A long-simmering dispute between the United States and Japan over the fate of a Marine base on Okinawa seemed to have been resolved on Friday when the governor of Okinawa gave his approval to move the base to a remote area.
The agreement would bolster efforts by the Pentagon to rebalance American military forces across the Asia-Pacific region and by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to raise his country’s strategic posture and check the growing military influence of China.
An official document approving a landfill on which much of the base would be built was stamped by the governor of Okinawa, Hirokazu Nakaima, and sent to the local branch of the Ministry of Defense, Kanako Shimada, a prefectural official, said on Friday.
Mr. Nakaima’s approval was a breakthrough after what had been longstanding opposition on Okinawa to the plan to move the Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma, on the prefecture’s main island to the north of the island.
Read the rest of the story: Deal to Move Okinawa Base Wins Approval.
Japan and the United States are discussing the transfer of U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture out of the country ahead of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, government sources said.
The move comes as part of a review of a 2006 bilateral agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in the country. Under the accord, the transfer of the Marines to Guam and the relocation of the Futenma station were supposed to be handled together.
Senior officials of the foreign and defense ministries of the two countries will meet in Washington on Monday to start full-fledged negotiations on a new realignment plan, according to the sources.
Read the rest of the story: Japan, U.S. may transfer Marines from Futenma Air Station ahead of base relocation.
Japan is stepping up efforts ahead of new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit next week to break a stalemate over the relocation of a Marine base that has stalled the restructuring of U.S. military forces in Asia.
Moving the base is an essential step in Washington’s big-picture plan to reposition about 8,000 Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the tiny U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which is set to become a crucial regional hub for the U.S. Marines, Air Force and Navy.
Senior Japanese leaders have held repeated meetings in recent weeks with top politicians on Okinawa to seek their cooperation in moving the base — Marine Corps Air Station Futenma — to a less-crowded area of the island.
Read the rest of the story: Japan pushing Okinawa for progress on US base ahead of visit by new US defense chief.
President Barack Obama vowed continued U.S. help for key ally Japan to rebuild after its devastating earthquake and tsunami but also pushed for progress on a long-delayed plan to relocate American forces in the country.
Obama held his first meeting Wednesday with Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s newest prime minister. Noda has held office for less than a month and faces domestic challenges beyond the natural disasters, including a stagnant economy and a crushing national debt. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Noda is Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years. He also said rebuilding is his top priority. More than 20,000 people died or were left missing after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that sent a nuclear power plant into meltdown. It was the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl and led another 100,000 people to leave their homes because of a radiation threat.
Read the rest of the story: Obama meets new Japan PM, seeks progress on US Marine base relocation.
The head of the US military said Thursday he was open to ideas on resolving a long-running row with Japan over bases after three senators called the two governments’ agreement infeasible.
"I think we need to be as open as we possibly can to solutions now," Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a breakfast with reporters.
Senators Carl Levin, John McCain and Jim Webb last month called for the United States to rethink base realignment plans in East Asia due to political opposition in Japan and cost overruns in both Japan and South Korea.
Read the rest of the story: US military chief ‘open’ to ideas on Japan base.