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Kamimura Motoaki
Military Analyst

English Column of This Month!VOICE OF Mr.KAMIURA

ENGLISH PAGE Column of This Month !     VOICE OF Mr.KAMIURA

03 JUL 2011

          Tohoku Bulletin: Reopening Sendai Airport and the New U.S.-Japan Cooperative Strategy

                                 By Motoaki Kamiura in Tokyo

                                   Translated by Alan Gleason


The earthquake and tsunami of March 11 did incalculable damage to cities on the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan. The tsunami also inundated Sendai Airport, burying its runway and terminal building in piles of rubble.

But the smashed vehicles, ravaged buildings and other debris that covered the airport were cleared away in record time, allowing the airport to reopen only a month later. The speedy cleanup work was a cooperative effort involving Japan's private sector and the U.S. Marines, part of a program dubbed “Operation Tomodachi” by the U.S. military.

U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa air-dropped vehicles and equipment by parachute. Images of mud-covered American soldiers at work, subsisting on the week's worth of field rations they had brought with them, were repeatedly broadcast on the TV news.

Though it was not widely publicized, one Japanese business in particular made a significant contribution to the remarkable resuscitation of Sendai Airport. The company was Maeda Road Construction Co. Ltd., which had a contract with Japan's Transport Ministry to handle maintenance at Sendai Airport.

From March 15 -- four days after the earthquake -- until April 13, the day commercial flights resumed from Sendai, Maeda Road sent an average of 150 to 200 workers to the site every day. It also had an average of 100 heavy equipment vehicles clearing rubble from the runways and aprons on any given day, including 30 to 40 eleven-ton dump trucks, 15 backhoes, 14 power shovels, and 12 sprinkler trucks. Meanwhile, between March 19 and April 3, U.S. military personnel at the site averaged 100 to 200 troops a day, along with eight backhoes, four tractors, and four trailers.

Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) were dispatched mainly to handle cleanup operations around the perimeter of the airport, but several SDF interpreters were also assigned to coordinate recovery efforts at the airport.

It goes without saying that this joint airport restoration effort by Japanese and American troops with a private Japanese company proved to be a tremendous success. Once Sendai Airport reopened, it handled a steady influx of cargo and transport planes carrying relief supplies to the Tohoku region, not only from elsewhere in Japan but overseas as well.

One effect of this successful mission is that it has accelerated movement toward revamping the security arrangement between Japan and the U.S. Until now this arrangement has roughly consisted of the U.S. providing the spear and Japan's SDF the shield. The SDF protects America's military bases in Japan, which serve as the citadels from which the two nations would together repel any invading force. This has been part of what is known as America's forward deployment strategy.

Under the new security arrangement, however, the defense of Japan would primarily be the task of the SDF, with support from U.S. forces as well as Japan's private sector.

Propelling this shift are the fact that the odds of a foreign country launching a military invasion of Japan are now extremely low, and the U.S. desire to reduce the massive defense outlays necessitated by its forward deployment strategy.

Against this background, Operation Tomodachi is in some ways a test run for the Japan-U.S. security agreement of the future. The success of such operations helps pave the way for further withdrawals of U.S. troops from Japan and South Korea to the American mainland.

According to this new strategy, an enhanced American capacity for rapid long-distance deployment would enable it to rush to the aid of Japan or South Korea in short order if a military emergency did occur in the Far East.



                         タイトル   仙台空港再開と日米共同作戦





















29 APR 2011

          Japan's Self Defense Forces Gain New Cachet as Emergency Responders

                                 By Motoaki Kamiura in Tokyo

                                   Translated by Alan Gleason


Nearly two months after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, and the subsequent leakage of radioactive materials from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, Japan remains in crisis.


Compared to emergencies in the past, however, Self Defense Force troops were dispatched to the disaster area with remarkable speed this time. The Naoto Kan administration quickly requested that the SDF send as many troops as possible to engage in relief and rescue operations. The SDF responded by mobilizing 106,000.


That is out of a total of about 240,000 Ground, Air and Maritime SDF personnel. If one excludes staff assigned to day-to-day administration and security operations, this means that nearly every SDF member available was dispatched to the stricken area. As a deployment for disaster relief purposes, this was on a scale without historical precedent.


