courtesy of the Mainichi

The always wonderfully straightforward and sensible Yuki Tatsumi has published a short piece on CSIS arguing that, although there might be a sense of relief on both sides of the Pacific after the agreement to separate the construction of the Henoko replacement facility for Futenma from the transfer of US Marines to Guam and return of land to Japan, complacency on both sides could end up harming the overall effectiveness of the alliance in the long-term. To quote:

the Feb. 8 announcement fails to address the very issue that the past two rounds of bilateral negotiations attempted to tackle — coming up with an alternative that can lead to the closure of MCAS Futenma to ensure a sustainable US military presence in Okinawa. Now that the linkage between construction of the FRF and the Marines relocation to Guam has been severed, it is highly likely that MCAS Futenma will continue operations for the foreseeable future given the political deadlock between Tokyo and Naha. This means the US-Japan alliance is “one accident away” from irreparable damage.

To supplement this the East-West Center has published a faithful representation of Nago City mayor Susumu Inamine’s advocacyduring a recent visit to Washington DC:

Mayor Inamine stressed that he was not anti-American, but rather had a deep-seated trust in the US and a respect for its democracy. However, he is worried that forced implementation of the realignment plan against the will of the Okinawans can ruin America’s image there. While 11% of Nago City’s land is taken up by US military bases, he was not calling for a removal of the existing facilities, nor denying the need for the US-Japan security agreement, but stated that they could not stand the additional burden of another bases or the destruction of the local marine ecosystem by the proposed runway expansion plan.

This is in contrast to the almost bizarrely unfaithful article written by the New York Times on supposedly “3 to 1″ support for the base among Henoko’s 1,800 people. Never mind that the mayor was in the US at the time giving the completely opposite message. That mayor is going to be really ‘surprised’ when election time rolls around in a couple of years! To be fair, in general in Okinawa there is more diversity in opinion in regards to the base issue as an overall issue, but one can take too far the often ventured idea that anti-base sentiment is a unreflexive product of Okinawa’s “leftist” newspaper and media establishment. In related news we have some interesting developments in regards to the other aspect of the realignment plan – the transfer of Marines out of Okinawa. Originally almost all the redeployed US Marines were supposed to go to Guam. However considerable problems regarding the implementation of the Guam plan, not least being environmental ones, have arisen and the US Congress has started questioning its feasibility. Thus the US has been searching around for alternative sites for permanent bases or rotating deployments. Darwin was the big announcement from last year in the context of President Obama’s East Asia “pivot,” but Korea, and also interestingly the Philippines look likely to take on additional US Marines presences. What is not going to happen is the relocation to Iwakuni of 1,500 marines which was suggested to the media just as the adjustment to the realignment plan was announced.1 The plan was such a non-starter that Yamaguchi Governor Sekinari Nii suspended a land sale to the government for U.S. military family housing near the Marine Corps’ Iwakuni Air Station until people on the national level stopped talking about the possibility of it being a relocation destination for more US Marines. The man knew exactly who had the power in this situation and it worked – perhaps national politicians could learn a thing or two about negotiation, decisiveness and clarity of motive from the governor. 1 HT to MTC for the last two articles linked.

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Corey Wallace joined Japan Security Watch in 2011. He writes on Japan security-related topics, focusing on issues and stories that may not find their way into the English language media. He also hosts the blog Sigma1 where he writes on Japanese domestic politics and broader issues in international relations. Prior to taking up a PhD Corey was a participant on the JET program (2004-2007) and on returning to New Zealand he worked at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology from 2007-2010 as a policy adviser. Corey lectures two courses at the University of Auckland. One is on the international relations of the Asia-Pacific, which contains a significant focus on East Asia security issues. The other is a course on China's international relations. His primary academic interests before his current Japan focus were science and technology politics/policy, issues of ethnic identity, and Chinese modern history and politics. He carries over his interest in issues of identity and history into his PhD where he is looking at generationally situated concepts of national identity and their impact on foreign policy ideas in Japan.
Corey Wallace has 256 post(s) on Japan Security Watch