinery used by the Self-Defense Forces during U.N. peacekeeping operations, sources said.

Final arrangements are being made for Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura to release a statement Tuesday on reviewing the ban.

Ichikawa said Japan should be able to take part in joint development and production with allies such as the United States, noting how costly highly advanced defense equipment has become.