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We appeal to you to Join an International Action Week For No Naval Base

July 12, 2012 

Appeal to International Society

We appeal to you to Join an International Action Week For No Naval Base

2-9 September 2012

We appeal to the people of the world who are opposing warfare and are concerned with making the world peaceful and sustainable community.

Please take part in an International Solidarity Action (2-9 September 2012) during the World Conservation Congress 2012 which will be held in Jeju Island.

The 2012 World Conservation Congress, which is an environmental conference held every 4 years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is to take place from 6-15 September in Seogwipo city, Jeju Island. Jeju Island is located in the southern part of South Korea, adjacent to China, Taiwan, and Japan.

However, in Gangjeong village, which is only 7 km far from the congress site, construction to build a massive naval base is being enforced. The total size of the naval base is 490,000 square meters and it will not only harm the environment but also ignite military tensions despite the opposition of a great number of villagers.

Gangjeong village in Jeju blessed with a natural environment should be preserved for the future of mankind.

Gangjeong village is a coastal town with a sacred environment and high value preservation not only in Jeju Island, but also in the world.

The Sea of Gangjeong village is designated as a national cultural treasure (natural memorial No. 442) by the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea and is adjacent to Beom Island, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Gangjeong village is God’s blessing natural heritage. The sea of Gangjeong is one of the major habitats of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, one of the species listed by the IUCN. It is estimated that there are only 114 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Korea.

Gangjeong village is located between the two biggest creeks in Jeju Island and has the biggest freshwater fish habitat on the island. It provides 70–80% of drinking water to southern residents in the island. As Jeju Island lacks water due to its porous basaltic land, this uncommon village is nicknamed as ‘Il-Gangjeong’ which means the best Gangjeong village. Due to this character, it has been the ‘heartland of agriculture’ from ancient times. Artifacts from prehistoric times showing the transformation of housing culture have been also discovered in Gangjeong. For such reasons, Gangjeong was appointed as a limited
development district until the Jeju naval base construction plan was drafted.

Gureombi rock, located at the Jeju naval base construction site, is a broad flat rock with 1.2 km in length and 250m in width and it forms a greatly peculiar bedrock wetland where spring water comes upward. As Gureombi rock is a part of absolute preservation area by Jeju local government, it is home to the Government designated endangered species such as sesarma intermedium, small round frogs, Jeju saebaengi (native freshwater shrimp of Jeju Island), and clithon retropietus v. martens.

However, the Government is unilaterally enforcing the construction of the naval base without appropriate evaluation and even by easing regulations expediently or ignoring them illegally. It is clear that the naval base will not only destroy the environment of the sea of Gangjeong village, but also cause the serious destruction of the environment of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve located just 2 km away from the construction site.

There is no doubt that this construction is entirely contrary to the principals of the World Conservation Congress. The efforts of the South Korean government and Jeju local government to promote Jeju island as a world environmental city, while unilaterally enforcing the construction of the naval base, is deceiving global citizens.

Actions Suggested:

  1. Please choose at least one day during the International Action Week (2-9 September 2012) and organize any individual or collective actions to oppose the Jeju naval base.
  2. Please inform the world that the construction of the naval base in Jeju is fully contrary to the principal of 2012 World Conservation Congress. Please make calls to the World Conservation Congress member organizations and member states to express concerns about the Jeju naval base construction.
  3. Please ask the South Korean government and Jeju local government to stop building the military base, revoke the naval base project, and make Jeju Island develop intact as an island of world peace.
  4. It is hypocritical for Samsung, the main contractor of the naval base project, to support financially the largest environmental event in the world. Please urge Samsung C&T and Daerim, two main contractors, to stop constructing naval base in Jeju.
  5. To spread this amazing event widely, please send your endorsement (with your organization’s name) and your action plans to the Gangjeong international team (gangjeongintl@gmail.com) in advance. After your actions, please kindly send your photos and videos with a simple explanation to the team as well.
  6.  There are many events being planned in Jeju Gangjeong village during the international action week (2-9 September 2012). If possible, please come to the village and be part of our nonviolent struggle which has continued over the last 6 years.

We greatly appreciate for your solidarity.

The following groups endorse the action:

National Groups

  • Gangjeong Village Association
  • Jeju Pan-Island Committee for Stop of Military Base and for Realization of Peace Island (26 organizations)
  • Korea Environment NGO Network (36 Korean environmental NGOs)
  • National Network of Korean Civil Society for Opposing to the Naval Base in Jeju Island (125 Korean civil society organizations)

International Groups

Please send your endorsement (organization’s name) and send it to gangjeongintl@gmail.com. We will collect all international groups’ endorsement and list your names here.

Background

Jeju Island should remain an Island of World Peace, not an outpost of war

In 2005, the South Korean Government declared Jeju Island an Island of World Peace. At that time, the Government explained that the purpose was to succeed the spirit of historical summits for diplomacy during the post-Cold war era – the previous chief secretary of the Soviet union, Gorbachev’s visit in Jeju island (1991), the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Russia (1991), the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and China (1992) and afterward the first visit
of Jiang Zemin, the previous chief secretary of the People’s Republic of China, to Jeju island (1995), and cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea–and to contribute to world peace. Furthermore, in the Declaration for the Island of World Peace, two proposals were included. The first was to inherit the three traditions of Jeju Island (no beggar, no thief, and no gate) and the second was to recognize the tragic historical 4.3 massacre, which more than one-eighth of Jeju islanders were massacred in the name of red-hunting,

However, the current naval base construction enforced by the South Korean Government to militarize Jeju and the East China Sea in the name of naval security plays a part to threaten peace and prosperity in the areas. Over the last few years the South Korean government and its Navy have called themselves sub-partners of the Northeast Naval Strategy led by the US administration and strengthened the military cooperation among South Korea, the US, and Japan. The naval base in Jeju will function as an outpost of this plan. In this naval base, US nuclear-powered submarine, nuclear aircraft carrier as well as Aegis missile-carrying warships may berth.

The reason to name Jeju Island as an Island of World Peace is to make the island a hub of exchange and cooperation in Northeast Asia and convert the East China Sea into sea of peace and co-existence. The construction of the naval base is fundamentally contrary to these visions. Thus, it is crucial to protect the island from becoming an outpost of warfare. Jeju Island should be developed as a world peace island.

