May 23, 2006

US-Japan military pact still strong, says Lawless

HAGATNA, Guam (Reuters) - Japan's increasing military role
was indicative of U.S. support for a continued U.S.-Japan
alliance, Richard Lawless, the U.S. deputy defense
undersecretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs, said on Tuesday.

"Japan in effect has agreed to transform the alliance with
us and assume more responsibility for the alliance -- more
responsibility for roles, missions and capabilities," he told
Reuters during a visit to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Lawless said the placement in 2008 of the George Washington
nuclear-powered battle group in Japan was "another
manifestation of our obligations to the alliance."

U.S. Marine units that will move to Guam would still play a
role in the U.S.-Japan alliance, he said.

"Anywhere we're based in the Pacific ... provides a
platform for us to execute our responsibilities," he said.

The visit by Lawless came after an agreement on May 1
between Japanese Defense Minister Fukushiro Nukaga and U.S.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on how to split the costs of
moving 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa.

Guam was important in the new structure, Lawless said.

"It's a relocation of our forces from Okinawa, but it's
really part and parcel of the entire global posture
realignment, the so-called forward basing in the Pacific," he

The move of U.S. forces to Guam would be costly and for the
long term, he told Reuters.

"When we began negotiating with the Japanese we decided
what we wanted to put in Guam, with regards to the navy, the
air force and the relocation of the Marines," he said.

He referred to "a very preliminary Guam master plan" now
being finalized before it will be sent for approval to Pacific
Command in July or August, and then to Congress.

The $6.09 billion the Japanese had agreed to fund would be
"primarily in the area of actual construction of operational
facilities," Lawless said, adding the money would also cover
some infrastructure and family housing.

Within two to three years, Guam could expect to see "a huge
amount of construction," he said.

Governor Felix Camacho said Guam recognized social concerns
over the transfer of a large military force to the island.

"We've requested to have a seat at the table to bring up
local issues," he said. "We're very sensitive to this and we
want to make sure that it's beneficial not only for the nation,
but for Guam and our people."

Lawless was also scheduled to meet members of the island's
legislature and business community.

Besides 8,000 Marines and some 10,000 family members, Guam
will also see an increase in navy assets and the military
presence at Andersen Air Force Base, which will host unmanned
Global Hawk surveillance planes and regional training

The U.S. fiscal 2007 defense budget includes $208 million
in military construction projects for Guam.