Okinawa Times led with a report claiming that an unnamed senior official who worked at the White House under the Obama administration told the paper on Thursday that the administration was aware of the presence of an alleged secret agreement between the GSDF and the U.S. Marines in 2015 to station a GSDF amphibious rapid deployment brigade at the new base to be constructed at Henoko. Quoting the former official as expressing the view that the deployment plan was based on a common understanding held by the U.S. and Japanese governments, the paper argued that the remark runs counter to Prime Minister Suga’s statement at a Diet session that the GOJ has not considered the joint use of the base on a regular basis. The paper claimed that the former official, who is well versed in security issues in Asia and was involved in U.S. base issues in Okinawa, commented on the possibility of having a GSDF unit stationed at Henoko by saying that the Department of Defense began studying the idea around 2011 when Congress proposed a review of the plan to construct a new base at Henoko. The paper also quoted the former official as saying that the Pentagon, which was cautious about the “idea” due to concern over legal issues involving the permission for landfill work for the FRF construction at Henoko, considered upgrading it to a “plan.” The former official reportedly stressed that it is the basic policy of the United States and Japan that the joint use of U.S. military bases is indispensable for constructing an equal relationship between the United States and Japan.
In a related development, Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that GSDF Chief of Staff Yuasa denied the existence of the alleged secret agreement at a press briefing on Thursday by saying that the joint use of U.S. military facilities in Japan is not a matter to be decided only between the GSDF and the U.S. Marines.