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  • Fighting with the One You Love
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 5:55 PM on Oct 22, 2009

    There a marital dispute between the new government of Japan – the independent newly-wed – and the incumbent U.S. Defense Secretary – who’s pointing out the fine print in the wedding vows.

    So far, Japan is being represented by Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and the U.S. by the Pentagon’s Robert Gates. President Obama will follow Gates to Japan soon.

    Tokyo needs to show it is independent of the U.S., while Gates is pointing out that it is not. The Japanese government is indicating it doesn’t want to expand a Marine Corps helicopter base in Okinawa nor help pay to move U.S. Marines to Guam.

    Gates notes publicly that Japan only has to spend 1% of GDP for defense because the U.S. provides much of the air and sea surveillance, cruise and ballistic missile defenses and fast reaction forces for the region that the secretary refers to as “strategic benefits.”

    “The Futenma [Marine Corps airbase] relocation facility is the lynchpin of the realignment road map,” is Gates' negotiating position. “Without the Futenma realignment, there will be no relocation [of 8,000 Marines] to Guam. And without relocation to Guam, there will be no consolidation of forces and the return of land [to the benefit of Japanese developers] in Okinawa.”

    Gates appears to be bluffing, but the Japanese parliament may not be cowed as easily as the U.S. Congress. The new party in Japan can not walk away from this confrontation empty handed. But another long-range ballistic missile test by Pyongyang – over Japan and into the Pacific – would push public support back toward a U.S. presence as will additional revelations of China’s growing arsenal of strike aircraft and advanced cruise missiles.

    When a similar situation about U.S. presence arose in South Korea, Washington closed bases, cut numbers and shifted remaining troops to the south and the Korean government was happy to parcel out the property for land development.

    Moreover, there has already been major U.S. investment and preparations for the move of Marines to Guam and Japanese developers are queued to slice up the Marine base in Okinawa.

    Perhaps the compromise deal would be for the U.S. to pay for the move to Guam while Japan injects more money into Afghanistan for the army, police and economic and agricultural development.

    Tags: ar99, Japan, Okinawa

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