For more information, please visit:

http://savejejunow.org/
http://www.savejeju.org/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/nonavalbase/
https://www.facebook.com/SaveJeju
http://cafe.daum.net/peacekj (Korean/ English/ Chinese/ Japanese)

Korean groups statement about Jeju to IUCN and World Conservation Congress

July 12, 2012 

http://cafe.daum.net/peacekj/I51g/391

July 10, 2012

Statement to the IUCN and the World Conservation Congress

We, civic environmental groups in South Korea, denounce the IUCN and the World Conservation Congress that have overlooked and misrepresented environmental and social conflicts in South Korea 

1. In September 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will organize the World Conservation Congress (WCC) at ICC JEJU in Jeju Island, which is expected to be attended by more than 10,000 people from over 1,100 organizations in 180 countries.

We, civic environmental groups in South Korea, have a high regard for the international cooperation projects executed by the IUCN, which endeavor to help develop and implement policies that contribute to protecting the environment. We also recognize that IUCN is globally influential; the organization carries significant weight over the registration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sets criteria regarding internationally endangered species and develops conservation plans.

We also respect the milestones achieved by the IUCN, including the Ramsar Convention in 1971; the World Conservation Strategy in 1978, which proposed the concept of “sustainable development”; the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, and the Resolution on Biodiversity, passed at the 1996 World Conservation Congress in Montreal. In addition, we recognize that it was the IUCN which enabled numerous technological advancements which are currently in use in the field to protect biological ecosystems, such as the Technical Guidelines on the Management of Ex-situ populations for Conservation.

2. Meanwhile, the Lee Myung-Bak administration has destroyed four major rivers, continues to blindly pursue nuclear power, and continues to forcefully construct a naval base at Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, despite fierce opposition, both locally and nationally.

Against this backdrop, civic environmental groups and activists in South Korea continue to denounce the administration and are taking action against its destructive projects. We call for the South Korean government to halt its construction work at the four rivers and allow nature to reclaim it. We also oppose the Lee administration’s policy of promoting nuclear power under the guise of Green Growth and exporting it to the Third World. Furthermore, we are vehemently against the government’s execution of a plan to build a naval base on Jeju Island, which is destroying biodiversity and brutally violating human rights in the name of national security.

Given the above, civic environmental groups in South Korea state the following to the IUCN, the organizer of the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in 2012, and its Organizing Committee:

3. The World Conservation Congress will be held this year in South Korea, yet the Congress gravely neglects or misrepresents environmental and social conflicts in the host country. Because the Congress is financed by the Lee Myung-Bak administration and sponsored by industrial conglomerates, there is growing public concern that the WCC is promoting policies of the Lee administration without examining whether they are truly designed to preserve the environment.

This year – 2012 – is the fifth, and last, year of President Lee’s tenure, in which his administration is taking advantage of the WCC to justify his poor environmental, peace, and labor policies. The South Korean government is using the convention to advocate for its questionable “Low Carbon Green Growth” campaign, its appalling Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, as well as its policy of prioritizing nuclear power and favoring corporate construction conglomerates.

We are concerned that the IUCN Secretariat is not addressing any of the current environmental issues in South Korea among the themes for the upcoming WCC. Rather, Director General Julia Marton-Lefevre of IUCN faithfully endorses the Korean government and its dubious policies.

The Director General said “Korea’s green growth policies and Four Major Rivers Restoration Project are the results of the efforts to ensure nature conservation and sustainable development” during a meeting with President Lee on June 4. In an interview with a Korean reporter, she described the rivers project as “reasonable.”

4. We civic environmental groups of South Korea raise this question: Are members of the IUCN and its Director General aware of the grave implications of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project?

Under the Lee administration, South Korean society has endured tremendous social tensions and environmental conflicts. The government has prioritized development at the expense of wreaking havoc on the environment and the health of its citizens.

For example, in 2008, the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands was held in Korea. At that meeting, President Lee publicly declared to withdraw a plan to build a “Grand Canal” in Korea, only to re-allocate its budget to execute the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, which has devastated the nation’s four crucial rivers. Sixteen dams were built at the rivers, destroying habitats for endangered species, critical biological diversity, and nearby wetlands. The rivers project violated several national laws, such as the National Budget Law, the River Law and the Environmental Impact Assessment Law. Construction contracts for the rivers project are reported to total around $900 million.

Before its Director General asserted that the Four Rivers project was “reasonable,” the IUCN should have conducted an on-the-ground assessment of the project, which would have shown how it is, in fact, undermining the organization’s hard work of preserving biological diversity. In December 2002, the Technical Guidelines on the Management of Ex-situ populations for Conservation were approved at the 14th Meeting of the Programme Committee of Council, in Gland, Switzerland. Nonetheless, the South Korean government’s Four Major Rivers Restoration Project has been committing gross violations of IUCN guidelines, by decimating the habitats of several endangered species, including the Danyang aster (Aster altaicus var. uchiyamae). Does the IUCN, the international environmental steward, recognize that the rivers project has utterly destroyed a haven for migratory birds’ – the Haepyeong wetland located at Gumi City, Kyeongsangbuk-do province in a flagrant breach of the Ramsar Convention? Is the IUCN aware that organic farmers in Paldang, Dumulmeori, continue to defend their farmlands against forced evictions by the Lee Administration?

5. We respectfully ask for the position of IUCN on these critical matters. Is the IUCN aware that 3,000 university professors and five leading religious groups in South Korea oppose this project? The environmental organizations in South Korea are united in opposition to this project, demanding punishment of those responsible, the removal of the dam, and the restoration of the rivers. We respectfully ask for your official position on this dire situation.

We, the civil environmental organizations of the South Korea, challenge the IUCN Director General’s position on the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and therefore request the IUCN to clarify its position.

6. In addition, we express deep concern with the IUCN’s support of the construction of a naval base in Gangjeong village, Jeju Island. Last April, based on false information provided by the South Korean government, the IUCN issued an official position stating that “construction of the naval base in Gangjeong is valid according to legitimate processes.” It is questionable whether the IUCN put any effort into verifying the credibility of the data provided by the South Korean government.

The IUCN’s statement on the Gangjeong naval base contradicts its earlier resolutions regarding the negative impacts of military bases on the environment. At the General Assembly in 2008, the IUCN adopted “the Recommendation for protection of dugongs in Henoko, Okinawa, Japan” and at the General Assembly in Buenos Aires in 1994, passed a resolution addressing the relationship of “military base to conservation area.” The IUCN’s objective to protect global ecosystems cannot coexist with the goals of increasing militarization at the regional or global scale. We oppose the IUCN’s position regarding the naval base project in Gangjeong village, on Jeju Island.

