The Diet on Wednesday endorsed a Japan-U.S. accord on the planned transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The opposition-controlled Upper House voted it down, but under a constitutional provision, the Lower House’s earlier approval of it prevailed.
The total relocation cost is set at $10.27 billion. Under the accord, Japan will shoulder $6.09 billion — up to $2.8 billion directly from the Japanese government and the remaining $3.29 billion in loan provisions. The Japanese money will be used for constructing the headquarters buildings, residences, schools and infrastructure, including water supply and sewerage. The government has not provided a clear cost breakdown — the main reason for the opposition parties’ opposition to the accord. The accord is unusual in that Japan will be paying for the construction of some U.S. military facilities overseas.
The relocation of marines is contingent on the moving of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan — in the central part of Okinawa Island — to the Camp Schwab in Nago in the northern part of the island. The U.S. and Japanese governments have agreed on the detailed location of the new airfield. But the Okinawa prefectural government is against the location. Thus the move has been stalled.
Although the relocation of marines is supposed to end by 2014, Adm. Timothy Keating, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, has said the transfer of marines from Okinawa to Guam will take longer than planned. The U.S. Government Accountability Office also said in its September 2008 report that the cost could top $15 billion. If the cost increases, the U.S. may call on Japan to shoulder a bigger burden.
Although it has been publicized that some 8,000 marines and some 9,000 dependents will move from Okinawa to Guam, this is inexact. The government now says the intention is to reduce the complement of marines in Okinawa from 18,000 to 10,000. Since there are about 12,500 Marines in Okinawa, the plan suggests that fewer than 8,000 marines will move to Guam. Many important things are left unexplained about the relocation plan.
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