By Sumiyo Henna, special correspondent in the U.S.
James Mattis, who has been named by President-elect Donald Trump as secretary of defense, is a former Marine general. He is keen on the reinforcement of the U.S. Marines, which have suffered a retrenchment as a result of military budget cuts. It is highly possible that he may strengthen policies on military bases in Okinawa, which is the only overseas operation base of the Marines.
Mattis retired as the commander of the Central Command three years ago. Under federal law, veterans cannot serve as defense secretary within seven years of their retirement, so Mattis’ appointment will require an exemption from Congress.
Therefore, officials of the Trump transition team sounded out Senator John McCain and other political heavyweights first, finding out that many of them welcomed Mattis’ appointment. They concluded that there would be no problem, so Trump went ahead to nominate Mattis.
According to a source close to Trump, in addition to McCain, Mattis also talked with a number of members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He had a lively exchange of views on the plans to disperse the Marines in Asia and the Pacific with Senator Dan Sullivan, who is a proponent of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station to Henoko, Nago City, at a recent meeting.
According to a source in the Trump transition team, Mattis has already presented a draft of his military policies to Trump. After his formal nomination on Dec. 5, he will coordinate his policies with Trump’s military policies compiled by his designate national security adviser Michael Flynn and begin to work on a final draft. Trump’s policies include pursuing the plan to build a new base in Henoko. It is of great interest how this will be reflected in the final draft. (Slightly abridged)