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United States Forces Japan: Relocating the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Foreign Policy Brief

Nicholas Glavin Professor Jay Speakman POLSC.215.01 5 November 2013


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The United States and Japan have served as strategic allies since the end of World War II. With the Allied victory came the beginning of the US military’s occupation on several Japanese islands. The bilateral Japan-US Security Treaty of 1960 established formal military and economic alliances between both nations, replacing a former agreement from 1951. Article VI of this agreement grants the US facilities and areas in Japan to be used by land, air, and naval forces to maintaining international peace and security in the Far East. 1 For over fifty years the US has had a significant military presence in return for a US pledge to protect Japan’s security.2 There are several legal restraints which call for the US military presence in the Asia Pacific theatre. Article IX of the Japanese constitution, drafted by American officials after WWII, outlaws war as a “sovereign right”, prohibits “the right of belligerency”, and stipulates that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential will never be maintained.”3 Japan and the US are also considering updating the guidelines for defense cooperation, last updated in 1997, to incorporate collective self-defense. Current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated changing the interpretation of this within the Japanese constitution to allow Japan to defend other countries under attack, i.e. attacks against US personnel.4 Under the current interpretation banning the use of collective self-defense, Japanese forces could not respond if the US were attacked.

1

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between Japan and the United States of America,” http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/n-america/us/q&a/ref/1.html, Article VI. 2

U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Japan - U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, by Emma Chanlett-Avery, Mark E. Manyin, William H. Cooper, and Ian E. Rinehart, CRS Report RL33436. Washington, DC: Office of Congressional Information and Publishing, August 2, 2013. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33436.pdf, 14. 3

“The Constitution of Japan,” Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, May 3, 1947. http://www.kantei.go.jp/ foreign/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html, Article IX. 4

Chanlett-Avery, Manyin, Cooper, and Rinehart, Japan - U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, 15.


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Japan serves as a strategic hub for US military personnel amidst growing security concerns. Tensions between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); the expansion of the DPRK’s nuclear program; the contested administration of the Senkaku Islands; and China’s diplomatic, military, and economic means of countercontainment in the region serve as risks to the US and Japan.5 To combat these risks in the Asia Pacific region, United States Forces Japan (USFJ) have a continuous presence within the country. United States Forces Japan serve as a deterrent toward any foreign aggression against Japan. Because of the constitutional restrictions on Japan obtaining the belligerent capacity to be another major war power, the US’ presence both promotes stability and adds significant clout to Japan’s military forces. Similar to the US Army Europe stationed in Germany, this post-WWII security agreement seeks to retain the balance of power in geostrategic areas deemed critical to US national security interests. The island of Okinawa hosts 75 percent of total US facilities in Japan.6 These bases are centrally located to deter Northeast Asia and provide maritime security to Southeast Asia. Although geostrategic to the US-Japan security treaty, American troop presence in Okinawa causes serious backlash by locals. Specifically, the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma is a reoccurring rift in bilateral relations. Encroachment has turned the neighboring city of Ginowan into a heavily populated area with locals continuously complaining of loud noise and MCAS Futenma serving as a political talking point in Okinawa. The US provides 35,000 military 5

“U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, by David J. Berteau and Michael J. Green. Washington DC: August 2012. http://csis.org/files/ publication/120814_FINAL_PACOM_optimized.pdf, 20. 6

Ibid, 23.


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and 5,000 Department of Defense (DoD) personnel in Japan, with nearly half being stationed on Okinawa.7 The MCAS Futenma issue presents the US with a dichotomy between ensuring peace and security in the Asia Pacific region and continuing healthy bilateral relations with Japan. Apart from noise complaints, severe overcrowding of military presence in local areas, and Japanese anti-occupation tendencies, an important reason for seeking a negotiated settlement to MCAS Futenma is to not hurt the security alliance at the expense of the local population. Leaders in Tokyo frequently could not invest enough political capital to reduce the US presence through the local government as security arrangements were strictly between Tokyo and Washington.8 Understanding the lack of local political clout, the US wants to relocate the base so as to not alienate those that Americans are protecting. Several agreements have been established to aid both governments in formulating a policy toward the base’s relocation. The 1996 US-Japan Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) marked the first initiative at redistributing the presence of USFJ. This established a plan to realign and reduce US facilities areas consistent with current treaty obligations, while also mandating 21% of total acreage in Okinawa held by USFJ back to Japan, including MCAS Futenma.9 Further, a roadmap established in May 2006 detailed the groundwork for realigning USFJ and constructing the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) at Camp Schwab, located offshore of the Henoko area of Nago City, Japan. This roadmap called for moving 8,000 Third

7

Ibid, 48.

