GUAM – In a rare interview ahead of next week’s defense ministerial in Tokyo, the top U.S. military leader in Japan insists that sooner rather than later is the time to complete a new Marine air base on Okinawa to replace the one now in the island’s overcrowded Futenma area. The replacement base, long held up by domestic politics in Japan, would ultimately lead to the transfer of some Futenma-based Marines to Guam.

Lt. General Burton Field, Commander of the U.S. Forces in Japan, says that moving Japan-deployed Marines to a place they can better operate – specifically to the quieter northeast coast of Okinawa – trumps any alternative, including the plan reasserted earlier this week by U.S. Senator Jim Webb. That proposal would abandon the plan for a new base and instead disperse Futenma assets and forces to other stations in the region.

Pushing for forward progress on the Futenma replacement facility is high on the U.S. agenda as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is scheduled to meet with his Japan counterpart, Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa, at their first ministerial in Tokyo on Monday.

A three-star general, Lt. Gen. Field is also Commander of the 5th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, stationed at Yokota Air Base on the Japan mainland. He is the senior U.S. military representative in the country.

Read the interview with Lt. Gen. Field in The Wall Street Journal at the link here.

 

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