According to the commander of the Ground SDF unit assigned to Kamaishi, one of the coastal cities inundated by the tsunami in Iwate Prefecture, his troops were deeply affected by the sight of the devastation and the suffering of local people who had lost their families and homes. The troops were so motivated, he said, that he feared they would collapse from exhaustion as they struggled to clear away the rubble, and he had to order them to take rest breaks.


What springs to mind is the contrast between this situation and that of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. At the time a new reformist administration under Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama had just replaced the conservative government of the Liberal Democratic Party. Many members of the Murayama cabinet believed that the very existence of the SDF violated the Japanese Constitution, and anti-SDF sentiment was widespread among regional administrators and labor unions as well.


The chaos in the immediate aftermath of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was exacerbated by the fact that the prefectural governor took an inordinately long time to formally request that the SDF dispatch troops to the area. The SDF was then criticized for its tardy response to the disaster. Needless to say, the SDF retorted that this was not its fault.


In the wake of the 1995 fiasco, SDF participation in regional disaster preparedness drills has come to be accepted as a matter of common sense. Predictions of a massive earthquake that could strike Tokyo have led to such curious sights as a line of armored SDF vehicles roaring down the streets of the city's Ginza shopping district.


 Essentially, the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake turned out to be an ideal opportunity for the SDF to demonstrate to the Japanese public that its greatest contribution might be in the area of emergency relief.


It should also provide a boost to SDF recruitment efforts, which have flagged in recent years. We can expect an influx of young people signing up from the hardest hit areas of the Tohoku region in particular.


In the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake, it was reported that fresh recruits who had been attracted to the SDF by its relief efforts were shocked to find themselves training to operate machine guns, tanks and missile launchers.


According to a survey conducted by the Defense Ministry, the Japanese public views the primary roles of the SDF as being disaster relief (both at home and abroad) and participation in international peacekeeping efforts. Protection of the country from foreign invaders comes in second.


The emergency relief operations of the SDF in the wake of the Eastern Japan Earthquake are, it would seem, a perfect illustration of what Japanese citizens expect of their armed forces today, and of the SDF's ability to rise to those expectations.



                         タイトル    東日本大震災と自衛隊














30 JAN 2011

          Okinawa: On the Frontlines of a New Defense Buildup

                                 By Motoaki Kamiura in Tokyo

                                   Translated by Alan Gleason


In December 2010, the Naoto Kan administration announced a new defense policy that redefines Japan's national defense strategy for the coming decade.

The most noteworthy aspect of the new strategy is the priority it gives to the Nansei Islands, which include Okinawa and extend southwest from Kyushu to Yonaguni, just east of Taiwan.

During the Cold War, Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) were concentrated in Hokkaido, the northernmost island and the one closest to the Soviet Union. Later, priority shifted to Kyushu, thought to be most vulnerable to attack from North Korea. Now, spurred by China's military buildup, the Nansei/Okinawa region has become the primary focus of concern.

The National Defense Program Guidelines unveiled in December articulate a new policy of “dynamic defense capability” for the SDF. Until now, the SDF mission has been defined by the concept of “basic defense,” which called for an even distribution of SDF forces throughout Japan to be prepared to deal with an invasion or natural disaster in any part of the country.

“Dynamic defense,” on the other hand, requires that all SDF forces be readied for rapid deployment to the southwest, including the large number of troops still stationed in Hokkaido.

Public transportation networks could be used to move these troops south -- including Shinkansen railway lines, which will soon extend all the way from Sapporo, Hokkaido, to Kagoshima in southern Kyushu, as well as expressways and car ferries.

Rapid mobilization of forces from up north is deemed necessary because the government lacks sufficient land for camps or training facilities for so many troops in Okinawa or Kyushu. It is also the preferred option in terms of cost and efficient use of personnel and equipment.

The plan also calls for reducing the number of tanks, heavy artillery and other equipment unsuitable for “dynamic” deployment, and shifting to more mobile weaponry mounted on armored vehicles and missiles.

This also means an expanded role for the Maritime SDF, which must provide transport and escort ships for carrying Ground SDF troops to the Nansei Islands. The Air SDF, meanwhile, will be expected to bolster its antiship missile capacity for attacking Chinese Navy ships in the event of invasive action in the East China Sea, and to intercept Chinese Air Force planes escorting the Navy ships.