7. The civil environmental organizations of South Korea, which seek peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula and with all our Northeast Asia neighbors, urge IUCN to express its clear position. Specifically regarding the naval base project in Gangjeong, we would like you to clarify whether the IUCN is aware of the serious violations of environmental laws, which have led to the destruction of species which are assigned as “endangered” by the Korean government. These endangered species include the red-footed crab (Sesarma intermedium) and Clithon retropietus V. Martens. We ask you to clarify how the IUCN arrived at its conclusion that the naval base construction “is valid according to legitimate processes.”

Just to clarify, the naval base is being built at a UNESCO Biosphere Conservation Area (designated in 2002), and was designated a Cultural Protection Zone by the South Korean government in 2000 and 2004. In 2002 the government’s Ministry of Land designated it a Marine Ecosystem Conservation Area; in 2006, the government of Jeju Island designated it a Marine Provincial Park; in 2006, the Ministry of Environment designated it an “Ecological Excellent Village”; in 2007, the Jeju Island government designated it an Absolute Retention Coastal Area; and in 2008, the Ministry of Environment designated it a Natural Park. We ask you to please clarify how the IUCN would consider a project as “legitimate,” when the government mobilizes both public and private police forces against residents who have committed no crime other than to object to the project’s desecration of this precious conservation area.

Gangjeong village in Jeju is an area that must be conserved in accordance with the values of the IUCN. That would mean that the military base construction must be blocked. The IUCN must actively seek to halt the naval base construction at Gangjeong and to restore and preserve the area’s natural ecosystems through a resolution at the WCC General Assembly.

8. We, in the spirit of peace on our Korean peninsula, are besieged by the South Korean government’s arbitrary administration of law in regard to the environment, and its dictatorial push for national projects for whom only the nation’s largest corporations benefit. Since President Lee took office, his administration has expressly weakened laws which had protected South Korea’s environment.

South Korea environmentalists are gravely concerned that the government will take advantage of the WCC General Assembly proceeding this September in Jeju to advance its illegitimate national projects. We therefore demand a clear explanation of the IUCN’s position regarding the Four Rivers Restoration Project and the Gangjeong Naval Base project. We formally request the IUCN and the 2012 WCC Organizing Committee’s clear position and response, which will be a central factor to the position taken by the Korean civil environmental organizations at the WCC General Assembly.

9. In keeping with the IUCN’s prodigious achievements toward preserving the biodiversity of the planet, we expect the IUCN and the WCC Organizing Committee to show significant efforts to resolve environmental disputes and related social conflicts in the Republic of Korea, the host nation of the WCC.

As funicular cable cars on the sacred mountains of Jiri-san and Seorak-san threaten Asiatic Black Bears; as sustainable farmers from Gangwon province struggle with the seizure of their land to build a golf course; as tidal power plants at Incheon Bay and Garolim Bay threaten the livelihoods of local fishermen; as residents battle nuclear power plants in Gori, Youngduk and Samcheok; as the farmers and fisherpeople of Jeju Island cope with the destruction of their reef and farmland in order to build a navy base; as country folk struggle to exist after their villages were subsumed by water to construct dams on Mt. Jiri and Youngju; as laborers strike against brutal working conditions at SSangyoung Motors– As these manifold violations take place, we shall, with our partners in the international community, take actions to expose the daily brutality levied upon the environment and the people of South Korea, and to correct the wrong doings of the Lee Myung-Bak regime.

We wish for a peaceful resolution to these many environmental and social conflicts, and request that the IUCN and the WCC Organizing Committee clarify their position on these issues as soon as possible.

Support Committee

National Network of Korean Civil Society for Restoration of Four Major Rivers, Provincial Civil Committee against Golf Courses in Gangwon Province, Gangjeong Village Association, Jeju Islanders in the Mainland Caring for Gangjeong, National Network of Korean Civil Society for Opposing to cable car in National Park, Military Bases Peace Network(Gunsan US Military Airbase Retake Civil Movement, Counseling Office of U.S. Base Victims in Gunsan, The National Campaign for Eradication of Crime by U.S. Troops in Korea, Pyeongtaek Peace Center, Peace Nomad, Green Korea United), NANUM MUNHWA, Cultural Action, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Life Peace Fellowship, Seoul Human Rights Film Festival, Civil Society Organization Network in Korea, Center ‘Dle’ for Human Rights Education, Korea Human Rights Foundation, Jeju Council of Social Issue, Jeju Pan-Island Committee for Stop of Military Base and for Realization of Peace Island, National Network of Korean Civil Society for Opposing to the Naval Base in Jeju Island, Jirisan Action Network, Jirisan Netwoks, Institute for Sustainable Society, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Pastoral committee of Environment in Seoul Diocese, Catholic Human Rights Committee, Korea Culture Heritage Policy Research Institute, Korea Institute For Peace Future, Korea Wetland NGO Network, Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement, The National Network of Environmental Organisation of Korea(Green Korea Gongju, Green Korea Kwangju, Nation Park Conservation Network, KCEMS Korean Christian Environmental Movement Solidarity, Korean Network for Green Transport, Green Future, Green Korea United, Green Korea Daegu, Green Korea Daejeon, Green Korea Busan, Citizens Alliance for Bundang Ecosystem, Buddhist Environmental Solidarity, Forest for Life, Korean Ecoclub, Eco-Horizon Institute, Suwon Eco Center, Energy Peace, Eco Buddha, Korean Women`s Environmental Network, Good Friends of Nature – Korea, Cheonji Boeun Environmental Group of Won Buddhism, Green Korea Wonju, Indramang Life Community, Green Korea Incheon, Back to Farm National Movement Headquarters, Jeju Solidarity for Participatory Self-government and Environmental Preservation, Nature Trail-For the Beauty of This Earth, The National Council of YMCA‘s of Korea, National Young Women’s Christian Association of Korea, Korea Resource Recycling Federation, Environment and Pollution Research Group, Korean Teacher’s Organization For Ecological Education And Action, Pastoral committee of Environment in Seoul Diocese, Korea Federation for Environmental Movement, Citizens’ Movement for Environmental Justice)

……………………………………………………………………

The translated version is based on the Korean civic groups’ statement on June 12, 2012.  The statement was sent to the IUCN leadership members on July 10, 2012. You can see the Korean version here:  http://cafe.daum.net/peacekj/49kU/1798

A Korean Spring?

