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U.S. president says time wasting on Guam buildup

By Therese Hart SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 26, 2010) – SENATOR Judi Guthertz said the Japanese government’s move to back down from changing the 2006 U.S.-Japan agreement was quite expected, considering the brief confrontation between President Obama and Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on April 12.

Guthertz said as the U.S. and Japan move to iron out the remaining technicalities of the agreement, "the focus of attention by the U.S. government and the Department of Defense will now be on Guam."

"Japan has too much to risk by not cooperating with the U.S. and it’s time to get on with a military buildup that’s fair and reasonable to Guam," said Guthertz, chairwoman of the committee on the military buildup committee.

The senator said Guam must "be ready, proactive and aggressive in dealing with the U.S. to ensure that the Guam buildup is fair and reasonable in all areas."

"We can’t let our guard down for a minute if we want this buildup to really benefit our people and local businesses and to ensure that it does not damage our island in any way," Guthertz said.

According to The Washington Post, a brief but blunt exchange took place between Obama and Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on April 12 during the prime minister's visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit.

During the 10-minute encounter, Obama told Hatoyama that the two countries were "running out of time" and asked him whether he could be trusted. Japanese officials were so taken aback by the toughness of Obama's tone that they did not draw up a written record of the words exchanged between the two leaders, the Post quoted sources as saying.

Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Obama and Hatoyama "agreed fully on the importance of the relationship and committed to cooperate on alliance issues."

Other events might also have pushed Tokyo to modify its tune, according to the Washington Post.

The Japanese government indicated that it will end the dispute over the relocation of Okinawa-based Marines by accepting key parts of a 2006 agreement that will shift the Futenma air station to a less populated part of the island.

The controversy had raised major questions about plans for the Guam end of the military buildup, even as to whether it would occur.

Guthertz said there is continuing need for Washington to know there is unity on this point by the people of Guam. She said that the current draft environmental impact statement on the buildup has spread doubt throughout the entire Guam community as to whether local concerns are being fairly heard and evaluated.

"We have to insist on being real partners in the buildup planning and execution and not be taken for granted by the White House, Congress, DoD or any other federal entity," she said.

"Guam’s leaders must unite and speak with one voice on all buildup matters. If the federal government changes its approach and actively works with Guam’s leadership in a true partnership, then the military buildup will work for everyone who calls Guam home and our Marines and their families will receive a wonderful Guam welcome when they start arriving," she added.

Japan’s move will diminish months of discord between the two allies, said Guthertz.

According to The Washington Post, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada presented U.S. Ambassador John Roos with a proposal to settle the dispute, telling him that Japan was moving toward accepting significant parts of a 2006 deal to move the Futenma air station from the center of the city of 92,000 to a less populated part of Okinawa, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Okada, however, suggested some changes, including altering the design of the runway at the air station, planned for the town of Henoko, and moving parts of the Marine Corps facility to an island about 100 miles from Okinawa, the sources said. U.S. officials said they were pleased by the proposal, but stressed that it was a first step and that Japanese officials would be providing more details sometime this week.

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