Still, even these ambitious plans do not mean that the SDF actually anticipates going to war with China in the Nansei Islands or the East China Sea. Rather, the program is viewed as a deterrent, a bolstering of defense capability in the region to discourage any thoughts of attacking Japan that might occur to a more virulently anti-Japanese regime in China, should one come to power in the future.

By the same token, the shift toward “dynamic defense capability” in the southwest around Okinawa is not part of a larger Japanese strategy aimed at invading the Chinese mainland. Presumably China, too, knows that any such strategy would be utterly infeasible from a military standpoint.



                タイトル    新大綱で沖縄が最前線になる














27 NOV 2010

Japan Behind the News Japanese Diplomacy: Overly Dependent on the U.S.

                                 By Motoaki Kamiura in Tokyo

                                   Translated by Alan Gleason


On September 7, a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats in the East China Sea near the Senkaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese). Both countries claim ownership of these uninhabited islands, which Japan currently controls.

The captain of the Chinese boat was arrested and detained for “obstruction of the performance of public duties,” but the Japanese government released him out of concerns for an adverse impact on relations with China.

Then, on November 1, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the island of Kunashiri, the first time a Russian head of state had set foot in the “northern territories” -- four islands off Hokkaido that Japan claims title to, but are occupied by Russia.

Confronted with these two territorial disputes, Japan has chosen to respond not through diplomatic negotiations with the other parties, but by increasing its reliance on the clout of the United States.

In response to the Senkaku incident, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a threat to China by declaring that the Senkaku Islands and nearby waters were covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Regarding Medvedev's visit to Kunashiri, a U.S. State Department spokesman merely stated that the U.S. backs Japan regarding the northern territories. No further action against Russia was taken by the U.S. or by Japan, which assured Russia that its temporary recall to Tokyo of the Japanese ambassador was only for consultation purposes.

This weak response has triggered a plunge in the popularity of the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, with 75% of respondents in a recent survey saying they do not support him.

When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came into power in 2009, part of its platform was a vow to extricate Japan from its dependence on the United States. People are therefore mystified by the DPJ government's pursuit of policies that move Japan firmly in the opposite direction, toward even greater dependence.

On December 3, U.S. and Japanese forces began joint exercises in the East China Sea and off Kyushu that involved forty naval vessels, including the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS George Washington, 34,000 Japan Self-Defense Force personnel and 10,000 American troops.

According to Japanese media sources, the drills are based on a scenario in which Chinese troops have occupied the Senkakus and U.S. and Japanese forces attempt to recapture the islands and establish air and sea supremacy in the East China Sea.

Until now, guarding the Senkakus was a task left to the Japan Coast Guard, but from this point on the crisis level threatens to rise to that of a territorial dispute pitting the military forces of the U.S. and Japan against those of China.

The Kan administration has also begun studying the deployment of a Self-Defense Force medical unit to Afghanistan within the year. That the Japanese government feels compelled to respond to American demands for Self-Defense Force involvement in Afghanistan is another indication of Japan's heightened reliance on the U.S.

The U.S. government no doubt views this increased dependence as a sign of heightened cooperation with American military strategy on Japan's part.

However, there is a deep unease among the Japanese public about the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces becoming further enmeshed in the military activities of the U.S.

If the current situation persists, public sentiment will only grow more negative toward the diplomatic stance of the Kan administration, which it sees as increasingly inclined toward participation in U.S. military strategy. If anything, the Japanese government's current dependence on the U.S. will actually weaken the Japan-U.S. alliance.

What is needed now is for the Kan administration and the DPJ to devise diplomatic and security policies that avoid excessive reliance on U.S. military might.



                タイトル    アメリカに依存しすぎる日本外交




尖閣問題では、クリントン国務長官に「尖閣諸島は日米安保条約の範囲内」と発言させて、中国を威嚇した。 ロシア大統領の国後島訪島では、アメリカ国務省報道官から、日本政府の立場を支持するという声明が出ると、日本政府はなにもしなくなった。

このような菅政権の外交姿勢に、日本国民の約80%が「支持しない」と、世論調査で答えている。 対米依存の脱却を訴えて政権交代した民主党政権が、逆に対米依存を深める外交姿勢に国民は戸惑っている。

12月3日から、米空母ジョージ・ワシントンなど日米の艦艇40隻、日本の自衛隊員3万4千人、米軍1万人が参加する日米統合演習が九州で始まった。 この演習は中国軍が尖閣諸島を占領したと想定し、日米両軍が東シナ海の制海権・制空権を確保し、尖閣諸島を奪還する作戦と、日本のメディアは報じている。

 今まで尖閣問題は警察(海上保安庁Japan Coast Guard)が扱う事案だったが、これからは軍事力で対峙する領土紛争に危機レベルをあげることになる。 また、菅政権は年内にもアフガンに自衛隊の医療部隊を派遣する検討を始めた。これも日本政府が対米依存を高めたために、アメリカが自衛隊のアフガン派遣を要請したのである。



このままの状況が続けば、日本の世論はアメリカの軍事戦略に傾斜する菅政権の外交姿勢に、さらなるノーを表明するであろう。 現在の日本政府の対米依存の高まりは、日本とアメリカの同盟関係を、逆に弱くしているのだ。

26 SEP 2010

A Modest Proposal: Direct Negotiations between Okinawa and the U.S. Government                   

                                   By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst

                             Translated by Alan Gleason


The dispute over relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps air station from Futenma, Okinawa grew more complicated on September 12, when candidates opposing the base's transfer to the Henoko district of Nago City won a majority of seats in the Nago Municipal Assembly election.

Nago already has an anti-relocation mayor, Susumu Inamine, who defeated pro-Henoko incumbent Yoshikazu Shimabukuro in the January mayoral election.

With gubernatorial elections looming in November, the odds now look high that Okinawans will elect an anti-relocation governor. Indeed, not one of the current candidates has expressed support for transfer of the base to Henoko.

Meanwhile, a multipartisan coalition of legislators has already passed a resolution opposing the Henoko base in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. It is now impossible to win an election in Okinawa without taking an anti-base stance.

The administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, however, has announced that it will adhere to the previous U.S.-Japan agreement to relocate Futenma operations to Henoko, thus putting the central government on a collision course with local sentiment in Okinawa.

A major reason for the political quagmire that Futenma has become is the fact that Japan's Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry have run out of solutions to the base relocation problem.

Until now, the Foreign Ministry has followed America's lead on security issues, while the Defense Ministry has suppressed anti-base sentiment by throwing money at the locals under the name of economic stimulation measures. But this approach no longer works.

That is because Okinawans have come to realize that in terms of economic prosperity as well as safety and security, the presence of American bases has hindered, not enhanced, their prefecture's development. Consequently they no longer put up with the Japanese government's old carrot-and-stick tactics regarding the bases.

At the same time, the U.S. government has grown increasingly impatient with the Japanese government's response to the base controversy.

For example, the U.S. side has informed Japan that it will deploy new MV22 Osprey aircraft to Marine installations in Okinawa, but the Defense Ministry, fearing the move will add fuel to the anti-base fire, has concealed the plan from the public. This irks the Americans, who do not want to be accused of lying to the locals when the Ospreys are eventually deployed.

At this point, the Foreign and Defense Ministries are incapable of resolving the Futenma issue on their own.

I therefore propose that Okinawa and the U.S. government talk directly with one another. When the government is incapable of solving a problem like this, it makes no sense to insist that diplomatic and defense matters are the sole purview of the central ministries, even while paying lip service to regional autonomy.

Okinawa should take this opportunity to form a “council of the wise” that can negotiate directly with the U.S. on behalf of the government. That, I believe, is the only way to ensure the removal of Futenma -- the world's most hazardous airfield -- to a safer location.

Mutual security is an important matter for both the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. bases in Okinawa can contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region. For these very reasons, it makes eminent sense for Okinawans and Americans to talk directly with each other about how the bases and local residents can coexist and thrive together.

Indeed, if they do not, there is a real danger that the rage of Okinawans against the bases could explode into an uncontrollable conflagration.



                タイトル    普天間は沖縄と米政府の直接交渉で

















30 July 2010

Is a Solution in Sight for the Okinawa Base Relocation Problem?                    

                                   By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst

                             Translated by Alan Gleason

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which had decided to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma to the Henoko area of Okinawa, took a beating in the Upper House elections this past July. The winner of the Okinawa seat, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), called for relocating the Futenma operations outside the prefecture or even outside Japan.

It now seems highly unlikely that the U.S. and Japanese governments will reach a decision by the end of August, as they had agreed to, on the specific location and structure of the new facility at Henoko.

However, sources close to the Japanese government say that significant changes are afoot in the government's approach to the Futenma issue.

The agreement currently in effect states that most command functions for the U.S. Marines in Okinawa will be shifted to Guam, while air and combat units would remain in Okinawa. Now there are signs that this agreement is undergoing a fundamental reassessment.

The new proposal, we are told, calls for sending all Marine combat units in Okinawa to Guam, and keeping only their command center in Okinawa. Under this plan, Guam would serve as the Marines' troop deployment base, while intelligence and communications operations would be consolidated in Okinawa.

Puzzling though this shift in strategy may seem, militarily it makes good sense. Integrating the Marines' headquarters with the U.S. Air Force's Kadena Air Base would improve the overall efficiency of U.S. base operations in Okinawa.

Moreover, moving training and housing facilities to Guam along with the combat units would dramatically reduce the U.S. military burden imposed on Okinawa.

The final decision will not be announced until year's end as part of the U.S. government's Global Posture Review GPR), but word has it that American officials have already informed their Japanese counterparts that the new proposal is under study.

This reevaluation of the original plan suggests that the joint statement issued by the two countries on May 28, reaffirming their 2006 agreement to replace Futenma with a base at Henoko, is due for a major revamping.

The U.S.-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation already stipulates the positioning of command centers for the U.S. Army at Camp Zama, the U.S. Air Force at Yokota Air Base, and the U.S. Navy at Yokosuka Naval Base, all located near Tokyo. Placing the Marine Corps command center in Okinawa would ensure that all four branches of the U.S. military would maintain the same level of presence in Japan.

It is worth noting, however, that the U.S. Navy has declared that it will continue to deploy its Seventh Fleet, which includes a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, at Yokosuka in addition to maintaining command and drydock facilities there.


 タイトル 在沖海兵隊の戦闘部隊はグアムに移転か 普天間代替基地に重大変更の兆し 








27 MAY 2010

 What the Islanders Know: U.S. Bases Keep Okinawa Poor


                        By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst

                             Translated by Alan Gleason

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military bases in Okinawa served as the launching pad for the bombardment of North Vietnam, but also for an economic boom fed by “special procurements” for the war. There was a time when local cab drivers, it was said, made more money in tips from American soldiers than the local mayors earned in salary.

But with the end of the Cold War, the Okinawa bases came to be reviled as perpetrators of noise, environmental pollution, and crime. To suppress local opposition to the bases, the Japanese government threw large amounts of “base subsidy” money at the island and commissioned roads, community centers and other construction projects. In short, cash served as the sweetener to make Okinawans swallow the bitter pill of the American bases.

The current controversy over relocation of the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station has heightened Okinawan loathing of the bases by reminding them that the Americans occupy vast stretches of the island's flattest land and prime real estate, thereby hampering industrial development and economic growth. In other words, the bases have kept Okinawa poor.

Okinawa Prefecture's average per capita income is only 2.04 million yen (US$22,000) a year, the lowest in Japan, and its unemployment rate is the highest in the country. Recent news reports describe 200 people applying for a single job in the stockroom of an on-base supermarket. Those are the only places hiring in Okinawa these days.

In this economic climate, all the political parties in Okinawa have found it expedient to form a united front on the Futenma relocation issue and join the vast majority of residents in their opposition to construction of a new base elsewhere on the island.

Yet neither the Japanese nor the U.S. government seems to grasp the depth and breadth of this opposition. They continue to believe that tossing a few more crumbs at the populace will resolve the Futenma issue.

But the state of Okinawa today is ample proof that cash infusions of this sort do not improve the livelihood of its citizens. The islanders have now realized this and are beginning to speak out about it. That is the real source of the outrage against the Futenma relocation.

If Okinawa's bases and the people who live around them are to achieve anything resembling peaceful coexistence -- the sort that will ensure a brighter future for the island's children -- then a new kind of governance of the bases is required.











27 NOV 2009

The Futenma Base Relocation Controversy: Why North Korea's Predicted Collapse Makes Kadena the Solution

            By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst             Translated by Alan Gleason


Japan's mass media has portrayed the fledgling Hatoyama administration as finding itself stuck on the horns of a dilemma over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station from its present location in a populated area of Okinawa.

And indeed, different members of the Hatoyama Cabinet are leaning in different directions as they desperately seek a solution. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa supports moving the Futenma facilities to a more isolated coastal location at the Marines' Camp Schwab; this was the solution that the Japanese and American governments agreed upon in a 2006 protocol.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, on the other hand, has proposed merging Futenma's operations into the island's largest U.S. air base, Kadena. And Prime Minister Hatoyama himself has said he wants to study moving them out of Okinawa altogether, or even out of Japan.

Meanwhile, on recent visits to Japan, U.S. President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have both pressed the Japanese government to abide by the 2006 Camp Schwab plan. Some pundits have even taken to making dire warnings that the U.S.-Japan alliance could break down over the issue.

If you look past the political posturing and diplomatic haggling, however, the only realistic option available to the two sides is, in my view, to integrate Futenma with Kadena.

The reason for this can be found in the primary mission of the U.S. Marines in Okinawa. They are deployed there to support U.S. forces in South Korea in the event of an invasion from the North. From Okinawa, the Marines could be moved very quickly into the Korean Peninsula.

In other words, the Marines in Okinawa serve as a forward deployment force that would enter Korea first while Army and Navy personnel from the U.S. mainland bring up the rear.

If, however, the present North Korean regime collapses as predicted, U.S. forces will withdraw from the South and the Marines will no longer be needed in Okinawa. As for China, the Marines are not equipped to make a frontal attack on so large a country. That would be the job of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.

Today, the chances of North Korea attacking the South are close to zero, which makes the construction of a big, brand-new Marine Corps base in Okinawa all but moot, and the merger of Futenma into Kadena highly plausible.

Adjacent to Kadena Air Base is the vast Kadena Ammunition Storage Area, which covers an area 1.3 times as large as the base itself. But as U.S. forces rely increasingly on precision-guided munitions, the amount of ammunition stored at Kadena has dropped precipitously. That opens up more than enough land on which to build a runway for the Marine Corps helicopters now flying out of Futenma.

The major objection raised by the U.S. side to the use of Kadena for this purpose is that the two existing Kadena runways would have to be shared by Air Force fighters and Marine helicopters. Building a new helicopter facility on an unused section of the Ammunition Storage Area should remove this objection.












26 SEP 2009

Have They Cancelled the Relocation of Futenma Air Station?

                      By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst            Translated by Alan Gleason



The odds are growing that the controversial 2006 agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments to move the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to another location on the island of Okinawa will be cancelled. Indeed, perhaps it already has been.

Located in the midst of a densely populated residential area in the central part of the island, Futenma has long been a sore point with Okinawans because of the potentially catastrophic consequences of an air crash in the neighborhood. The two governments therefore agreed to build a new air base to replace Futenma further up the coast at Camp Schwab, another Marine Corps facility.

However, in the national parliamentary elections that took place on August 30, all four pro-relocation candidates for Okinawa's single-seat constituencies were defeated by four candidates who oppose building the new base.

Local elections in June 2008 had already given anti-base candidates a majority over pro-base legislators in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. In July that year the Assembly passed a resolution opposing the new base construction.

Local opposition has also forced suspension of the environmental assessment legally required before the base can be built, and no date has been set for construction to begin.

It was amid this impasse that some unexpected news suddenly put a new spin on the situation. In April this year, the U.S. proposed to Japan that it remove some of the fifty F-15 fighter aircraft deployed at Kadena Air Base, the largest military facility on Okinawa. The U.S. also indicated it was planning to remove all forty F-16 fighters from Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.

Until now the conventional wisdom had been that the U.S. would not withdraw its fighters from Misawa and Kadena before the collapse of the North Korean regime. Now, however, it appears that the Americans have concluded that North Korea no longer poses enough of a military threat to warrant deployment of these aircraft.

If a number of F-15s are removed from Kadena, that would provide room for the base to absorb the aircraft currently at Futenma, obviating the need for construction of a new facility. From the standpoint of military operations, that is clearly the more efficient solution.

Besides, if the North Korean threat has really subsided to that degree, the necessity of spending an estimated 1 trillion yen (over US$10 billion) to build a new base seems increasingly open to question. For one thing, Okinawa is too close to China to serve effectively as a bulwark against that country's military.

