Okinawa Times claimed in its top story this morning that a source connected with both the U.S. and Japanese governments has told the paper in response to a joint inquiry from Okinawa Times and Kyodo News that the GSDF and U.S. Marines reached a “secret agreement” in 2015 on a plan to station the GSDF’s amphibious rapid deployment brigade at the Futenma Replacement Facility to be constructed at Henoko. The paper alleged the Ground Staff Office started discussions on the plan with the Marines in 2012 by sending senior members to Camp Schwab for onsite surveys and that then-GSDF Chief of Staff Iwata and then-Okinawa Area Coordinator Nicholson reached an agreement on the plan in 2015. The paper wrote that the plan has been temporarily frozen because there was concern within the GOJ that the plan, if disclosed, would invite further criticism from Okinawa. The paper also wrote that there was criticism within the Ministry of Defense that the plan, for which the ministry’s official approval had not been obtained, ran counter to “civilian control of the SDF.”
The paper argued that although the GOJ has explained that the new base will be constructed for use by the U.S. military, it will likely become a core facility for promoting joint operations by the two forces if it is used by both the SDF and Marines. The paper speculated that local opposition will escalate because the plan would lead to a major upgrade and permanent use of the new base.
However, the paper also wrote that multiple officials of the defense ministry have denied the existence of the “secret agreement” by saying they have no knowledge of and that the ministry is not considering such a plan at present. One of the military officials reportedly said that although the ministry is planning to deploy a third amphibious unit in Kyushu in the end of fiscal 2023, there is no plan to deploy such a unit in Okinawa. Another senior ministry official reportedly said that although the ministry had studied the idea, it did not reach an agreement to deploy the unit at Henoko. The official reportedly added that it is necessary to conclude an agreement between the governments of the United States and Japan to jointly use a facility and that he does not understand what the “secret agreement” indicates.
Ryukyu Shimpo gave top play to a similar report.