Incoming US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit to Japan is fast becoming overshadowed by an escalating row over a new American military base on Okinawa, which is threatening to derail Tokyo’s pro-US involvement in regional security.
Carter’s visit to Tokyo, which kicked off Wednesday, coincides with a major review of US-Japan defense cooperation, the first since 1997. It would formalize the US role in Japan’s plan to allow collective self-defense, a policy that would permit Tokyo to aid militarily an ally facing an attack – a drift from Japan’s restrictions put on its military by the country’s post-World War II constitution.
Also on the table is the stalled relocation of a US military base in Okinawa to another part of the island. The US Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in heavily populated Ginowan has been a cause of tensionbetween American troops and local residentsfor years. Okinawa, home to about 1 percent of Japan’s population, hosts roughly half of the 47,000 US troops based in Japan.