- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005


After facing some hos-tility in Latin America this week, President Bush is likely to enjoy the hospitality in Japan

next week as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rolls out the red carpet and gives him long-awaited political gifts.

Some of these were laid out this week as Washington and Tokyo worked on two unresolved issues — American beef exports to Japan and U.S. military bases on Okinawa.

Japan is expected next month to lift a ban on beef imports from North America to avert a trade war. Japan barred U.S. and Canadian beef in 2003 after cases of mad-cow disease were reported. A government-appointed committee, however, gave the green light last week, saying meat from North American cattle poses “very low risk” of mad-cow disease if dangerous body parts are properly removed.

Some restaurants and consumers welcome the move, but many Japanese remain wary about the meat’s safety. An opinion poll last week for the Mainichi Shimbun daily indicated that 65 percent of Japanese don’t want to buy U.S. beef and 54 percent oppose lifting the ban.

The U.S. and Japanese governments, meanwhile, hammered out a plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan City in central Okinawa to Nago City in the northern part of the island. Under the plan, an alternate military facility is to be built in Camp Schwab and on reclaimed land in shallow coastal waters.

The previous proposal to build a sea-based military facility off the east coast of Nago was fiercely opposed by residents, scientists and environmental groups. Washington and Tokyo agreed in 1996 to shut the Futenma base in five to seven years if an alternate facility could be built in Okinawa prefecture.

Relocation of the military facility, surrounded by residential neighborhoods and schools, is central to realignment plans of the U.S. military in Japan. As part of the plan, Washington has promised to move 7,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and other locations.

The realignment also includes a plan to upgrade the U.S. Army’s Japan headquarters at Camp Zama in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, to a U.S.-Japan joint-task-force-capable command.

The realignment plans have faced strong resistance from residents of the areas that would be affected.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine and Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa told the central government separately that they could not accept the base plans.

In Okinawa, the U.S. military presence has long divided the island. But the new location plans appear to have united islanders — against the proposals. In a recent poll by the Ryukyu Shimpo, Okinawa’s daily newspaper, and Okinawa TV, 7 percent of Okinawans surveyed support the plan and 90 percent oppose it.

Tokushin Yamauchi, a former mayor of Yomitan City and leader of an anti-base group of Okinawans, said an agreement like this is “too outrageous to be accepted anywhere in the world.”

“If Washington and Tokyo had a plan like this in the U.S. or Japan’s mainland, they could not have their own way as they do now,” Mr. Yamauchi said. “We Okinawans are strongly concerned that we would have military bases imposed for another 50 or 100 years, and these bases could become the world’s largest.”

Mizuho Fukushima, a leader of the Social Democratic Party who lives near the U.S. Navy’s base at Atsugi, a Tokyo suburb, said, “I would like people in the United States to know that U.S. military bases in Japan are located in the middle of residential areas.”

“Consequently, we have endless accidents and cannot put up with the noise from the bases,” she added.

Moreover, Washington and Tokyo have announced a plan for the U.S. Navy to station a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at Yokosuka — a first for Japan, the only country to have experienced nuclear attacks on its cities.

The announcement provoked a storm of criticism from Yokosuka residents and government officials.

“Washington and Tokyo do not discuss seriously the burdens of U.S. military bases imposed on many Japanese who live nearby. I doubt how clearly the Japanese government has expressed its own opinion to the United States,” Mrs. Fukushima said.

She said she often thinks Japan has become “America’s 51st state” because of Mr. Koizumi’s agreement to everything Washington says. She noted that the United States pressured Japan to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to war-torn Iraq, Tokyo’s first deployment in a war zone since the end of World War II.

Meanwhile, despite strong opposition to the relocation of the Futenma base on Okinawa, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld ruled out the possibility of the two governments making broader changes to the interim report concerning the reconfiguration of the U.S. military in Japan.

“It is an arrangement that our two countries, our two governments, have entered into. It’s done,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “We have an agreement, we have an understanding. It’s in both of our interests.”

Mr. Bush said Tuesday that an agreement with Japan on reducing the number of Marines on Okinawa “shows the maturity of our relationship.”

“I’m aware that there is some discontent with the agreement expressed by some of the folks on Okinawa toward the Japanese government that negotiated the deal,” said Mr. Bush, who will visit Kyoto en route to the Nov. 18-19 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in South Korea.

“My message to the good people of Okinawa is: This is a good-faith effort … It’s a positive development.”

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