U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, by Emma Chanlett-Avery and Ian E. Rinehart, CRS Report R42645. Washington DC: Office of Congressional Information and Publishing, August 3, 2012. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42645.pdf, 8. 8

9

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The SACO Final Report. December 2, 1996. by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ikeda, Minister of State for Defense Kyuma, Secretary of Defense Perry, and Ambassador Mondale. http:// www.mofa.go.jp/region/n-america/us/security/96saco1.html.


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Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam.10 However, there were several caveats: troop relocation were dependent on “tangible progress toward completion” of the FRF and Japan’s financial contributions to development in Guam, while land returns were dependent on completing the relocation of III MEF personnel from Futenma to the FRF and Guam.11 As projected costs escalated, Congress intervened with its power of the purse. A May 2011 GAO report concluded that the DoD neither adequately estimated costs nor explored other alternatives for reshaping military presence in Japan and Guam.12 Subsequently, Congress rejected the Obama administration’s FY2012 and FY2013 National Defense Authorization Acts, P.L. 112-81 and P.L 112-239. Section 2207 of the former budget prohibits funds authorized under the act, as well as amounts provided by the Japanese government, from being obligated to implement the planned realignment of III MEF to Guam until certain justifications and assessments are provided.13 The initial estimate was an expense of $10.3b to move 8,000 marines and their dependents to Guam, but the GAO reported that the actual costs would be more than double the DoD estimate at $23.9b.14 A recent initiative in April 2012 has moved the US-Japan negotiations on MCAS Futenma in a positive direction. Both parties agreed to “delink” the transfer of III MEF from 10

Berteau and Green, “U.S. Force Posture,” 23.

11

Chanlett-Avery and Rinehart, The U.S. Military Presence, 6.

12

U.S. Government Accountability Office. Report to the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate. Defense Management: Comprehensive Cost Information and Analysis of Alternatives Needed to Assess Military Posture in Asia, GAO-11-316. Washington DC: May 2011. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11316.pdf, 8. 13

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. 112th Congress Public Law 81, Section 2207. Guam Realignment. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ81/html/PLAW-112publ81.htm. 14

Travis J. Tritten, “Cost to Relocate Marines off Okinawa a Moving Target,” Stars and Stripes, May 15, 2012. http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/okinawa/cost-to-relocate-marines-off-okinawa-a-moving-target-1.177261.


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Okinawa contingent with progress on the FRF in Henoko.15 By doing so, the plan allows for 9,000 Marines and their dependents to be transferred to Guam, Hawaii, and Australia, both easing the burden for Okinawa’s local population and keeping US military forces sustainable for geostrategic capabilities. As it stands, the US and Japan have been in negotiations over MCAS Futenma for 17 years. In recent negotiations during October 2013, both parties agreed to amend the 2009 Guam International Agreement (GIA), a document providing the framework for reducing US military presence in Okinawa. The amendment was twofold; it both clarified Japan’s contributions up to $3.1b in FY2012 US dollars to develop facilities and infrastructure in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and affirmed the US and Japan to use these as joint-exercise areas.16 By following this roadmap the US will fulfill its commitment to provide credible deterrence without the troop reduction in Okinawa causing negative results. Further, Secretary of State John Kerry reminded both parties’ commitment to “work on the relocation of [MCAS Futenma] to Henoko with a strong will,” while adding that the US will “begin the relocation of Marines in Okinawa to outside of Japan in the first half of the 2020s,” together with land returns.17 United States foreign policy moving forward with MCAS Futenma has five options: I. staying at the current base as is; II. continuing under the planned posture of adhering to ongoing negotiations and relocating to the FRF at: II.1 Henoko; II.2 Kadena Air Base; or II.3 offshore 15

Chanlett-Avery, Manyin, Cooper, and Rinehart, Japan - U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, 15.

16

U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesperson. “United States and Japan Sign Protocol to Amend the Guam International Agreement.” October 3, 2013. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/10/215071.htm. 17

U.S. Department of State, Office of the Secretary. “Remarks With Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.” October 3, 2013. http:// www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/10/215073.htm.


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Japanese islands; or III. decreasing military posture in the Asia Pacific theatre. The three options will be weighed objectively in terms of geostrategic, operational, affordability, and executability. Option I: Staying at MCAS Futenma The Third Marine Expeditionary Force of the USFJ continues to operate out of MCAS Futenma due to the lack of final status for the FRF as well as congressional discontent over costs. For example, Japan’s burden-sharing contributions have fallen 80 percent from over $1b in 1992 to $200m in 2012, heightening concerns in Congress that costs to relocate MCAS Futenma are unfavorably placed on the US.18 The United States’ facilities in Okinawa are strategically placed to serve both for defending Japan and ensuring international peace and security in the Asia Pacific theatre.19 Although entirely operational based on continuous US military use, the decision to remain at Futenma would not only violate US commitment to close the base but will also be a setback to geostrategic interests.20 Because of this reversal of policy several other US bases will face criticism from local Japanese prefectural governments. Therefore, although the affordability will stay neutral, it is not politically feasible to remain at MCAS Futenma. Option II: Planned Posture This policy option continues the US-Japan need for relocation of MCAS Futenma, contingent with existing agreements and negotiations. This will move 9,000 Marines and their dependents from the Futenma Air Base on rotational tours to four Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) in the Pacific Command’s Area of Responsibility (PACOM AOR): Guam,

18

Senate Committee on Armed Services, Inquiry Into U.S. Costs and Allied Contributions to Support the U.S. Military Presence Overseas, 113th Cong., 1st sess., April 15, 2013. Report 113-12. http://beta.congress.gov/113/crpt/ srpt12/CRPT-113srpt12.pdf, v. 19

Berteau and Green, “U.S. Force Posture,” 51.

20

Ibid. 70.


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Hawaii, Australia, and the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF). Further, it will utilize the jointtraining areas in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Option II.1: Constructing the FRF at Henoko Serving the geostrategic interests of the bilateral security agreement, constructing the FRF at Henoko would establish the effectiveness and credibility of the US-Japan alliance.21 Its operational capabilities are near identical to that of MCAS Futenma. Affordability is most favorable at Henoko due to relocation costs being split by both parties, per the SCC and GIA agreements in 2006 and 2013, respectfully. In terms of executability, there are still barriers for delay from both Congress and the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG). An ongoing obstacle is the OPG’s delay of approving the environmental impact statement on the current FRF Henoko plan.22 Option II.2: Integrating with the Kadena Air Base Another FRF relocation area which has been discussed in Congress is integrating MCAS Futenma with the Kadena Air Base, a US military installation that has garnered the support from all levels of Japanese government. The alternative has been previously suggested in Congressional hearings, most notedly by Senators Webb, Levin, and McCain in response to military realignment plans on Okinawa being “unworkable and unaffordable”.23 This alternative ranks poorly in two key aspects. First, the integration of USAF and USMC forces will cause operational constraints as well as inter-service tensions, being contrary to US military

21

Ibid.

22

Ibid, 71.

23

“Senators Levin, McCain, Webb Call for Re-Examination of Military Basing Plans in East Asia.” U.S. Senator Carl Levin. May 11, 2011. http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/senators-levin-mccain-webb-callfor-re-examination-of-military-basing-plans-in-east-asia/?section=alltypes.


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objectives.24 Kadena is already running at capacity and the projected space limitations will strain response time, while also weakening deterrence and response flexibility. Adding more operations could both undermine the acceptance of the base by the Government of Japan and reduce its power projection capabilities.25 The local population would not favor a US military installation being twice in capacity elsewhere in exchange for MCAS Futenma closing. Option II.3: Offshore Islands Another relocation option are the offshore islands near Okinawa, including Iejima, Shimojijima, and Ishigaki. These islands would be geostrategic in the sense that it ensures the continuing of the security agreement while eliminating the ongoing overpopulation of cities in Okinawa. Lack of infrastructure and development partnered with issues regarding logistics will prove as an operational hardship to any base constructed on the offshore islands. Local opposition, the need for environmental impact statements by the Government of Japan, and the the cost of military construction (MILCON) unilaterally by the US poses this as an expensive option.26 Option III: Decreased Military Presence A final option is to decrease and disengage the 9,000 Marines from the MAGTFs in Japan. This policy would be read by the Japanese as US disengagement, triggering fears of abandonment.27 Moreover, it would create a security vacuum in the event of another crisis, i.e. a natural disaster or escalation by rival conventional forces, seriously disrupting the balance of power in the Asia Pacific theatre. There are serious

24

Berteau and Green, “U.S. Force Posture,” 70.

