TUMON Guam — The Japanese delegation which spent Feb. 3 and 4 on island asked practical questions concerning execution of the movement of 8 000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The group also wanted information it can present to the Japanese public.

The delegation received a briefing at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa on plans for infrastructure and use of funds on the afternoon of Saturday Feb. 3 with a subsequent question and answer session.  Speaking with the Journal immediately afterwards Gen. Dan Leaf deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command; described the dialogue as “open.”

He said the Japanese group was seeking “a detailed understanding of how the agreement between the two nations would practically be executed and “what it will take to ensure Japanese taxpayer support for the move.”

The visit was “an important next step in the practical execution of this major movement of forces from Okinawa to Guam ” he said.

U.S. planning for the transfer of U.S. forces he said was continuing apace. “While it will be a significant event when money is specifically put against the move by the Japanese government that doesn’t mean nothing is happening until then. We’ve done specific planning and coordination and the Department of the Navy has set up a Joint Guam program office. There’s master planning going on for the Okinawa portion and some master planning for this portion.”

Leaf said he did not think the war in Iraq would slow the move. “Clearly there’s a potential for that to happen but we have a bilateral agreement that we’re executing in partnership with the Japanese.”

Nor did he believe the change in Pacific command from Adm. William Fallon to Adm. Timothy Keating whose name was just put forward would slow the troop movement in the Pacific. “I have a hard time believing that we’ll get a substantially different view on the importance of this effort.”

Leaf said the focus of discussions was on the relocation of Marines to Guam and did not touch on relocation of U.S. Marines from Futenma air base.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Tom Schieffer told the Journal that plans for relocation of U.S. Marine facilities at Futenma air base were as important as relocation of U.S. forces to Guam calling the planning “a package deal.” He said “If we are unable to do Futenma then we cannot move those Marines. Futenma is of course the linchpin of the whole relocation.

“This is a dangerous part of the world. Those 8 000 Marines are an integral part of the deterrent capability of both the United States and Japan and this theater. We have to be able to keep those Marines in this theater. In order to be able to move them out of Okinawa we’ve got to have both replacement facilities in Futenma and facilities here in Guam to take them.”

Due to present Diet sessions Schieffer said he did not expect other delegations until further in the process. Should Guam send a delegation to Japan Schieffer would meet with them he said. “We at the Embassy in Tokyo are ready to meet with anybody from Guam that wants to come up.”

The economic opportunities in the $10-billion buildup were not lost on the Ambassador. “I think it’s going to give Guam an opportunity to do a whole lot of things that might not otherwise be possible ” he said.

The 18-man Japanese delegation includes seven Diet members three of whom are former defense ministers and nine government officials from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. The group will have a “windshield” tour of U.S. military facilities on Guam today.

The group dined Saturday night with local political military and business leaders.

Earlier in the week as the Journal exclusively reported a 20-man delegation from Okinawa prefecture toured military installations on Guam.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to make a “gas and go” stop in Guam on Feb. 22 when he will meet with U.S. troops on the island. MBJ