January 6, 2012 

As Christine Ahn of the Korea Policy Institute writes in Foreign Policy In Focus, there are interesting and hopeful changes taking place in the Korean peninsula. Many in the west are speculating about what will happen in the aftermath of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.  But the transition to new leadership has been rather smooth and quite.   While it remains to be seen how Kim Jong Ilʻs son and successor Kim Jong Un will lead the country, Ahn reminds us that:

What happens in North Korea, however, is also clearly influenced by what happens in Seoul, and the winds of change are blowing strong south of the Demilitarized Zone where grassroots movements are challenging the country’s retrograde neo-Cold War leadership. After four long years under President Lee Myung Bak’s repressive and hard-line policies, 2011 marked the revival of democracy in South Korea thanks to three particularly inspiring developments for peace, economic justice, and anti-corruption.

These hopeful developments include the powerful anti-base struggle in Jeju island, militant labor and economic justice struggles and a growing public outcry against government corruption that has the potential to dramatically change the course of South Korea for the better.

She also reports on recent positive developments regarding Jeju:

Good news finally arrived on December 30 when the National Assembly cut 96 percent of the 2012 budget for the naval base. According to Gangjeong activist Sung-Hee Choi, “such a tremendous defense budget cut is unprecedented in the history of the Republic of Korea.” Although this cut heralds a major victory for Gangjeong villagers, Choi cautions that nearly 75 percent of the 2011 budget of 151.6 billion won was not used due to the delay in construction, which the Navy will likely use for 2012 and to justify more funding for 2013.

 

U.S. soldier charged with rape, transferred to South Korean custody

December 14, 2011 

Stars and Stripes reports that a U.S. Soldier charged with rape was transferred to South Korean custody:

South Korean police charged a U.S. soldier Tuesday with rape and larceny for allegedly attacking a 17-year-old South Korean girl in her residence on Sept. 17, following a night of drinking in Seoul.

Pvt. Kevin Robinson, 21, who is stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, was transferred to South Korean custody upon his arrest, according to a member of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

This case came to public attention during the trial of another U.S. soldier accused of raping a teenage girl:

Pvt. Kevin Lee Flippin was convicted and sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for brutally raping a 17-year-old South Korean girl.

A string of crimes by U.S. troops in Korea is prompting calls for the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to be revised:

Two high-profile South Korean rape cases involving U.S. troops as well as a fire in Itaewon last week linked to a U.S. soldier have renewed complaints about the status of forces agreement outlining legal procedures and protections for the U.S. military community. The agreement has generated such anger and political outcry in South Korea that officials from both countries met Wednesday in Seoul to discuss it.

Critics call the SOFA agreement a shield for U.S. soldiers dodging swift justice. Others believe it’s a valuable tool to protect the rights of U.S. citizens in foreign countries.

South Korean politicians and critics are calling for the agreement to be revised so police can retain custody of U.S. military suspects before they are formally indicted by prosecutors — something prohibited by the current agreement in virtually all cases. South Korean police and the activists supporting them claim that the SOFA puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of the police doing their jobs.

Lost Bases of Empire

November 2, 2011 

As war, economic crises and political unrest continue to sap the United States, maintaining the vast network of U.S. foreign military bases may become more tenuous.   Tarak Barkawi writes in Al Jazeera:

But the US is divided and turned in on itself. Much of the government is hobbled by underinvestment, privatisation and party politics. Mainstream debate lacks little rational basis for effective foreign and strategic policy.

The presumptive Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, has recently suggested China take over from the US in providing humanitarian aid.

The world is becoming a different place. Major US interventions, welcome or not, are unlikely to be on offer. We are perhaps one financial crisis away from the moment when the idea of maintaining even established bases abroad – when the iron web of empire since 1945 will itself be called into question.

This may be a moment for anti-militarization forces to push back against the war machine. Radio France Internationale reports that Kyrgyzstanʻs president-elect Amazbexk Atambayev has called for the U.S. to close its military base in Manas:

Kyrgyzstan’s president-elect Amazbexk Atambayev has declared that the United States must shut down its base in the central Asian country when the lease expires in 2014. Atambayev, who won Sunday’s election with over 63 per cent of the vote, said that the base’s presence is a security threat to Kyrgyzstan.

[...]

Local politicians say that fuel dumps by US planes destroy crops and cause illness, claims that are denied by Washington.

But Atambayev, who resigned as prime minister to stand as president, invoked the country’s security to justify the ultimatum.

“We know that the United States is often engaged in conflict. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, and now relations are tense with Iran,” he said. “I would not want for one of these countries to launch a retaliatory strike on the military base.”

However, despite the pending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the U.S. plans an expansion within the Persian Gulf region to maintain hegemony in the region. The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.

After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative.

In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.

In Okinawa, despite Secretary of Defense Leon Panettaʻs recent trip to Japan to shore up a U.S. base realignment plan within Okinawa, Okinawans are not having it.   Former Okinawa governor Keiichi Inamine, who had supported the base realignment plan, said that relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa was “impossible”:

‘Everyone in Okinawa thinks it’s impossible’ to relocate US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a more remote part of the island, former Okinawa governor Keiichi Inamine told the Mainichi newspaper.

Inamine, backed by the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was elected governor in late 1998 and supported the relocation plan with some conditions, such as 15-year time limit on a new facility in Nago city, in the northern part of Okinawa.

‘Okinawa has completely changed,’ he said. ‘It’s time for the government to admit it’s impossible to relocate the base within Okinawa and ask the US to reconsider.’

 

International Solidarity grows for Jeju anti-base struggle

August 7, 2011 

A girl holds a banner that reads “Against the Naval Base no matter what (or even until death)!” Photo: Emily Wang.

Today, the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, there was a large rally against a naval base in Jeju island.

You can follow the developments on the Save Jeju Island website.  Also there is a Save Jeju Island page on Facebook.

And please SIGN THE SAVE JEJU PETITION ON AVAAZ, an international petition site:  http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_jeju_island/

Photo: Emily Wang

In Organizing Notes, Bruce Gagnon reported:

villagers and supporters now have blocked all the construction entrances to the Navy base construction project.

The villagers have two basic demands:

1) Stop construction

2) Begin from scratch and do an entire new assesment of whether the base is actually needed or not. Included would be a proper environmental impact statement (EIS) which was never done in the first place.

