Monday, March 22, 2010

U.S. says Okinawan base expansion plan must have local approval; hopefully the U.S. will extend that standard to its existing bases on the island

In a 180 degree shift from its previous position over the past 14 years (insistance that Okinawans accept an unwanted military base expansion in an ecologically sensitive area of northwestern Okinawa) the U.S. told the Japanese government that the local population must approve the base.

The proposed expansion would have destroyed the only habitat of the critically endangered Okinawan dugong  a federally protected natural monument. The prior U.S. insistence is comparable to Japan asking Americans to approve a Japanese military base inside the U.S. that would have destroyed the last habitat of the the Bald Eagle. Not surprisingly, Okinawans throughout the island—joined by millions of environmentalists around the world—have fiercely protested the U.S./Japan expansion since its announcement.

Concurrent with its new stance on Okinawa, the U.S. might cancel its plans for military expansion in Guam--where 30% of the small island is covered with military bases.

This proposed expansion was another part of the U.S. plan for "Full Spectrum Dominance" in the Asia-Pacific, embraced by former PM Koizumi, a neo-con who initiated the integration of Japan's Self Defense Forces with the U.S. military. Koizumi's administration also entered into a 2006 agreement with the Bush administration to move forward on the controversial proposal, even after it had been successfully challenged by environmentalists in a U.S. court.

The proposed Guam expansion would have included moving 8,000 Marines to that small island. This "build-up" met with resistance in Guam, was criticized by the EPA, and may be in reconsidered as well:
The Futemma transfer is part of a broader 2006 realignment road map for U.S. forces stationed in Japan, which also includes the relocation of 8,000 Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014.

The planned transfer of the Marines may be shelved if the Futemma facility is kept in continued use.
The U.S. troops in Okinawa are not there for any ongoing use involved in the defense of Japan and Okinawa. They use the prefecture for weapons testing and war training.

Japan's Self Defense Forces is large, with the most sophisticated navy in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan ranked 7th in the world—spending $46.3 billion on its military (3% of the world's total military spending) in 2008.

However, its military—as are all other national militaries worldwide—is dwarfed by the U.S., which ranked 1st—spending$ 607 billion (41.5% of the world's total).

China ranked 2nd—spending $84.9 billion (5.8%). France and the UK ranked 3rd and 4th—each spending about $65 billion (4%). Russia was 5th--spending $58.6 billion. Germany was 6th—spending almost the same amount as Japan.

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