Japan Self-Defense Forces officials will arrive today to discuss with CNMI officials their plans for Tinian where two-thirds of land are already leased by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the discussions could center around Japan's plan to help fund a U.S. military base on Tinian or the training or stationing of their own forces there.
Tinian was the launching pad for the two atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, hastening the end of World War II.
Besides Japanese military officials, there will also be officials from Japan's Ministry of Finance visiting.
These Japanese officials will be escorted by representatives from the Joint Guam Program Office and the U.S. Marine Corps out of Guam.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP), in a phone interview, said the Japanese military officials will have a tour of military lands and help assess the area where Japanese forces could train with American soldiers.
Sablan said this is still part of the military buildup in the region.
“But at this time there's still no plan to build a major base on Tinian; only as training site for expeditionary forces,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Japanese media have also been reporting that Japan plans to help shoulder the cost of building a military base on Tinian and that Japan plans to station its own forces on the island.
Sablan received a briefing last week from Joint Guam Program Office Director Joe Ludovici, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, on “new developments in the U.S. military's plans for the Marianas and issues of regional strategy.”
They discussed the new National Defense Strategy focus on the Pacific Theater, the Guam buildup, and future use of Tinian for military training purposes.
But Sablan said details of some of what was discussed could not be released.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's office said as of yesterday afternoon, there's no meeting scheduled between the governor and the visiting Japanese officials.
Press secretary Angel Demapan also said the Fitial administration is also awaiting official communication on the Japanese military's plans involving Tinian.
The visiting Japanese military officials, however, are scheduled to meet with other CNMI officials on Tinian, including Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz and members of the Tinian Legislative Delegation chaired by Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and the Tinian Municipal Council.
Hofschneider said as of yesterday, he's not privy to the specific plans by the Japanese government on Tinian but he said the island has long been waiting for major military training or activities that will help funnel revenues to Tinian and the CNMI as a whole.
Fitial asked U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in February to renegotiate the existing land lease on Tinian because he said none of Defense's promised developments on Tinian has materialized for 35 years. Fitial has yet to receive a response from Panetta.
The Japanese military officials' visit comes ahead of the arrival of some 200 U.S. Marines from Japan that will be training on Tinian from May to June, the first major military training on the island for at least a decade.
One of the Japanese media reporting on the issue of having a Japanese military station on Tinian is Nikkei news agency, quoting unnamed sources. It reported that no final decision has been reached yet but its sources said Japan would lease a portion of the U.S. Defense-controlled land on Tinian and rotate Japanese military personnel from all three Japan Self-Defense Force branches-ground, sea, and air.
Japanese media also reported that Washington, D.C. is considering Tokyo's proposal to shoulder part of its expenses for the development of a U.S. military base and related facilities on Tinian.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that “Tokyo apparently made the proposal to fend off Washington's demand that Japan increase its share of the costs of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. The realignment is currently under review.”