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"US Needs Plan B" -- Armitage on Henoko-Futenma

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Uploaded on Jan 19, 2010

About the Video: During the panel about US-Japan Alliance at CSIS Pac-Forum, Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State during the Bush administration and the author of the Armitage Report, expresses pessimism about the fate of the 2006 Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation plan agreement. which had designated Henoko Bay next to Camp Schwab as the site for the new air station. He calls for a Plan B. He also explains his regrets and takes some responsibility for what he regards as failures in communication and a lack of understanding of the new government, factors that turned a disagreement about the relocation site into a real crisis over US-Japan alliance.
Background: Futenma Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) base is currently located in the heart of a densely populated Ginowan City creating a dangerous situation. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visiting Futenma in 2003 said that the base had to be closed because it is an "accident waiting to happen." In 2004, a marine helicopter crashed into a university in Ginowan City located right next to Futenma base. No lives were lost because it occurred during summer vacation, but a building was heavily damaged.

All parties involved agree that Futenma needs to be closed, but the closure is contingent upon the availability of a relocation site. This is where the matter is currently stuck. It's taken over a decade to negotiate a proper relocation site. In 2006, a plan was negotiated between Bush administration officials and the LDP, the previous government that ruled Japan for 54 years. The plan designated Henoko Bay next to Camp Schwab as the site for the new air station and called for the removal of 8,000 marines to Guam. There has been an outcry from the Okinawans because Henoko Bay is one of the most beautiful parts of the island home to corral reefs and the natural habitat of the endangered and beloved mammal, dugongs. A lawsuit was filed in San Francisco in 2003 by Japanese and US environmental NGOs that resulted in a 2008 ruling by a federal judge against the U.S. Department of Defense "requiring it to consider impacts of a new airbase on the dugong in order to avoid or mitigate any harm."

About 70% of US military bases in Japan are located on Okinawa occupying over 20% of the island. Many Okinawans have been outraged by the impact on the quality of their lives of not only because of the safety issues that arise from the heavy helicopter and plane traffic, but also the deafening noise, falling objects from the helicopters and planes. The multiple impact of US bases is a daily reality for the residents all over Okinawa and at times the impact is painfully tragic and unifies the entire island to protest. In fact, the current movement against US military bases was launched in 1995 when a 12-year-old Okinawan girl was raped by a marine.

It is worth remembering that Okinawa is the site of the only land battle in Japan during WWII. About 150,000 Okinawan civilians lost their lives from the attacks by the US military and by Japanese Imperial Army that forced the residents to commit suicide rather than surrender. Many protesters of the military bases are survivors of the war.

The fate of the Futenma base was a campaign issue in the 2009 national elections in Japan that brought a new coalition government into power. Prime Minister Hatoyama (DPJ) has delayed making a decision about whether to relocate the base to Henoko Bay until May 2010 possibly until after the July Upper House elections.

The delay has caused great aggravation for the US government. Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates have made it clear that the US expects the 2006 agreement to go forward. Some Japanese people have also expressed anxiety about the impact of the delay on the future of the US-Japan alliance.

Both governments agree that Okinawa is strategically significant because of its proximity to China and Taiwan. In general, there is wide agreement that US-Japan alliance is critical to regional security in Asia due to ongoing security threats from North Korea and concerns over China's growing military. However, there are rumblings from all sides and even within the US-Japan defense community that many strategic and tactical assumptions made during the Cold War must be reexamined.

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