The United States and Japan came to agreement on the repositioning of forces away from the island of Okinawa while preserving the overall US military capability and force structure. The International Herald Tribune states:
"The United States and Japan agreed on a plan Wednesday to relocate a major American air base on the southern island of Okinawa, removing the biggest obstacle to talks on the redeployment of U.S. troops across the country.
According to the plan, the Futenma Marine Corps air base, located in the city of Ginowan, will move to an existing U.S. base, Camp Schwab, in a less populated area on the main island."
For background on why this has been a sensitive issue with the Japanese, one needs only to go back over the past decade and look at some horrific crimes by US servicemen against local Japanese girls and women.
Three US soldiers were convicted of raping a 12 year old girl in 1995. Incidents of rape have surfaced in the news in 2002 and 2003 against the local Okinawans. With up to 47,000 US soldiers in Japan and the majority on the island, the possibility for future incidents is high.
The Australian reports that the US military gave in to the Japanese in arriving at the compromise. The US initially wanted to build the airstrip over a reclaimed coral reef, but the Japanese balked at the potential environmental impact.
"The Futenma decision appears to have been achieved by US concessions.
"The US side, taking into consideration the importance of the Japan-US alliance ... have accepted the most recent Japan Defence Agency proposal and plan for the relocation of the US Marine Corps at Futenma," lead American negotiator Richard Lawless told reporters yesterday....
About half the 50,000 US Forces in Japan personnel are deployed on Okinawa, a territory that was controlled by the US military for 27 years following the end of the Pacific war and remains a location of high strategic value because of its proximity to Taiwan and mainland China."
Why does this story interest Dawn's Early Light? By attempting to remove a regular domestic political and social thorn in the side of US-Japanese relations, the two countries can remove a source of friction and gear up for future regional threats. These threats are more likely to come from North Korea or China. Additionally, it will make President Bush's trip to Japan easier on November 16.
Update: The Washington Post has a more detailed account of some of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that is critical to DEL's point above about moving the relationship forward.
"'There was a sense of emergency that not reaching agreement on the issue, a central part of the U.S.-Japan relationship, would seriously damage relations,' Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told reporters.
Despite the accord, U.S. dismay at the pace of the talks was evident. The head of the U.S. delegation, Richard Lawless, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian & Pacific affairs, suggested Tuesday that the difficulties over such issues as Futenma had delayed a broader reshaping of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The United States has come to view the alliance as a cornerstone of regional security as China assumes a more assertive stance and North Korea is presumed to have become a nuclear-armed threat.
'We have to realize that we no longer have the luxury of interminable dialogue over parochial issues,' said Lawless, speaking at a Tokyo conference sponsored by the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.
'If we are to bring the alliance to where it needs to be in the 21st century,' Lawless said, 'then we need to dramatically accelerate, across the board, to make up for the time lost to indecision, indifference and procrastination.'"
The US is serious about Asia and apparently Japan is on the road to be in agreement. US and Japan need to be of one mind to tackle the issues of national security that will affect both nations directly as time moves on with the Global War on Terror.