The realignment of U.S. forces will cost Japan 1.1 trillion yen over the next eight to 10 years, on top of the roughly 700 billion yen the government has agreed to contribute to cost of transferring U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, according to a new estimate revealed by official sources.
The estimate indicates that more than 300 billion yen will be needed to build an airfield along the shoreline of Camp Schwab, near Nago. The new field will take over operations currently handled by the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The new projections are a sharp downward revision of the government’s initial estimate that it would need around 2 trillion yen over the next 10 years to cover costs associated with the realignment, excluding the Guam relocation costs.
The latest estimate includes more than 400 billion yen for land transfers at six facilities in Okinawa, and some 240 billion yen to cover the transfer of carrier-based aircraft to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture, the sources said.
Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga said Monday the government plans to endorse a final plan for the realignment at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
Nukaga’s remarks follow talks with Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and other Cabinet ministers.
The realignment agreed to by Japan and the United States on May 1 is the most sweeping reorganization of U.S. forces and bases in Japan in decades. But the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps air station within Okinawa, a main pillar of the plan, remains a point of contention between the central government and local authorities.
At Monday’s meeting, Yuriko Koike, state minister in charge of Okinawa affairs, expressed concern that the central government has not yet gained thorough support and understanding from Okinawa, the city of Nago and other areas affected.
“I would like (the government) to come up with clear policies that will stipulate local development and economic stimulus measures for Okinawa,” Koike told reporters after the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
The others at the meeting were Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Senior Vice Finance Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba, according to Abe.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi instructed the ministers to discuss the issues thoroughly with local authorities in order to implement the realignment plan, Nukaga said.
The realignment plan, which aims to bolster the bilateral security alliance between Washington and Tokyo by 2014 and to reduce the burden on base-hosting communities in Okinawa and other areas, was agreed to in a joint statement issued May 1 in Washington after a meeting of Nukaga, Aso, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Under the plan, the U.S. will move 8,000 of its 18,000 marines based in Okinawa to Guam by 2014.
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