The five opposition political parties in South Korea are now supporting these demands. Several of these political leaders have joined the blockades at the construction entrances and leading Catholic bishops in South Korea are regularly visiting the village and holding mass on the disputed rocky coastline.

Some mainstream newspapers in South Korea now seem to be searching for some “middle ground” which indicates the protests, and growing global support, are having an impact. You can see one such article here

Gloria Steinem wrote a beautiful op ed in the New York Times:

THERE are some actions for which those of us alive today will be judged in centuries to come. The only question will be: What did we know and when did we know it?

I think one judgment-worthy action may be what you and I do about the militarization of Jeju Island, South Korea, in service of the arms race.

[...]

The island itself is said to be the body of the Creation Goddess, and is often called Women’s Island. It is home to the legendary women deep-sea divers known as Haenyeo, as well as sacred goddess groves and shamanistic traditions. For many women especially, it is becoming a symbol of what once was and could be.

Christine Ahn of the Korea Policy Institute also got an op ed in yesterday’s New York Times:

I.H.T. Op-Ed Contributor

Unwanted Missiles for a Korean Island

By CHRISTINE AHN

Published: August 5, 2011

SEOUL — Gangjeong, a small fishing and farming village on Jeju Island 50 miles south of the Korean peninsula, is a pristine Unesco-designated ecological reserve where elderly Korean women sea divers, haenyo, still forage for seafood. It is also the site of a fierce resistance movement by villagers who oppose the construction of a South Korean naval base on the island that will become part of the U.S. missile defense system to contain China.

South Korea’s president, Lee Myungbak, says the base is needed to protect Seoul from an attack from Pyongyang. The problem with that assertion is that the Aegis destroyers that Lee pledged to deploy at the base aren’t designed to protect South Korea from North Korean Taepodong ballistic missiles (TBM).

In a 1999 report to the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon verified that the Aegis system “could not defend the northern two-thirds of South Korea against the low flying short range TBMs.”

Thus, instead of protecting South Koreans, the militarization of Jeju Island will introduce new security threats to the country by fueling an arms race in an increasingly tense region of unresolved conflicts. The naval base on Jeju Island will equip South Koreans and their American allies with the capability to strike long-range ballistic missile batteries in southeast China that target Japan or Taiwan. Washington sees this base as a central pillar to its defense system in the Asia-Pacific region. China, no doubt, sees it as a new threat.

The result of building the base, therefore, will only be increased stress on the U.S.-China relationship. One South Korean military analyst, Cheong Wook-sik, said that China sees the U.S. Asia-Pacific missile defense system “as the 21st century’s greatest threat.”

And a Chinese Air Force colonel, Dai Xu, speaking more generally about Washington’s Asia-Pacific strategy, wrote recently that Beijing “cannot always put up with American provocations.” He added that China “must draw a clear red line against American attempts to surround it.”

Meanwhile, on the American side, a 2009 Rand Corporation report confirmed that, given China’s growing economic threat to the United States, the Jeju naval base is crucial for America “to project power in the East China Sea and southward.”

Washington hasn’t been forthcoming about this base being built for U.S. interests, particularly in light of growing South Korean resentment of the high costs of U.S. military bases on the peninsula, and tensions over the recent admission by three U.S. veterans of dumping Agent Orange at Camp Carroll in southeast South Korea in 1978.

When I called the Korean Embassy in Washington to register my complaint about the Jeju naval base, the response was: “Don’t call us; call the U.S. State or Defense Departments; they are the ones who are pressuring us to build this base.”

Gangjeong villagers have used every possible democratic means to overturn the decision by Seoul to construct the base there. For four long years, the villagers have squatted on their farmland that was seized by the government, and laid down in front of cement trucks intending to pour concrete over the volcanic rock where pure spring water meets the ocean. Despite the fact that 94 percent of Gangjeong residents voted against the base, the central government, the military and Jeju officials colluded to make Gangjeong the designated site.

This week, the South Korean government ordered the police take further measures to restrict protesters, many of whom have already been arrested, heavily fined and barred from entering the waters and land that they have lived on and depended upon for generations.

Jeju is a bellwether of how conflicts in the Asia Pacific may be resolved in the near future. Will the South Korean people allow its government to blindly follow U.S. plans to draw its country in a standoff against China? Will the South Korean government choose to resolve conflicts through dialogue and cooperation?

No one in the United States, North and South Korea, Japan and China wants another militarized conflict; we still haven’t healed from last century’s wars. This is perhaps more apparent in Korea than anywhere else, a country where a militarized division still separates millions of families.

We must not allow an unneeded military base to destroy Gangjeong’s rich marine ecology and the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen and haenyo — people who provide us with human security — certainly not in the name of “national security.”

Christine Ahn is the executive director of the Korea Policy Institute and a member of the Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island.

 

Army has no plans for live fire in Makua

August 1, 2011 

The new commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific may be softening his position with regard to live fire training in Makua. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports:

There may be no Army live-fire training in Makua Valley for years to come, and possibly never again, the new commanding general of the U.S. Army in the Pacific said.

Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, who took over the Fort Shafter-based command in March, said he’s focusing on providing replacement live-fire training for Hawaii soldiers through range improvements at Schofield Barracks and at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island.

“I firmly believe that if those things stay on track at Schofield and PTA, we will not have to live fire in Makua,” Wiercinski said in a recent interview.

Additionally, Wiercinski is putting on hold his predecessor’s plan to convert Makua into a “world-class” roadside bomb and counterinsurgency training center as the Army continues to deal with litigation that has prevented live fire in the 4,190-acre Waianae Coast valley since 2004.

“I’m not going to move forward with disrupting anything or trying to add another element to this until we get the first steps done,” he said. “I don’t want to complicate what’s already in the court system.”

But Makua is still being held hostage as insurance against delays in the expansion of training areas in Lihu’e (Schofield) and Pohakuloa, which pits communities and islands against one another.  There have been major changes in the army’s command structure that shifted more training and operations to the U.S. Army Pacific:

U.S. Army Pacific oversees issues such as Makua Valley, but also has taken on greater responsibilities across the region.

Troop levels in Alaska and Hawaii have increased as numbers have dropped in South Korea. A series of sub-commands has been added in Hawaii that has bolstered Fort Shafter’s command and control role as an administrative and deployable headquarters.

In years past, U.S. Army Pacific “never really participated in exercises as a headquarters, never participated in operations as a headquarters,” Wiercinski said.

