A bit old, but last week was a busy one…

Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited Okinawa to attend official events commemorating to the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

“I want to express my gratitude for the fact that this burden contributes to the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region,” Kan said at ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War Two, in which about 150,000 Okinawan men, women and children were killed.

“I promise to seriously try all the more to reduce Okinawa’s burden related to the U.S. bases and eliminate the associated dangers.”

Kan said the right thing, meaning, he didn’t promise results. Promising results is what got his predecessor in trouble. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Hatoyama promised what he could not deliver. The open secret about Futenma is that no Japanese Prime Minister can deliver something that will be acceptable to the 71% of Okinawans who want the U.S. forces moved somewhere else.

Kan also made a good impression by visiting Okinawa in a timely manner. Kan visited the island in the first three weeks of his term. Hatoyama didn’t actually visit Okinawa for almost a year, which made his heartfelt statements about understanding the pain of the Okinawan people feel less than genuine.

Washington and Tokyo have agreed to work out by the end of August a detailed plan, including a relocation site, but Japan’s defense minister has already expressed doubts over how smoothly the deal can be implemented.

An election for the governor of Okinawa is due in November and the result could also affect the airbase deal, coming near the time when Obama is expected to visit Japan for an Asia-Pacific leaders’ summit. (Link)

Maybe it’s time to start wondering: is there something else that could replace the Marines on Okinawa? If their mission is to seize North Korean nuclear weapons, how about forward deploying a U.S. Army Ranger battalion, along with a company from the 160th Aviation Regiment? This would have a much smaller footprint than the existing Marines–although, admittedly, the operational tempo of the 160th det would be much higher. Also, if the U.S. Air Force won’t share Kadena with the Marines, how about asking it to pony up and permanently base some F-22 fighters and B-2 bombers at Kadena?

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch