Obama axes budget for Okinawa-to-Guam Marines transfer


U.S. President Barack Obama signed a defense bill for fiscal 2012 on Saturday that includes cutting the entire $150 million funding for transferring Marines to Guam from Japan’s Okinawa.

The axing of the funding casts doubt over the prospects for a controversial bilateral commitment to relocate a major U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, of which the transfer of Marines is a key component.

Obama signed the bill for the National Defense Authorization Act in Honolulu, where he is staying for his Christmas and New Year holiday.

Enactment of the bill for the year through September came after the Senate approved it in December.

Japan and the United States remain committed to relocating the Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station from a densely populated area in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area of Nago and moving 8,000 Marines in Okinawa to Guam.

But fierce opposition among Okinawa residents led the two governments to withdraw in May 2011 from their earlier goal of finishing the relocation by 2014.

The Japanese government presented an environmental impact assessment report to the Okinawa government Wednesday as a step to implementation of the base relocation plan. But Okinawa has held firm to its opposition to it.