A revised plan on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan would expand Japan-U.S. defense cooperation in Asia and the Pacific in an effort to keep China’s military might in check.
The interim report, released on April 27, introduced the new concept of “dynamic defense cooperation,” under which the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military would work together not only in Japan, but also in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
Specifically, the report calls for Japan and the United States to develop training areas in Guam, as well as Pagan and Tinian of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and conduct joint exercises in these locations.
The broader military cooperation is intended to sound a warning to Beijing, although China was not named in the report, sources said.
Some Foreign Ministry officials are also considering conducting Japan-U.S. joint exercises in the Philippines.
But the SDF working routinely with U.S. forces overseas could lead to the use of force outside Japan, which is prohibited by the Constitution.
Akihisa Nagashima, an adviser to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, has advocated the idea of Host Region Support--under which Japan would financially support U.S. military activities in the Asia-Pacific--as opposed to Host Nation Support.
Nagashima argued that the right of collective self-defense must be sanctioned if Japan plans to provide HRS.
But the government has not had in-depth discussions on potential problems of overseas joint exercises.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba dodged a reporter’s question on the lack of discussions, saying only that Japan must move quickly to keep up with changes in the global security environment.
“There is not a problem with exercises if they are for the defense of Japan,” said a senior government official.
In December, the government relaxed the three principles governing weapons exports.
The interim report said Japan plans to provide Asia-Pacific “coastal states,” such as the Philippines, with patrol boats, which fall under weapons under trade control regulations, using official development assistance.
A U.S. government official said Noda has steadily carried out his job ahead of his official visit to the United States from April 29, citing the interim report and the relaxation of the three principles on weapons exports.
ALTERNATIVE TO HENOKO?
The interim report left room for an alternative to the long-stalled Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to Henoko Point of Nago in the same prefecture.
The revised plan on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan said the Henoko plan “remains the only viable solution that has been identified to date.”
A Japan-U.S. joint announcement in February had described the plan as “the only viable solution.”
The phrase--“that has been identified to date”--was added after U.S. Congress members who questioned the feasibility of the Henoko plan complained.
Senators Carl Levin, John McCain and Jim Webb, who have been calling for the Futenma facility to be integrated into U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, welcomed the change.
The new wording forced Japanese ministers to deny the possibility that the government is giving up on the Henoko plan and will look into Kadena or other alternatives.
“We are not ruling out the possibility of considering sites (other than Henoko),” Genba told reporters at a news conference. “(But) the only viable option is Henoko. The (Japanese and U.S.) governments share the same view.”
At a meeting of advisers on the evaluation of environmental assessments for Henoko, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said, “Japan and the United States reconfirmed that the relocation to Henoko is the only viable solution.”
A senior Pentagon official also said the U.S. government has no intention of considering the Kadena plan, but Okinawa has been adamantly opposed to the relocation to Henoko.
Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima on April 27 said a relocation plan cannot be realized unless it gains the understanding of local communities.
“The U.S. Congress has pointed out that (the Henoko plan) is costly,” added Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine.
Local governments have been opposed to the integration with Kadena. If the Henoko plan is retracted, the aging Futenma facility will continue to pose dangers in the densely populated area of Ginowan.
The revised realignment plan calls for Japan to share costs to maintain the Futenma air base. Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima said refurbishment should not lead to a permanent "fixation (of Futenma).”
- « Prev
- Next »