It was always a service component command, meaning it did all of the administrative functions.

“For the first time in the last couple of years, it’s become operationalized,” Wiercinski said. “It gives (U.S. Pacific Command) an extra set of headquarters to be able to do things at a moment’s notice.”

This shift has meant an expansion of Fort Shafter as the Army Pacific headquarters:

In 2001, Fort Shafter had 1,194 soldier “billets,” or positions, and a total population of 4,077, including families and civilian workers, officials said.

That population now stands at 6,306 military members with a total Fort Shafter census of 13,172, according to the command.

While the U.S. tries to reinforce its military presence in east Asia in order to contain China, it is also withdrawing and realigning forces to Guam and Hawai’i in response to protest in Korea, Japan and Okinawa.  The realignment of forces in Korea is having negative repercussions for Hawai’i:

The Eighth Army is becoming a combat unit in a return to its Korean War-era roots.

Fort Shafter will exercise the service component command change with the Eighth Army in August.

For an increase in soldiers in Hawaii, firing ranges have been added at Schofield and a Battle Area Complex for Stryker vehicle training is expected to be completed in late 2012, officials said.

Meanwhile, a new Infantry Platoon Battle Area at PTA that could permanently replace Makua Valley might be ready for use in 2014 or 2015, the Army said.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

 

Agent Orange in Korea

July 7, 2011 

http://www.fpif.org/articles/agent_orange_in_korea

Agent Orange in Korea

By Christine Ahn and Gwyn Kirk, July 7, 2011

In May, three former U.S. soldiers admitted to dumping hundreds of barrels of chemical substances, including Agent Orange, at Camp Carroll in South Korea in 1978. This explosive news was a harsh reminder to South Koreans of the high costs and lethal trail left behind by the ongoing U.S. military presence.

“We basically buried our garbage in their backyards,” U.S. veteran Steve House told a local news station in Phoenix, Arizona. A heavy equipment operator in the Army, House said he was ordered to dig a ditch the length of a city block to bury 55-gallon drums marked with bright yellow and orange labels: “Province of Vietnam, Compound Orange.” House said that the military buried 250 drums of defoliants stored on the base, which served then as the U.S. Army Material Support Center in Korea. Later they buried chemicals transported from other places on as many as 20 occasions, totaling up to 600 barrels.

“This stuff was just seeping through the barrels,” said Robert Travis, another veteran now living in West Virginia. “There was a smell, I couldn’t describe it, just sickly sweet.” Immediately after wheeling the barrels from a warehouse at Camp Carroll, Travis developed a severe rash; other health problems emerged later. He said there were “approximately 250 drums, all OD (olive drab) green… with a stripe around the barrel dated 1967 for the Republic of Vietnam.”

A third soldier, Richard Cramer of Illinois, said that his feet went numb as he buried barrels of Agent Orange at Camp Carroll. He spent two months in a military hospital and now has swollen ankles and toes, chronic arthritis, eye infections, and impaired hearing. “If we prove what they did was wrong,’ says Cramer, “they should ‘fess up and clean it up and take care of the people involved.”

The three veterans are now seriously ill. Steve House suffers from diabetes and neuropathy, two out of 15 diseases officially linked to Agent Orange. “This is a burden I’ve carried around for 35 years,” House, aged 54, told Associated Press reporters. “I just recently found out that I have to have some major surgery… If I’m going to check out, I want to do it with a clean slate.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Vet blows whistle on burial of Agent Orange in Korea: “We basically buried our garbage in their back yard.”

May 23, 2011 

Watch the video of several U.S. veterans blowing the whistle on burial of Agent Orange at a base in South Korea in 1978.   Hereʻs an excerpt from the transcript:

Related To Story

Valley Veteran Blows Whistle On Burial Of Agent Orange

Steve House, 2 Others Say They Just Followed Orders In 1978

Tammy Leitner, KPHO CBS 5 News
POSTED: 7:46 pm MST May 13, 2011
UPDATED: 11:37 am MST May 16, 2011
PHOENIX — It’s a secret the military does not want you to know — something so dangerous that a Valley man says it’s slowly killing him and could be poisoning countless others.
“Yeah, it haunts me,” said veteran Steve House. “We basically buried our garbage in their back yard.”
The year was 1978. Spc. Steve House was stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea. He worked as a heavy equipment operator, and one day, says he got orders to dig a ditch – nearly the length of a city block.

“They just told us it was going to be used for disposal,” said House.But it was what House buried that he’s never been able to forget.”Fifty-five gallon drums with bright yellow, some of them bright orange, writing on them,” said House. “And some of the cans said Province of Vietnam, Compound Orange.”

Compound Orange, also known as Agent Orange, is a toxic herbicide that was used to wipe out the jungles during the Vietnam war. The military also admitted using it years later around demilitarized zones in Korea. The government says the leftover Agent Orange was incinerated at sea.
After a preliminary investigation, the military issued another statement admitting that chemicals were buried, but claiming that they were removed and cleaned up:

According to Johnson, a 1992 study by the Army Corps of Engineers indicated that a large number of drums containing chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and solvents were buried in the vicinity of the area identified by the former Soldiers in news reports.

Some data from this report was shared with ROK Government officials during a site visit to Camp Carroll on Saturday.  The study was a general environment assessment and did not specifically identify Agent Orange.  More data will be provided to the ROK Ministry of the Environment representative during a visit to Camp Carroll today.

The study further stated that these materials and 40-60 tons of soil were subsequently removed from the site in 1979-1980 and disposed of offsite.  Eighth Army officials are still trying to determine why the materials were buried and how it was disposed after it was excavated.

Subsequent testing in 2004 included using ground-penetrating radar and boring 13 test holes on and around the site.  Samples from 12 of the holes had no dioxin present.  The thirteenth hole revealed trace amounts of the chemical, but the amount was deemed to be no hazard to human health.

This is becoming a huge issue in Korea.   Stay tuned to see what unfolds.

The University of Hawaiʻi had a hand in the development of Agent Orange via agricultural research programs.  Two UH employees who worked with the chemicals got cancer, but could not win compensation.

 

Pacification of Okinawa – Senators call Base Realignment Plan “unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable”

May 13, 2011 

The Asahi News published a series of articles from Wikileaks diplomatic cables that reveal Tokyo-D.C. deception & fraud re the planned “Futenma Replacement” U.S. Marine base in Okinawa.   The Network for Okinawa published a synopsis of the disclosures and links to each article in the series.

