Sunday, February 8, 2009

Japanese FM Naksone and US Sec State Clinton to sign accord on realignment of USFJ

In a show that Tokyo and Washington are committed to a 2006 agreement to realign US Forces Japan (USFJ), Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will sign a new accord on February 16 that underscores the earlier one. 

Although the agreement includes a roadmap for the relocation of US Marines from Okinawa to Guam, it is being billed as "strengthening" the US-Japan alliance. The heavy concentration of USFJ on the tiny southernmost prefecture of Japan has long been a sore point for the residents of Okinawa, especially when some members of USFJ are seen as lawless and dangerous, as in the case of highly publicized rapes and other attacks. 

As I've mentioned before, the image of USFJ has suffered in the eyes of many Japanese. And that is something to take note of, especially if you believe that troops can be removed from South Korea and US troops in Japan or even Guam can take up the slack. 

I have long contended that if the squeaky-wheel leftists who (under Pyongyang's tutelage) have for decades been agitating for USFK's departure were to ever succeed, the effort would be stepped up in Japan as well, starting with Okinawa, where anti-US NGOs work in conjunction with their Korean counterparts. And a US departure from Korea or Japan would be a disaster for US interests and peaceful democracy in general.

At any rate, you can see many of the same USFK issues at work in Okinawa. Just as there has been land acquisition and construction delays over the sprawling new USFK headquarters in Pyongtaek due to a well-coordinated opposition, so there has also been a concerted opposition in Okinawa over a consolidated a new airfield along the coast of Camp Schwab. And let's not forget that on America's own turf, local land rights issues have been a sore point in Guam (though not as bad as in Vieques, Puerto Rico). 

The facile conclusion would be that if they don't want us, we should go, but that's not really what's at work here. The vocal minority knows how to make a big public fuss, but they should not be the deciders of something like this. That's what democratically elected republican government is for. As for the cost, it's very small compared to the alternative.

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