- By Pacific Island Times
US, Japan reaffirm Marines realignment plan; Leon Guerrero says Guam must have stronger voice in def
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono reaffirmed their commitment to the realignment plan to move U.S. forces from Okinawa to Guam and other initiatives, including construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility.
Esper hosted Kono in Guam, where they reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance and discussed ways to deepen and expand bilateral defense cooperation.
Esper also met with Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who asked that Guam be given a stronger representation in military planning that involves Guam.
“As the tip of the spear and first line of defense in the Pacific Region, Guam must have a stronger voice in military discussions,” Leon Guerrero said.
The governor expressed the need for Guam to have an accessible and affordable labor force, noting most Guam projects, inside or outside the fence, are military related. She requested for support to allow for the use of H2B workers from the Philippines for all projects on the island.
“A good partnership does not leave either party in a deficit, and with the support of the Department of Defense, I look forward to working with the military to work on important infrastructure projects," the governor said. "I thank Secretary Esper for his visit to Guam and listening to our concerns.”
Esper discussed plans regarding U.S. presence in the Pacific and wanting to make To accomplish these goals,
the most effective footprint and defense in the region and how they were exploring different options to accomplish that goal.It would involve investing heavily in the region and creating a stronger network with the U.S. territories and sovereign Micronesian states.
"It was an honor to host Secretary Esper and Governor Leon Guerrero at JRM Headquarters in our historic conference room for a productive meeting,” said Rear Adm. Menoni. “The Secretary's visit reaffirms the valued collaboration with our partners in the Government of Guam, the strategic location of the Marianas, and the critical role that Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands play in our nation's defense."
About 5,000 US marines based in Japan's Okinawa are scheduled to relocate to a new base in Dededo, beginning in 2025. The relocation is expected to cost about $8 billion, with Japan shouldering about $US2.8 billion.
Esper and Kono agreed to continue efforts to support interoperability and to enhance Alliance capabilities, particularly for integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) and for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions. They also agreed on the importance of secure networks and of strengthening information security to protect advanced defense technologies.
Esper noted the importance of Japan’s steps toward completing the purchase of Mageshima to support field carrier landing practice. The two defense leaders recognized the importance of local community engagement in ensuring stable stationing of U.S. forces in Japan.
Esper further committed to maintaining the highest standards of safety for all U.S. personnel, while emphasizing the necessity of training to maintain readiness.
Esper and Kono exchanged views on their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, expressing serious concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong, as well as coercive and destabilizing actions vis-à-vis Taiwan.
Both ministers restated their commitment to maintain a rules-based order in the East and South China Seas, and more broadly in the region and world.
Exper welcomed Japan’s efforts to strengthen cooperation with other likeminded partners, including members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India, Australia, and trilaterally with the United States and the Republic of Korea.
Esper reiterated the U.S. commitment to the full implementation of President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Joint Statement at the 2018 Singapore Summit, which includes the complete elimination of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, their means of production, and their means of delivery.
Esper thanked Japan for its strong leadership in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolutions sanctions to disrupt North Korea’s illicit ship-to-ship transfers, and for hosting multinational forces that support this effort.
The Ministers committed to work together closely to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to cooperate in providing assistance in response.