25

Chanlett-Avery and Rinehart, Military Presence, 11.

26

Berteau and Green, “U.S. Force Posture,” 71.

27

Ibid, 86.


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repercussions toward doing so, including severely limiting the promotion of US interests and ideals. Not only would this retract physical American presence in a theatre seeing a nuclear DPRK and a rising China toward being a regional hegemon and global contender, but this move will also impede US capabilities to train with its regional allies. Shaping partnerships with ROK, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand will be significantly impaired an an unintended consequence. Lastly, and most importantly, US disengagement will be a violation of an existing defense cooperation treaty with an allied power, triggering either legal or physical retaliations, or a combination of both.28 On the other hand, a decreased military posture in Japan would better serve domestic American interests. The stagnation in Congress regarding how to fund the FRF would be removed and there would be heightened troop protection of the continental US. Current political economic conditions in the US regarding unemployment, the funding of the government until January 15, 2014, massive foreign-held debt, and seriously fractured parties are the tip of the iceberg of domestic concerns. A withdrawal would allow the domestic affairs to take precedence, in turn building a stronger US to realign its future foreign policies. Recommendation: Option II.1: Construct the FRF at Henoko vis-à-vis the April 2012 SCC Agreement There is overwhelming confidence from both the United States and Japan to pursue this option as the relocation of MCAS Futenma. Contingent with the April 2012 SCC agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry is determined to work on relocating the base to Henoko “with a strong will” to strengthen deterrence while reducing the American footprint in Okinawa.29 28

Ibid, 87.

29

US Department of State. “Remarks.”


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Through this policy the US will achieve geostrategic gains in the Asia Pacific theatre by redistributing four MAGTFs to Guam, Australia, Hawaii, and the FRF at Henoko. This policy is the most promising to pursue and an abandonment of this initiative- as it is close to being finalized- will be counterproductive to geostrategic interests. 30 Alternatives should be considered during the construction of FRF at Henoko, such as the possibility of an auxiliary offshore island base. However, with the agreements to delink construction progress to troop relocation and to establish joint-training ranges in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, it is ideal that both parties complete the negotiations toward Henoko. The United States and Japan recently held the Security Consultative Committee in October 2013, commonly referred to as the 2+2 meetings (Secretaries Kerry and Hagel, as well as Foreign Minister Kishida and Defense Minister Onodera). As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated during the the meeting in Tokyo, the United States and Japan are in the process of revising their bilateral defense cooperation guidelines to adjust the alliance to 21st century security

challenges.31 Relocating the FRF to Henoko, establishing four rotational MAGTF locations, and providing a training range will increase international peace and security. The US-Japan security alliance will be strengthened as American forces realign, while the US will further demonstrate credibility with local population in Okinawa for keeping its commitments regarding relocation. Negotiations to increase burden-sharing funding Government of Japan will ease monetary tensions and uncertainty in the US Congress.

30

Berteau and Green, “U.S. Force Posture,” 92.

31

US Department of State. “Remarks.”


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The United States of America and Japan have an unprecedented security agreement that has proved successful for well over sixty years. As bilateral defense cooperation is reviewed for the 21st century, it is imperative that MCAS Futenma be relocated to FRF Henoko for an updated enforcement of the US’ alliance commitments to Japan and to regional security in the Asia Pacific theatre. Together with the Obama Administration’s pivot to Asia as a “top priority” of US foreign policy,32 the geostrategic shift of forces will allow for a revised US presence ahead of ongoing global security challenges in the Far East.

“Barack Obama says Asia-Pacific is ‘Top US Priority’,” BBC News, November 17, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ news/world-asia-15715446. 32


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Relocating MCAS Futenma in Okinawa, Japan