Thus it seems likely that the Camp Schwab construction project will be cancelled, if it has not in fact been already.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada of the newly installed Hatoyama Cabinet recently stated that, whereas the manifesto of the now-ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) until last year included language declaring that Futenma should be moved “out of the prefecture or out of Japan,” the revised manifesto issued for the August general election did not include the words “out of the prefecture.”

All signs, then, would seem to point to a neat resolution of the Futenma relocation problem that has vexed Okinawans for so many years: it will simply be absorbed into Kadena.















24 JUL 2009

Why the Japanese Government Keeps Denying Its Secret Nuclear Agreement
      By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst    Translated by Alan Gleason



For years rumors have circulated of a secret Japan-U.S. agreement to permit the movement of American nuclear weapons through Japan. Ryohei Murata, a former vice foreign minister, recently admitted that this was so: Japan tacitly allowed U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons to dock at Japanese ports and pass through Japanese waters. Yet the government continues to aver that no such pact ever existed.

What makes this stance absurd is the fact that the secret agreement is no secret. Declassified American documents describe it in detail. U.S. Rear Admiral Gene La Roque mentioned it in testimony as far back as 1974, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin Reischauer did so again in 1981.

Yet Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura's response to Murata's statement was the usual refrain: no such agreement exists. When the other party to the pact, the U.S., has already released documents proving it does, why does Japan continue to maintain that it does not?

The Cold War is long over, and U.S. naval vessels dispatched overseas no longer carry nuclear weapons. Few if any observers think that admitting to the existence of this agreement would cause any problems for the U.S.-Japan alliance.

But the Japanese government has its reasons for staying on message. Three, in fact -- the Three Non-Nuclear Principles which, though never made into law, are Japan's de facto policy on nuclear issues. The principles are that Japan shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor permit their introduction into Japanese territory. The government fears that open acknowledgement of its blatant violation of Principle No. 3 all these years could render the principles completely toothless. It is not quite ready to do that.

If the principles lose their credibility as government policy, pressure on Japan -- both internal and external -- to go nuclear (including the introduction of U.S. nukes) would grow intense. North Korea's recent nuclear tests have already raised the ante in that regard.

The government thus feels compelled to deny the existence of a secret agreement violating the Non-Nuclear Principles precisely because it fears what would happen if those principles were proven moot.

Conservative elements in the Japanese media are already clamoring for the government to admit that it has been letting U.S. nukes into Japanese territory all along, and to take that logic a step further to reinforce Japan's nuclear umbrella.











すなわち日本政府は、非核三原則を維持するために、あえて密約を否定して、その空洞化阻止を図るしかないのだ。 すでに日本の保守系メディアでは、米軍の核持ち込みを認め、非核二原則であっても確かな核の傘を求める論調が出始めている。

27 MAR 2009

Perspective from Japan Ozawa's Scandal and the Okinawa Base Issue
By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst Translated by Alan Gleason


Takanori Okubo, chief secretary to Ichiro Ozawa, president of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has been indicted for alleged illegal fundraising activities. Until the fundraising scandal erupted, the DPJ was expected to trounce the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the upcoming Lower House election, which by law must be held no later than this autumn.

Ozawa was therefore widely regarded as the most likely pick for the nation's next prime minister. Yet the Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office chose this moment to arrest the man in charge of Ozawa's finances on charges of making false reports on political donations. Pundits say that in the past, such violations would have been remedied simply by filing a revised report.

What are we to make of the prosecutors' timing in taking an action that they had to know would create a scandal of momentous repercussions and invite accusations of political conspiracy?

One possible explanation involves the DNP's declaration that, should it assume power as the new ruling party, it would reconsider Japan's commitment to the United States to move the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to another location on the island of Okinawa.

The U.S. and Japan have already reaffirmed several times, in writing, an agreement to build a replacement for Futenma at the Marines' Camp Schwab in Nago City on the northern part of the island.

On December 19, 2008, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Nye visited the country and met in a Tokyo hotel with Ozawa's two top lieutenants, DNP Deputy Chief Naoto Kan and Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama. At this meeting Nye came right to the point and informed them that any move by the DNP to renegotiate the Futenma plan or the overall U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) would be regarded as an anti-American gesture.

