***US general says it is only Japan that is saying there are 18,000 Marines in Okinawa
- Kawauchi asked Robling, "where did this "fixed number" of 18,000 Marines in Okinawa come from?" Kawauchi, at Camp Zukeran in Okinawa.
This "18,000" is the sum of "approximately 8,000" Marines who are supposed to be transferred to Guam according to the 2006 Roadmap Agreement, and the "10,000" Marines that the Japanese government has stated that would remain in Okinawa.
According to Okinawa Prefecture research, however, the number of Marines in Okinawa was 12,400 (as of the end of September, 2008). In February 2010, Defense Minister Kitazawa Toshimi stated "The actual number is 4,000-5,000, as Marines have been dispatched to Iraq and Afghanistan." This is why Kawauchi asked this question.
Kawauchi argued, "'18,000' is the number that Moriya Takemasa, former Vice Defense Minister was using. I can't just take the face value of it." Robling said, "I agree," but could not elaborate his answer. He left, saying he would have one of his staff members to answer the question. Then Robert Eldridge, Deputy G-5 took over and said, "That was the number used by the Japanese Government. It is not our responsibility."
The written response by the Japanese government approved by the Cabinet on April 2 states that the "18,000 Marines" was "explained by the U.S. side in the discussion leading up to the U.S.-Japan Agreement (Roadmap) of May, 2006." Eldrige's words above contradict this statement.
Kawauchi said, "This is an admittance by the U.S. that the number 18,000 is groundless."
Iha Yoichi, Mayor of Ginowan City which reluctantly hosts Futenma Air Station also points out, "'The fixed number of 18,000 Marines' is an excuse to build a Futenma replacement facility."
The question raised by Kawauchi, representing the group of 15 parliamentarians, DPJ and SDP combined, was also covered by NHK. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20100407/t10013701101000.html
In the news, Kawauchi Hiroshi said, "The day before yesterday(April 5), I talked with the people responsible for the US Marine Corps in Okinawa, and they said, 'it is just the Japanese Government that's been saying the number of Marines in Okinawa is 18,000.'" Based on this, Kawauchi expressed his opinion that it was not necessary to build a replacement base within the country for after 8,000 leave, and other group members expressed similar views.
This is the first time that I see the issue of Okinawa Marines' "quota," or the "fixed number" being covered in the mainstream media and raised by a parliamentarian. As these Marine officials, who we now know are Terry Robling and Robert Eldridge admitted or said, the Japanese government has been using this number of 18,000 as if it were the actual number. This is what Ginowan Mayor Iha and author Yoshida Kensei have been questioning in their presentations and books. Mayor Iha even argues, based on his research, about half of the Okinawa marines are absent at any given time, being engaged in military endeavours overseas. This point is verified in Defense Minister Kitazawa's statement above. But few media and no parliamentarians or bureaucrats have been able to address this issue in any accountable ways. Kawauchi even implied, quoting this Marine official, that the Japanese government has been lying.
For more on this issue, see Mayor Iha's argument:
- Mainich Shimbun, April 8
Hatoyama may propose to relocate Marines to Guam while retaining Futenma for emergencies
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter takes off from Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, in March. (Mainichi)Observations are growing in the ruling coalition that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is considering relocating most of the U.S. Marine troops in Okinawa out of the prefecture while retaining Air Station Futenma for use by U.S. forces in case of an armed conflict.
The speculations have been sparked by remarks Hatoyama made in his Diet debate with opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Sadakazu Tanigaki on March 31 that he has a specific relocation plan in mind even though he declined to elaborate.
If such a plan materializes, as his aides are speculating, Hatoyama would partially achieve his goal of "a security arrangement without the permanent presence of U.S. forces."
The day after the debate, a secretary to the prime minister visited Yoshihiro Kawakami, a ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) member of the House of Councillors who specializes in diplomatic policies.
"Do you know anything about the plan that the prime minister says he has in mind?" the secretary asked the legislator. Even top aides to Hatoyama have been puzzled because they have no idea of the prime minister's true intentions.
Kawakami had proposed a plan to retain Futenma without the permanent presence of U.S. Marines when he met with Hatoyama at the prime minister's office on March 17.
"My proposal is to relocate all Marine Corps troops in Okinawa to Guam, vacate the Marine bases, including a substitute facility in Nago, put the facilities under the control of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and allow U.S. forces to use the facilities in case of a military conflict. How about negotiating my proposal directly with U.S. President Barack Obama? Kawakami was quoted as telling Hatoyama.
Since Hatoyama earnestly listened to his proposal, Kawakami sensed that the prime minister is enthusiastic about the plan.
However, a secretary accompanying the prime minister interrupted their talks saying, "Prime minister, the issue is still under consideration," putting an end to the meeting.
"I guess the secretary who visited me attempted to see if the prime minister was leaning toward accepting my proposal," Kawakami says.
Akikazu Hashimoto, a guest professor at Obirin University -- who has been acquainted with Hatoyama since the DPJ was founded and co-chairs a Japan-U.S. panel on the bilateral alliance -- has also proposed a plan to retain Futenma base without the permanent presence of U.S. Marines.
Under his proposal, Futenma base's functions would be shifted to existing U.S. and SDF bases in Kyushu and other areas, and Futenma would be retained for use by U.S. forces in an emergency.
In an Upper House Budget Committee session on March 23, Prime Minister Hatoyama called for discussions on how to achieve a security arrangement without the permanent presence of U.S. forces.
"It's abnormal that foreign troops are permanently stationed in a country. It's of great significance to discuss how to achieve the goal (of a security arrangement without the permanent presence of U.S. forces)," he said.
Hatoyama did not rule out the possibility that U.S. forces will use Air Station Futenma if an armed conflict breaks out around Japan even after Marines are relocated out of the base. "Of course, such discussions are going on. We have gone back to the drawing board and are discussing the matter."
In the Diet, Hatoyama has repeatedly talked about a security arrangement without the permanent presence of U.S. forces and been toning up his calls for the relocation of Futenma out of Okinawa Prefecture. His remarks have drawn attention from his aides as a sign that he is pursuing a "Futenma without the permanent presence of U.S. Marines."