These damaging disclosures were followed by a statement by powerful U.S. Senators calling for a reworking of the plans for bases and troops realignment in East Asia. The Asahi Shimbun reports:

Three influential U.S. senators, in joint statement on May 11, called on the Pentagon to abandon plans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture.

The senators are Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, R-Arizona, the ranking minority member on the committee and committee member Jim Webb, D-Virginia, who also serves as chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The three recommended the Pentagon consider integrating Futenma’s functions at Kadena Air Base, also in Okinawa.

The Armed Services Committee has authority over the Pentagon’s budget and the senators’ recommendations carry considerable weight. It will likely make more difficult implementation of the Japan-U.S. agreement reached in May 2010 to relocate Futenma to Nago.

Joseph Gerson made the following remarks in an email communication:

As the following article from today’s Asahi Shimbun indicates, the powers that be in the U.S. Congress have decided to pacify Okinawan public opinion – and to reinforce both the U.S. presence on Okinawa and the U.S.-Japan military alliance – by raising the white flag of surrender on Henoko/Nago, and pressing to move Futenma’s functions to Kadena Air Base, one of the largest in the world.  The Pentagon won’t click its heals immediately and follow suit, but this will probably be where the U.S. and Japanese governments eventually go.

Would that all U.S. forces were leaving Okinawa, Guam and elsewhere…

Here is the statement from Senators Webb, Levin and McCain

SENATORS LEVIN, McCAIN, WEBB CALL FOR RE-EXAMINATION OF MILITARY BASING PLANS IN EAST ASIA

Warn present realignment plans are unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), John McCain (R-AZ), and Jim Webb (D-VA) call on the Department of Defense (DoD) to re-examine plans to restructure U.S. military forces in East Asia, while providing assurances to Japan, Korea, and other countries that the United States strongly supports a continuous and vigorous U.S. presence in the region. The senators believe the current DoD realignment plans are unrealistic, unworkable, and unaffordable.

“Much has changed since the US-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreement was signed in 2006,” said Senator Levin. “The projected times are totally unrealistic. The significant estimated cost growth associated with some projects is simply unaffordable in today’s increasingly constrained fiscal environment. Political realities in Okinawa and Guam, as well as the enormous financial burden imposed on Japan by the devastation resulting from the disastrous March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, also must be considered.”

“The Asia-Pacific region’s growing role in the global distribution of power requires us to consistently review and update plans for the U.S. military’s role in the region,” said Senator McCain. “In addition, it’s very important to maintain strong bilateral alliances to ensure regional security and our national security interests.”

“Our country has reached a critical moment in terms of redefining our military role in East Asia,” said Senator Webb. “This moment in history requires that we clearly articulate our operational doctrine, thus reshaping the structure of our military posture in that region, particularly in Korea, Japan and Guam. The success of our relationships is guaranteed by the stability our forward-deployed military forces provide in this region and by our continuing close alliances with Japan and Korea.”

Senators Levin, McCain and Webb Propose

· Placing the realignment of the basing of U.S. military forces in South Korea on hold pending further review, and reevaluate any proposal to increase the number of family members accompanying military personnel.

· Revising the Marine Corps force realignment implementation plan for Guam to consist of a presence with a permanently-assigned headquarters element bolstered by deployed, rotating combat units that are home-based elsewhere, and consideration of off-island training sites.

· Examining the feasibility of moving Marine Corps assets at MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, rather than building an expensive replacement facility at Camp Schwab – while dispersing a part of Air Force assets now at Kadena to Andersen Air Base in Guam and/or other locations in Japan.

The proposals would save billions in taxpayer dollars, keep U.S. military forces in the region, greatly reduce the timing of sensitive political issues surrounding MCAS Futemna, and reduce the American footprint on Okinawa. The recommendations were based on proposals made by Senator Webb to the Committee and build upon the concerns expressed by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Acts for the past two years.

LETTER FROM SEN. ARMED SERVICES CHAIR LEVIN, ASIA SUBC. CHAIR WEBB TO DOD SEC. GATES LAST FRIDAY:

Dear Secretary Gates:

The purpose for this letter is to give you our observations and recommendations regarding the future U.S. defense posture and restructuring of our forces in East Asia. During the recent Senate recess, we visited Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, and Tokyo. Numerous meetings with US military commanders and diplomats, government officials, business leaders, and members of local communities allowed us to assess the current status of the planned realignment of our military forces and the political dynamics associated with them.

Our country has reached a critical moment in terms of redefining our military role in East Asia. This moment in history requires that we clearly articulate our operational doctrine, thus reshaping the structure of our military posture in that region, particularly in Korea, Japan and Guam. Importantly, it also warns against a basing policy that now seems to be driven by little more than the momentum of DOD appropriations related to construction projects, rather than an analysis of the logic that set those projects into motion. It calls upon those of us in the Congress, and especially on the Armed Services Committee, to both evaluate and become the stewards of the vital role that the United States military will play in Asia throughout the present century.

Much has changed since the US-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreement was signed in 2006. The projected times are totally unrealistic. The significant estimated cost growth associated with some projects is simply unaffordable in today’s increasingly constrained fiscal environment. Political realities in Okinawa and Guam, as well as the enormous financial burden imposed on Japan by the devastation resulting from the disastrous March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, also must be considered. What has not changed is that our country is the key to stability in this region. The success of our relationships is guaranteed by the stability our forward-deployed military forces provide and by our continuing close alliance with Japan.

In our view, present realignment plans are unrealistic and unworkable. They need to be carefully re-examined, while providing assurance to Japan, Korea, and other countries in East Asia that we strongly support a continuous and vigorous US presence in the region. Our observations are brief and general in nature, intended as the basis for detailed analysis by your staff.

Observations:

Korea

We are not confident that the proposed basing realignment in Korea is proceeding from an operational posture that fits our future role in Korea and the region writ large. Unlike any other “permanent” posturing of US forces abroad, our military forces in Korea are justified in terms of “local defense” – in other words, the defense of South Korea against an attack from the north. By contrast, our forces in Okinawa and Germany are considered to be available for multiple contingencies throughout their regions and beyond. This reality calls into question their size, positioning, and compatibility with the South Korean military. Thus, the credibility of our commitment to the defense of Korea should not be measured by the simple number of our troops, but by the specific missions that they perform. In that regard, we recommend a stringent review of their present missions to examine which are redundant, or capable of being performed by the South Korean military, and which are unique to the special capabilities of our own.

