A statement from the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos of the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey to Japan

A statement from the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos of the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey to Japan

8/16/2012 By CMC, Marine Corps Bases Japan

Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps − For nearly 65 years, Japan and the United States have worked together building a strategic alliance that has been the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The long and steady presence of Marines on Okinawa, at Iwakuni, and at other locations within Japan reflects our nation's commitment to the defense of this important ally, and serves as a bridge between our cultures - one that has forged bonds of true friendship and understanding between the American and Japanese people. Generations of Marines have lived and worked in Japan, maintain a deep affinity for Japanese culture, and treasure the many close personal friendships they have developed over the years.

As we look to the future, we are committed to forward deploying our strongest capabilities in the defense of our Japanese allies. As such, the Marine Corps is in the process of replacing its aging CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters – across the Marine Corps as well as in Japan – with new MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. As the senior pilot on active duty today in the United States military, I personally attest that there is no more definitive way to strengthen the aviation capability of our allied forces than to forward deploy these remarkably capable aircraft to the Asia-Pacific region as soon as possible. The deployment of the MV-22 to Japan, and its eventual location on Okinawa, is critical to the United States' fulfillment of its responsibilities under our mutual security treaty. The first twelve MV-22s arrived at Iwakuni, Japan on July 23, 2012.

On August 14, 2012, I returned from the Asia-Pacific region, where I spent time with our nation's friends and allies, including our Japanese partners, discussing mutual regional security interests. During my time in Tokyo, I specifically heard Japan's concerns about the Osprey first hand. I am mindful that there are some who are concerned about tilt rotor technology because of past accidents involving the aircraft, in particular our most recent mishap earlier this year in Morocco. As the Commandant, I pledge to our partners, and to the Japanese people, that we will work with them to allay those concerns.

As a Marine officer and a pilot, I have been stationed both on Okinawa and at Iwakuni over my 41 year career, and thus have flown in the skies over most of Japan. In fact, last week I flew one of our aging CH-46 helicopters out along the coastline of Okinawa, across the uninhabited Northern Training Area, landing back at the Futenma Air Base. Because of these experiences and my Service Chief responsibilities, I want the people of Japan, and in particular those living on Okinawa, to know that I care equally as much about the safety of our friends and neighbors in the communities around which we live and operate, as I do about my Marines who fly and operate our Osprey aircraft. Ospreys operate today in Afghanistan and off our Navy's amphibious ships throughout the world, and when required, they fly into some of our nation's most densely populated areas, such as New York City, San Diego, California, and Washington, DC. That said, it is my intent that Marine Osprey pilots will make every effort to minimize flying over heavily populated areas in Japan. Historical data gathered from the past 10 years of flying proves that the Osprey is one of the safest aircraft flying in the U.S. inventory. Having surpassed 100,000 flight hours last year and over 13 highly successful combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, the airplane has proven its mettle in some of the most demanding environmental conditions imaginable – including having been shot at and hit on several occasions during combat.

Many are unaware that this notable safety record is not the product of mere chance; it reflects a rigorous and lengthy design/development process as well as a continuous effort to deliver material improvements, software updates, and enhanced pilot training. These extensive efforts are consistent with the US military’s longstanding interest in the safe operation of equipment around the world. This information, along with the facts from our Morocco mishap, is being shared this week with the Japanese assessment team that is currently examining the technical capabilities of the aircraft.

Introduction of the Osprey into the Asia-Pacific region will allow the US to deliver to its allies, the unprecedented capabilities the Marine Corps brings with its MV-22s in terms of range, lift, and speed. Whether swiftly moving forces in response to a security threat, or transporting disaster victims and delivering relief supplies in a natural disaster such as during Operation Tomodachi, the Osprey will fly markedly faster, farther, while carrying more than the vintage 40-year-old CH-46 helicopter that it will replace. As our two governments work through the details of basing the MV-22, I remain confident in the aircraft's safety and capabilities and the significant advantages its deployment will bring to the Japanese and American people.
posted by Kosuke at 17:19| Comment(0) | Asia Times


(My latest in Asia Times)North Korea targets reset in Japan relations

North Korea targets Japan relations

North Korean efforts to warm relations with Japan suggest Kim Jong-eun is well-versed in his father's tactic of exploiting diplomatic divides among adversaries, with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba now threatening to seek international intervention over an islet dispute with South Korea. Pyongyang's ultimate prize remains bilateral talks with the United States, so young Kim could equally be laying the ground for a diplomatic breakthrough should voters hand power to new leaders in Seoul and Washington later this year. - Kosuke Takahashi (Aug 15, '12)

North Korea targets reset in Japan relations
By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO - North Korea has found a good fishing spot in the troubled waters of Japan-South Korea relations.

The Japanese government on Tuesday announced it had agreed to hold bilateral talks with North Korea in China on August 29 over the repatriation of Japanese remains from the North. If they go ahead as planned, these would be the first government-level negotiations between the countries in four years.

By approaching Tokyo, the North appears to be relying on its favored tactic of exploiting diplomatic divides among its adversaries. Relations between Japan and South Korea have plummeted in recent days over a territorial dispute.

The announcement of Japan-North Korea talks comes just four days after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a controversial visit to disputed islets called Dokdo by South Koreans and Takeshima by the Japanese in the Sea of Japan (known in Korea as the East Sea). (See Lee puts Japan-Korea relations on the rocks, Asia Times Online, Aug 10, '12)

Lee also urged Japan to redress the issue of so-called "comfort women," mostly Korean, who were forced to become sex slaves during Japan's Asia-Pacific War (1930-1945) in an annual speech on Wednesday to mark Korea's liberation day from Japan.

A day earlier, Lee had said that Japan's Emperor Akihito should offer his heartfelt apologies to Koreans who died and underwent suffering under Japanese colonial rule if the emperor wants to pay a visit to Seoul, further enflaming nationalistic sentiments.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba on Wednesday said Tokyo has protested against South Korean President Lee's remarks on the Japanese emperor.

"Japan has never taken up the emperor's visit to South Korea," Gemba told reporters."In such a situation, it's hard to understand the president's remarks. It's extremely regrettable."

In response to Lee's island visit, Gemba has also said that Japan will consider taking the matter to the International Court of Justice.
"We would like to take the step in the not-too-distant future. Until now, the Japanese government has considered what impact such action may have on Japan-South Korea ties," Gemba said.

Although the Japanese government has notified South Korea of Tokyo's upcoming talks with North Korea, Seoul must have mixed feelings about the proposed negotiations between Pyongyang and Tokyo.

The diplomatic opening between Japan and North Korea follows a meeting between the Japanese and the North Korean Red Cross societies in Beijing on August 9-10 - their first in 10 years. Officials from the charities discussed the return of Japanese remains and possible visits by relatives to the graves of loved ones in North Korea.

Tokyo likely wants to break a long-running impasse over the issue of alleged abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s by North Korean agents, amid public criticism that its efforts to resolve the issue have been insufficient.

"Not only the issue of remains but also the abduction issue should be included in the agenda of the talks," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The government-level talks will be the first since the ruling Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009 and the first for new North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il after his death in December 2011.

"For Pyongyang, the US is the hardest nation to convince to start negotiations, as the current US administration has adopted its so-called policy of strategic patience," a US policy that stresses Pyongyang has to make the first move by making concessions over the regime's nuclear and missile programs, Masao Okonogi, emeritus professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a noted expert on the affairs of the Korean Peninsula, told Asia Times Online on Wednesday.

"To goad the US towards negotiations, Pyongyang has to deal with South Korea beforehand. To goad South Korea to negotiations, it has to deal with Japan. Pyongyang currently cannot deal with the US and Seoul, which faces presidential elections and possible changes of government," he said.

About 34,600 Japanese soldiers, colonists and their families are believed to have died of hunger and disease in the aftermath of the Second World War in what is now North Korea. Many were escaping from the former Manchuria, a puppet state founded by the Japanese in 1932 in Northeast China, as the Soviet Army invaded there in 1945. The remains of 13,000 people have been repatriated to Japan but more than 20,000 remains are still buried in about 70 graves in North Korea, according to the Japanese government.

Kosuke Takahashi is a Tokyo-based Japanese journalist. His twitter is @TakahashiKosuke

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
posted by Kosuke at 18:43| Comment(0) | Asia Times


(My latest in Asia Times) Lee puts Japan-Korea ties on the rocks


Lee puts Japan-Korea ties on the rocks

The timing of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit on Friday to islets disputed with Japan - days before the South marks its 1945 liberation from Japanese occupation - suggests he plans to inflame nationalist sentiment to distract from claims his government has run out of steam. For Tokyo, it now faces another territorial challenge alongside Russian and Chinese claims, as neighbors capitalize on its weakening regional clout. - Kosuke Takahashi (Aug 10, '12)


Lee puts Japan-Korea relations on the rocks
By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO - August 10, 2012 will be long remembered in the history of Japan-Korea relations as a day that laid the seeds for future calamity.

