The United States Tuesday allowed the possibility of a delay in plans to transfer some 8,000 US marines based on the Japanese island of Okinawa to the US Pacific territory of Guam by 2014.
Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, the assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, told the House Armed Services Committee that the lack of infrastructure in Guam could cause delays.
“The Department (of Defense) recognises that Guam has existing infrastructure deficiencies that could affect the ability of DoD to execute the programme on an aggressive construction schedule,” she said in prepared remarks.
“Guam currently faces challenges with environmental compliance of its utilities, adequacy of its roadways, and availability of quality health care — to name a few concerns.”
Nonetheless, she left open the possibility of delays during exchanges with the lawmakers on the committee.
“We have agreed that the programme going forward will be paced according to the infrastructure capabilities of Guam,” Pfannenstiel told lawmakers who asked if the plan will move ahead on a timely basis.
“Therefore, if we’re able to move faster than we had projected, if the infrastructure allows us to move faster with the construction, then we’ll do so,” she said.
“If we need to slow down parts of it, we’ll do that. But we will pace… both the construction and the movement of forces to the capabilities of the island,” she said.
The Daily Yomiuri reported Saturday the US Navy told the Guam government last week that the island’s infrastructure cannot handle a rapid enough construction schedule to allow for the Marines to transfer there by 2014.
The US government has effectively given up its target of completing the transfer in 2014 and also informed Tokyo of the delay, the daily said without giving a source.
The transfer plan, also involving the relocation of some 9,000 military family members, is part of a 2006 agreement between Tokyo and Washington aimed at reducing a heavy US military presence on Okinawa.
Another part of the deal involves the relocation of the US Futenma marine corps air station from a fast growing urban area to a less developed coastal part of Okinawa.
The Futenma issue has angered islanders as the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan pledged to move the base outside Okinawa when it came to power last year but later reneged on the promise.
The delay would be officially announced within the month, the report said.