The ongoing construction of facilities at Camp Humphreys has been taking place through three separate funding mechanisms, only one of which seems to have been subject to careful review by the Congress. First, the South Korean government has been funding “one for one” replacement facilities for the transplacement of US bases in Seoul. Second, the US Commanding General seems to have had wide latitude in approving projects from discretionary funds under his control. And third, future projects, especially those related to the reconfiguration of combat units now on or near the DMZ, will be funded through specific appropriations and thus should receive closer scrutiny by Congress. In some respects this scrutiny is at risk because the momentum from the projects already underway threatens the ability of the Congress to properly examine issues related to the size, functioning and capabilities of US forces that were raised in the above paragraph.

Additionally, the estimated costs for relocations to Camp Humphreys are growing substantially. It is unclear how they will be distributed and whether the Republic of Korea’s share of costs is over and above its total direct financial contribution to support US troops in ways not contemplated when the relocation agreement was adopted. In today’s fiscal environment, we must achieve cost savings and identify cost avoidances in current and planned military construction projects. We recommend that the proposed restructuring of US forces in South Korea be placed on hold until the review mentioned above has taken place.

The US commander in Korea has decided that the number of American family members and civilians be dramatically increased under a process known as “tour normalization.” This process, which would convert almost all US military assignments in Korea from “deployed” status, without family members, to “accompanied” status, would drive up housing, medical, school, recreational, and other infrastructure costs. We are not convinced of the arguments that have been used to support this concept. Nor have we seen clear, measurable data that properly calculates the cost.

We question the analysis that has been used to support the decision to pursue tour normalization. There is an inherent contradiction in planning to increase the number of U.S. military family members in South Korea when there is the real potential that a destabilizing security situation in North Korea could unfold rapidly and unpredictably. We recommend that this proposal be the subject of further, careful review.

Okinawa / Guam

The issues related to downsizing the US presence on Okinawa and transferring some of these functions to Guam are militarily complex, potentially costly, and politically sensitive. The US and Japanese governments have been working for fifteen years to come up with an acceptable formula. A general framework has now been agreed upon, whereby the US will relocate many of its bases from the populous southern end of Okinawa, moving some forces to the less populous north and also rebasing 8,000 US Marines on Guam. However, a stalemate has ensued, with many in Okinawa growing intransigent and, to a lesser extent, many on Guam losing their enthusiasm.

On Okinawa, the most difficult issue regards the long-standing dilemma of relocating the US Marine Corps air facility at Futenma, now operating in a highly populated section of the island and the subject of numerous protests. The Marine Corps insists that any relocation must remain on Okinawa due to the unique air / ground partnership that is characteristic of Marine Corps operations. One option – moving Marine Corps helicopter and other functions from Futenma to nearby Kadena Air Force Base – has been opposed because it would bring increased noise levels to Kadena. Many Okinawans, including many leaders, are adamant that the facility should be relocated off-island.

The present compromise reached between the US government and the Government of Japan calls for the construction of a contiguous, partially offshore replacement facility to the far north at Camp Schwab. The US government and the GOJ seem determined to pursue this option in order to bring final closure to the debate, but it is rife with difficulties. This would be a massive, multi-billion dollar undertaking, requiring extensive landfill, destruction and relocation of many existing facilities, and in a best-case scenario, several years of effort – some estimate that the process could take as long as ten years. Moreover, the recent earthquake and tsunami around Sendai in the north of Japan is creating an enormous burden on the Japanese economy and will require years of reconstruction.

On Guam, environmental issues have not been resolved, and many community leaders are concerned that local communities and facilities would be overwhelmed by any large increase in our military presence. Their clear message is that federal money would be necessary to build up infrastructure outside of the bases in a manner commensurate with an increase in the bases themselves. Although several issues are being debated related to firing ranges on Guam and training activities on places like Tinian, the principal issue for military planners involves whether to relocate families along with the 8,000 Marines who would be assigned to that island or to configure the Marines mostly as deployed units rotating into and out of Guam from a home base such as Hawaii or Camp Pendleton. This distinction would make a strong difference in terms of infrastructure costs for schools, medical, recreational facilities, and housing. A good estimate is that 8,000 Marines would become 23,000 Americans if family members were included.

It should also be noted that Guam’s Anderson Air Force Base is a large, under-utilized facility. Mindful that B-52 missions were conducted continuously there in the 1970s, we estimate that Anderson Air Force Base is now operating at less than half of its capacity.

Recommendations.

The Marine Corps should consider revising its implementation plan for Guam to a stripped-down presence with a permanently-assigned (family accompanied) headquarters element bolstered by deployed, rotating combat units that are home-based elsewhere, and the construction of a “Camp Fuji” style training site on Tinian. The “planned” versus “preferred” options for Marine Corps presence on Guam need to be resolved so that the Navy can develop and provide to the Committee the master plan for the overall buildup on Guam that was first requested in 2006.

DOD should immediately examine the feasibility of moving the Marine Corps assets at Futenma into Kadena Air Force Base, while dispersing a percentage of Air Force assets now at Kadena into other areas of the Pacific region. A number of other options exist in Japan and, especially, Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. In addition, the 6,000-acre ammunition storage area at Kadena could potentially be down-sized, especially in light of the two ammunition storage areas already located on Guam – one of them comprising 8,000 acres in and of itself, and the other one already located on Anderson Air Force Base.

Reducing the burden of the US presence on the people of Okinawa is an important goal associated with the realignment roadmap. Relocating Marine Corps aviation assets as outlined above will allow the US to return the land at the Futenma Air Base faster and at substantially less expense than the current plan for the Replacement Facility at Camp Schwab. Additionally, it is imperative that we pursue every opportunity to avoid unnecessary and unaffordable costs to the US taxpayer. Money saved by abandoning the Camp Schwab FRF could be applied to new projects in the revised realignment plan following negotiations with the Government of Japan to formulate a new cost-sharing agreement.This option would keep our military forces in the region, would greatly reduce the timing of the sensitive political issues surrounding Futemna, could save billions in costs that would have gone into the offshore facility at Camp Schwab, would reduce the American footprint on Okinawa, and potentially could result in the return of more land to the Okinawan people if the size of the ammunition storage area at Kadena could be reduced.

We look forward to discussing these and other possibilities with you and your staff at your earliest convenience.

 

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