Panetta, Japanese Officials Reaffirm Commitment to Marine Corps Realignment
During his first visit to Japan as defense secretary, Leon Panetta and his counterpart told the media that both are committed to strengthening the countries’ relationship and to carrying out all parts of the agreement to shift 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
Panetta said that Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa — along with the prime minster and foreign affairs minister — assured him that the Japanese government is moving ahead with plans to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, reported American Forces Press Service. The government plans to submit an environmental impact statement for the replacement base by the end of the year.
In response to a reporter’s question, Panetta said he would not impose any specific timeline in the near term for Japanese progress on building a replacement on Okinawa for Futenma. Panetta also stressed the importance that the United States places on the Asia-Pacific region, in light of the nation’s uphill battle against the deficit.
“It’s no secret that the United States faces some very tough fiscal decisions back home. But let me reassure the people of Japan, let me reassure you as secretary of defense that the one thing that we have determined in discussions as to our future strategy, the one thing we are agreed up on is that the Pacific will remain a key priority. I will continue to strengthen our forces in this part of the world,” he said.