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Monday, April 12, 2010

The Myth of 18,000 Marines in Okinawa, Admitted by USMC


Mainichi Shimbun on April 8 reports the meeting between DPJ's parliamentarian Kawauchi Hiroshi and Lt. Gen. Terry G. Robling, the commanding general of III MEF (Marine Expediary Force). Interestingly, this part of the Mainichi news, which I am going to translate below, was not included in the official English translation of this original news in Japanese. (This includes translation of the Japanese translation of what Robling and Eldridge said, so the exact wording in English may not be accurate. )

***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.

PeacePhilosopher

For more on this issue, see Mayor Iha's argument:
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Iha-Yoichi/3287

  • Mainich Shimbun, April 8

    Hatoyama may propose to relocate Marines to Guam while retaining Futenma for emergencies
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/column/archive/news/2010/04/20100408p2a00m0na002000c.html 
    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."

    毎日新聞4月8日
    転換期の安保2010:「常駐なき普天間」 首相「腹案」の見方浮上
    http://mainichi.jp/select/world/news/20100408ddm002010052000c.html 

     ◇施設返還せず、有事に米軍使用
     米軍普天間飛行場(沖縄県宜野湾市)の移設問題で、鳩山由紀夫首相が封印したはずの持論「常駐なき安保」構想をめぐる動きが水面下で続いている。首相が3月31日の党首討論で「腹案を用意している」と語ったことが憶測を呼び、首相の「腹案」は、「常駐なき安保」を普天間飛行場に適用した「常駐なき普天間」ではないかとの見方も浮上してきた。【「安保」取材班】

     「腹案」発言から一夜明けた4月1日。外交問題に詳しい川上義博参院議員(民主党)の議員会館の事務所を一人の首相秘書官が訪れた。「首相の腹案を先生はご存じですか?」。秘書官でさえ首相の真意を測りかねて戸惑っている。

    秘書官がこのタイミングで同氏を訪ねたのには理由がある。

     3月17日午後、首相官邸。鳩山首相と面会した川上氏は「海兵隊はグアムに全面移転させる。名護市に造る代替基地などを空っぽにして自衛隊が管理し、有事になったら米軍に使わせる。オバマ大統領とその方針で直接交渉したらどうですか」と提案した。熱心に耳を傾ける様子に、川上氏は「首相は乗り気だ」と感じたが、同席した秘書官が「総理、話が進んでいる途中ですから」と遮り、面会は終わった。

     その後、首相の「腹案」発言をはさんで約2週間後の秘書官の来訪を、川上氏は「私の提案に首相が傾いていないか、探りを入れに来たのだろう」と受け止めた。

     鳩山首相を民主党結成当初から知り、沖縄米軍基地問題を中心に日米同盟を考える「沖縄クエスチョン日米行動委員会」の日本側座長を務める橋本晃和・桜美林大大学院客員教授も3月下旬以降、首相周辺を通じ、私案を重ねて伝えてきた。「普天間の機能を九州など既存の米軍基地や自衛隊基地に分散すれば、代替施設は必要ない。普天間は空けておいて、有事には使えるようにしておくべきだ」。「常駐なき普天間」構想だ。

     首相は、普天間飛行場の基地機能の「沖縄県外への移転」を目指し、2日の関係閣僚会議で徳之島(鹿児島県)にヘリ部隊(60機)の大部分を移転することで調整するよう閣僚に改めて指示した。一部は、キャンプ・シュワブ陸上部(沖縄県名護市)に新たなヘリパッド(ヘリ離着陸帯)を造って移転するものの、徳之島空港の滑走路を利用することなどで、大規模な施設建設は不要になる。

     1日には平野博文官房長官が沖縄県の仲井真弘多知事と東京都内で会談し、ヘリ部隊を徳之島に移し、シュワブ陸上部にヘリパッドを造り、将来的には米軍ホワイトビーチ(同県うるま市)沖合に人工島を造る案を説明した。

     「常駐なき安保」について、首相は3月23日の参院予算委員会で「一国の領土の中に他国の軍隊が居続けることは常識的ではない。夢に向かってどう歩むか議論するのは大いに意味がある」と強調。同時に、普天間の有事使用について「議論は当然ある。ゼロベースで議論している」と述べ、可能性を認めた。

     国会答弁で「常駐なき安保」の熱弁を振るい、普天間問題で「県外」のトーンを次第に強める首相に、周辺は「首相の『腹案』は、『常駐なき普天間』ではないか」と注目する。

     ただ、現行の日米合意は「普天間全面返還」が大前提。「返還なしの有事使用」は抜本的な発想の転換となるため、従来合意とできる限り整合性をとる形での見直しをいかに進めるかで頭を痛める関係閣僚との足並みは必ずしもそろわず、ホワイトビーチ案など複数の移設先が入り乱れている。

     ◇在沖海兵隊「1万8000人」、米軍幹部「日本が言った数字」
     「在沖縄海兵隊は定数1万8000人という数字の根拠は何か」。4月5日、沖縄県北谷町など4市町村にまたがるキャンプ瑞慶覧。沖縄等米軍基地問題議員懇談会会長の川内博史衆院議員が、在沖米軍トップのロブリング4軍調整官に尋ねた。「1万8000人」とは、現行計画でグアムに移転する「約8000人」に、政府が移転後に残るとしている「定数1万人」を足した数字だ。沖縄県の調べでは在沖海兵隊は1万2400人(08年9月末時点)。さらに北沢俊美防衛相が2月に「イラク、アフガニスタンに行っているので実数は4000~5000人」と述べるなど、数字の根拠があいまいなことへの追及だった。

     「1万8000人は守屋(武昌元防衛事務次官)が出してきた数字だ。そのまま信じるわけにいかない」と畳み掛ける川内氏に、ロブリング氏は「I agree(その通り)」と同意しながらも答えられず、「部下に答えさせる」と退席。代わった在沖縄米海兵隊外交政策部(G5)のエルドリッジ次長は「それは日本政府が言った数字だ。私たちの責任ではない」と言い放った。

     政府は2日に閣議決定された答弁書で「1万8000人」を「06年5月の日米合意に至る協議の中で米側から説明を受けた」としたが、エルドリッジ氏の発言はこれを真っ向から否定するものだった。川内氏は「1万8000人にまったく根拠がないと米側が認めた」と語る。

     「『定数1万人』は普天間代替施設を建設するための大義名分だ」。普天間を抱える宜野湾市の伊波洋一市長は指摘する。

1 comment:

  1. I wrote a letter...

    Dear Mr. President,
    I am a lawyer in Tokyo. I have a strong interest in the issue of the relocation of the Futenma base and the construction of a new airstrip for the U.S. Marine Corps.
    ...
    ...
    I hope, Mr. President, that as an advocate for true democracy and based on the facts that have come to light, you will not be quite so intent on forcing through the current relocation plan. Should you continue with the current plan, the Japanese people may come to question why they pay billions in taxes for the U.S. Forces in Japan.

    http://blog.goo.ne.jp/tokyodo-2005/e/398a9186ac474c5402b79940e68f9d4b

    ReplyDelete