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Despite setbacks, military move will happen

By Tiffany Sukola HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 23, 2010) - Plans to relocate 8,000 U.S. Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam are likely to move forward despite objections from Guam residents, Japanese lawmaker Koki Kobayashi said over the weekend.

The senior member of Japan’s House of Representatives was on Guam to discuss the status of relations between the United States and Japan.

Kobayashi, a member of the committee that oversees policies involving Okinawa, said he does not anticipate any major changes to the 2006 U.S./Japan bilateral agreement to realign American troops in Japan.

"This issue is top news in Japan as well," said Kobayashi through a translator. "But it will come down too close to what Guam already thinks will happen."

Kobayashi said Guam residents can expect to see an increase in U.S. troops over the next few years because the new Japanese government is eager to reduce the number of American forces in Okinawa.

According to Kobayashi, the Hatoyama government wants to address the concerns of Okinawans who want the estimated 50,000 U.S. troops currently on Japanese soil to leave.

"People have complained about noise and other troubles caused by the presence of the American base," Kobayashi said. "The people of Japan say they no longer want an American base."

While Kobayashi recognizes the importance of keeping a U.S. base in Japan, he said there is a large gap between what lawmakers think about the issue and what Japanese residents want.

"Politicians want the base to keep peace in the Pacific region," Kobayashi said. "But the people of Japan think that since we are in a time of peace right now, that the base is no longer needed."

Kobayashi said the Japanese people are expecting their government to make changes to the current situation on Okinawa. "The government just wants to soothe some of the complaints of the people," Kobayashi said.

According to the Japanese lawmaker, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is giving sincere consideration to the people of Okinawa and in the end, will likely move forward with the current plan to relocate the U.S. troops.

Kobayashi said he was not surprised to hear of a strong movement on Guam to keep plans to relocate the troops from happening.

However, Kobayashi said the decision about where to move the thousands of Marines is ultimately up to the U.S. military.

"Japan wants to reduce the number of U.S. Marines, and they have to go somewhere," Kobayashi said. "The U.S. has to decide where, on Guam or elsewhere, but they have to be moved from Japan."

Kobayashi said the Hatoyama government hopes friction over the realignment of troops does not damage U.S.-Japan relations.

He said as the structure of the world is quickly changing, Japan sees relations between the two countries as extremely precious and worth cultivating.

The Hatoyama government still thinks U.S. relations are the most important to have in today’s shifting economic front, Kobayashi said. "Japan is starting to enter into more economic relations with other countries, but the U.S. remains Japan’s ally country," he added.

China is quickly becoming an economic superpower. However, Kobayashi said, since the country does not share

Japan’s idea of democracy, China will never replace the United States in importance and value.

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