Also present, reports say, was Kurt Campbell, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific in charge of negotiations for the Futenma agreement on the American side. However, neither of the DNP representatives voiced a commitment one way or the other.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Japan in February, she spoke directly with Ozawa about the Futenma issue. Once again, Ozawa refused to commit himself to building a new base at Camp Schwab. Ozawa and the DNP find it hard to give a straight answer because the issue is a thorny one, involving a complex web of political and economic interests on the part of the citizens of Nago City and Okinawa Prefecture, local businessmen, and politicians and bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, another pronouncement by Ozawa, that the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet should be a “sufficient” U.S. military presence in Japan, generated more controversy. His remark was taken by the American side as further indication that Ozawa may have already decided to scrap the entire Camp Schwab construction plan.

On March 7, immediately after the arrest of Ozawa's secretary, Prime Minister Taro Aso of the LDP made a sudden trip to Okinawa. Aso did not visit Futenma or the Camp Schwab site, but simply met with the governor of Okinawa, issued a message that he would put all his effort into resolving the U.S. base problem, and flew back to Tokyo.

Behind the indictment of Ozawa's secretary a powerful political dynamic is unquestionably at work, and one of its consequences has been to thrust the Futenma issue to the fore again.






 ここで鮮明に思い浮かぶのは、民主党が政権を取れば普天間基地(沖縄県)を同県の米軍キャンプ・シュワブ沿岸に移転案を、すべてリセットしてゼロから検討を始めると表明したことである。(産経新聞 1月6日付け)








25 JAN 2009

A Perspective from Japan Back to Square One: The Futenma Agreement
By Motoaki Kamiura, Military Analyst Translated by Alan Gleason


Incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has assured Japan that under the Obama administration, the U.S.-Japan alliance is still a “cornerstone” of American policy in Asia. However, an old issue has resurfaced that already threatens to disturb that alliance. The 1996 accord between the two governments on the transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to another location in Okinawa has unraveled.

Sitting smack in the middle of the densely populated Ginowan district of central Okinawa island, Futenma has long attracted local ire for its noise pollution and the occasional tendency of U.S. aircraft to crash in nearby neighborhoods. This friction prompted the U.S. and Japanese governments to agree to move Futenma's flight operations by 2014 to a new facility to be built in the less populated northern part of the island.

But the initial plan -- a 2,000-meter runway to be built on landfill offshore at Henoko, Nago city -- foundered on demands by then-governor Keiichi Inamine that the facility be available for joint military-civilian use and that U.S. forces vacate the premises in 15 years. The Americans rejected these conditions.

The two governments then agreed on an alternative plan to build two 1,800-meter runways in a V configuration onshore at Camp Schwab, an existing Marine base adjacent to Henoko. But the local populace, enraged that it had not been consulted, galvanized in its opposition to the new plan.

Eventually, however, the locals grudgingly consented to the Camp Schwab alternative when the Japanese government threatened to cut off its annual infusion of 10 billion yen (US$100 million) into the northern district for “economic redevelopment.”

But this consent came with strings attached. The Okinawans demanded that the Camp Schwab runways be moved offshore onto landfill, ostensibly because the onshore location would put the homes of local residents directly under the flight path. The Japanese government rejected this demand, arguing that it was just a ploy by the Okinawans to make more money off the landfill construction required offshore. Once again, the Futenma relocation project ran aground.

In the Prefectural Assembly elections in June 2008, Okinawa's opposition party, which had come out against the onshore construction at Camp Schwab, swept into power with a solid majority of seats. In July the Assembly passed a resolution opposing the relocation plan. Since then, the Alternative Facility Council, a coalition of supporters of relocation, including representatives of the national and prefectural governments, Nago city, and local businesspeople, has gone dormant, with no plans announced for further meetings.

Meanwhile, on the national level, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), favored to win the Lower House election slated for later this year, has pledged to replace the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) administration with a new one. The DPJ has revealed that it is “studying” the possibility of wiping the slate clean of all Futenma relocation plans agreed upon to date by the U.S. and Japanese governments. If so, the entire process could be sent back to the drawing board.

Futenma could thus become a major thorn in the sides of both the Obama administration and a new DPJ-led government. Meanwhile, as the issue awaits resolution, residents of Ginowan continue to worry about aircraft from Futenma crashing into their houses.


「政 権 交 代 で 普 天 間 移 転 は 白 紙」