Despite strong demands from Tokyo to cancel his plans, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Friday made an unprecedented visit to disputed islets in the Sea of Japan called Dokdo by Koreans and Takeshima by the Japanese.

The first such trip by a South Korean president to the islands, this will send already-chilly Japan-South Korean relations to their lowest point in decades. Repercussions will be felt not only in Seoul and Tokyo, but also Beijing, Washington and Pyongyang, likely impacting on a united front the US planned to build against China's naval expansion and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Japan has summoned South Korea's ambassador to protest against the visit, a Kyodo news agency report said. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba had already said any such visit "would have a great impact on Japan-South Korea relations" and that Japan would "have to respond firmly".

South Korea's presidential office said the purpose of Lee's visit to the area was partly to confirm how the environment on nearby Ulleungdo Island was being protected. Lee's ministers of environment and culture accompanied him. It seems Lee is stressing this purpose of environmental research, perhaps to appease Tokyo.

His visit came ahead of August 15, when Korea will mark its liberation in 1945 from Japanese rule. Korean nationalism and patriotism always rise to the fore at this time.

It seems that Lee, already seen by many as lame-duck ahead of the presidential election in December, aims to recover his and his party's place in political power by fanning ethnic sentiment.

He also may want to distract the public from corruption scandals involving his elder brother and mentor, Lee Sang-deuk, 76, and his former aides, who were arrested on bribery charges last month. Lee was forced to apologize to the public on national television for the scandals.

"The lame-duck Lee administration in the last year is trying to make Japan into a scapegoat," Masao Okonogi, emeritus professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a noted expert on the affairs of the Korean Peninsula, told Asia Times Online on Friday. "In South Korea, no media can criticize such popularism openly, as long as the target is Japan."

Hideshi Takesada, a professor at Yonsei University of South Korea, echoed Okonogi's views. "Lee has become a lame duck faster than previous [Korean] presidents. The damage of the bribery scandals is also huge. To recover public support for him, he needs to take a hard-line stance toward Japan, which is a popular thing in both ruling and opposition parties as well as among both conservatives and liberalists."

As if reflecting growing anti-Korean feelings, on the Internet young Japanese even been claiming that Lee is visiting the disputed islands to provoke racial resentment as both nations face each other in bronze medal volleyball and soccer matches at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Bilateral relations remain strained over historical issues, especially the unresolved issue of former "comfort women", who were mobilized, or often coerced, as sex slaves during Japan's Asia-Pacific War (1930-1945).

Although Seoul has repeatedly demanded the Japanese government compensate the women, Tokyo has refused to do so, saying it has no legal obligation to compensate war victims, including those forced to become laborers and comfort women.

Moreover, Japan's 2012 Defence White Paper, published by the Japanese Ministry of Defense on July 31, explicitly mentioned that the disputed islands were Japan's "inherent territory", prompting a strong South Korean protest. For Seoul, the islands are not only a subject of territorial dispute but also a legacy of Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonial occupation. All of these factors have put Tokyo and Seoul on a collision course.

South Korea has had a permanent presence on the Dokdo islands since 1954, but Japan has never renounced its claim over the territory, which it incorporated in 1905. Both countries point to historical records dating back several centuries to support their cases.

This is not the only territorial dispute faced by Japan. To the south, it is engaged in a sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands) and competing development of offshore gas fields in the East China Sea. In the north, it has the thorny issue of the Russian-held Northern Territories, known in Russia as the Southern Kurils.

Russo-Japanese relations have also deteriorated as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly visited those disputed islands since November 2010, triggering fierce protests from Tokyo. "South Korean President Lee may have taken a cue from Medvedev's visit to Northern Territories," Okonogi said.

Japan's neighbors appear to be taking advantage of the country's weakening political and economic muscle

"Japan is looked down on by China, so South Korea thinks it not necessary to make a compromise with Japan," Takesada said. "This is the centerpiece of Seoul's stance toward Japan. Since China's influence over South Korea's economy is growing, people are increasingly thinking that as long as Seoul maintains good relations with Beijing, the nation will not have any difficulties."

In Tokyo, experts say South Korea is hoping Japan will take on the dangerous role of having to stand up to China, while Seoul itself pursues good terms with Beijing.

Kosuke Takahashi is a Tokyo-based Japanese journalist. His twitter is @TakahashiKosuke

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
posted by Kosuke at 04:24| Comment(0) | Asia Times