Both William Perry, U.S. defense secretary in the Clinton administration, and Satoshi Morimoto, defense minister in the Noda Cabinet, say Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, was decided on for Futenma’s relocation not out of strategic necessity but out of concern over Japanese politics.
To understand what this means, one must know first of all that the bulk of U.S. Marine contingents stationed in Okinawa came from mainland Japan in the 1950s, forced out by violent demonstrations against their presence there.
Tokyo knows well enough that moving the U.S. Marine contingents back to the mainland would result in new political turmoil. This is why Tokyo contends Futenma’s replacement must be built at Henoko and not mainland Japan. Despite knowing this fully and that Tokyo would reject the idea of mainland relocation anyway, U.S. officials kept saying they didn’t mind whether Henoko or anywhere in mainland Japan was chosen.
That Henoko was decided on not for strategic reasons but purely out of political motivation is also shown by the fact that the most active elements of Okinawa-deployed marines are to move to Guam, leaving only support units in Okinawa. Is it a rational military strategy for combat elements to be deployed in safe hinterlands while their support units are deployed closer to a more dangerous front line?
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.