JAPAN-U.S. TIES (3): Numbers inflated in Marine relocation plan to increase political impact
May 7, 2011 by Paul
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Due to political considerations, the plan to relocate thousands of U.S. Marines from Okinawa Prefecture to Guam under a 2006 agreement included doctored figures related to Japan's financial burden and troop levels.
Such manipulation, uncovered in an Asahi Shimbun analysis of about 7,000 Japan-related diplomatic cables obtained from WikiLeaks, could affect the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The move of Marines to Guam is supposed to be conducted in conjunction with the Futenma relocation.
Japan and the United States in May 2006 compiled a road map for realigning U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan. Under the plan, a provisional agreement was reached in December 2008 on the move to Guam that included the financial burden on each nation.
A diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to the U.S. State Department that provided details on the negotiations explained that Japan's share was made to appear smaller with the inclusion of an unnecessary project costing $1 billion (81 billion yen) to construct a military road by the United States.
The cable also explained that the numbers of those to be moved to Guam was inflated to 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members to "optimize political value" (of the agreement).
A diplomatic cable said that in 2006, there were "on the order of 13,000" Marines based in Okinawa. Okinawa prefectural government officials argued that the actual number was 12,000 and criticized the figure included in the relocation road map as an exaggeration.
Although the issue was taken up in the Diet, the government at the time refused to confirm the actual number of personnel to be moved. The cables back up Okinawa's doubts about the figures.
The Democratic Party of Japan-led government was not the first to make secret promises on the Futenma relocation issue that differed from official statements. Such discrepancies can be found in cables from the era of the coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
The Japan-U.S. road map compiled in May 2006 included figures that differed from reality due to political considerations made by both governments.
The figures include not only the number of U.S. Marines based in Okinawa, but also the number of family members there, as well as the overall financial burden for moving Marines to Guam.
A series of cables dated Dec. 19, 2008, and classified "confidential" were sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others. They include the contents of a tentative agreement reached at working-level talks on moving Marines to Guam that defined the financial burdens to be borne by the two governments.
The documents show some of the hidden background in the road map for military realignment.
One example relates to $1 billion set aside to construct military roads, part of the approximately $4.1 billion to be borne by the United States. That figure represents about 40 percent of the total cost of $10.2 billion to relocate the Marines.
Two of the cables explain the road construction expenses were included during "negotiations on cost-sharing as a way to increase the overall cost estimate (i.e., the denominator) and thereby reduce the share of total costs borne by Japan."
The cables also show that the road was not necessary for the completion of the move.
During negotiations for the road map, a central focal point was the burden to be borne by Japan. The United States initially asked that Japan contribute 75 percent of the total, but the two sides eventually agreed on 59 percent. However, if the road construction cost is excluded from the U.S. contribution, Japan's burden increases to about 66 percent.
During talks for a formal agreement, U.S. negotiators said the road was not absolutely necessary and asked that the reference be deleted as a way to avoid an international obligation to build the military road.
The cables also show that the figures of 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members to be moved to Guam from Okinawa were upper limits included as a budgetary measure.
"The two sides knew that these numbers differed significantly from actual Marines and dependents assigned to units in Okinawa," one of the cables says.
The cable goes on to say the "numbers were deliberately maximized to optimize political value in Japan."
Other wording in the cable states that while the road map agreement said 9,000 family members would be moved, the number was actually smaller in Okinawa. The United States proposed using the term "associated dependents" to leave open the possibility that family members not currently living in Okinawa could be included.
However, Japanese officials did not agree to that proposal.
Such differences were never made public.
Soon after Barack Obama became president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Japan in February 2009 and signed the agreement on the move of Marines to Guam with then Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.
At that time, the Japanese bureaucrats and the U.S. government wanted to create a legal framework that would require the immediate implementation of the Futenma relocation plan if the DPJ took over control of government following a Lower House election expected that year.
A "secret" cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to Clinton that provided an explanation before her visit to Japan said, "Japanese officials believe the agreement and the allotment of over $900 million in realignment funding during the next fiscal year will buttress Japan's commitment to the May 1, 2006, Alliance Transformation Agreement even if there is a change in government here."
At that point, the move of Marines to Guam and the construction of a Futenma replacement facility that would serve as a precondition had already become part of an indivisible package.