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Cablegate: Some Interest in, but No Local Demand for, Expanded Return

VZCZCXRO8290
PP RUEHFK RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHNH #0008/01 0100253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100253Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL NAHA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0874
INFO RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUSFNSG/CDR10THASG TORII STATION JA
RHMFIUU/CG FIRST MAW
RUHBANB/CG MCB CAMP BUTLER JA
RUHBBEA/CG THIRD FSSG CAMP KINSER JA
RUHBABA/CG THIRD MARDIV
RHMFIUU/COMMARCORBASESJAPAN CAMP BUTLER JA
RHMFIUU/COMMARFORPAC
RUHBVMA/CTF 76
RUYLBAH/DODSPECREP OKINAWA JA
RUESDJ/FBIS OKINAWA JA
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 0283
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 0169
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 0934
RHMFIUU/NAVCRIMINVSERVRA OKINAWA JA
RUHBANB/OKINAWA AREA FLD OFC US FORCES JAPAN CP BUTLER JA
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE PRIORITY 0359
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0871
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RHMIFUU/USCINCPAC REP GUAM
RUEHKO/USDAO TOKYO JA
RUALBCC/YOKOTA AB HQ USFJ

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 NAHA 000008

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SECSTATE, SECDEF FOR JAPAN DESK; USFJ FOR J4, J5

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR JA
SUBJECT: SOME INTEREST IN, BUT NO LOCAL DEMAND FOR, EXPANDED RETURN
OF FOSTER

(SBU) Summary: As we work toward implementing the Okinawa
portion of the alliance transformation and realignment (ATARA)
report, the Japanese government has been pressing the United
States to return far more of south-central Okinawa's Camp Foster
than had been previously agreed. Japanese negotiators (and the
ministers whose talking points they write) insistently claim
that returning the majority of Camp Foster is essential to
Okinawans' perception that ATARA provides a visible benefit to
them. ConGen Naha is skeptical of the claim, as our contacts
have not been calling for greater land returns at Camp Foster.
The associations representing Camp Fosters' landlords tell us
that, while a minority of land owners would like the land
returned, they would want it back only under certain conditions,
which the central government has heretofore refused. The
majority of land owners prefer the steady flow of rent from the
central government, and expect to renew their leases in 2012.
End summary.

(SBU) As we work to implement the alliance transformation and
realignment (ATARA) report, Japan has been pressing the United
States to return far more of Camp Foster than had been
previously agreed. Negotiators from the Ministry of Defense
(MOD) have persistently claimed in working group meetings that
returning the majority of Camp Foster is essential to Okinawans'
perception that ATARA provides them a visible benefit. We
understand that policy-level leaders at the MOD, including the
minister, have pushed this same claim with senior personnel at
the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The United
States' position has been that, while additional returns of Camp
Foster might be possible, it is premature to discuss it before
plans for ATARA's agreed consolidation are complete.

(SBU) ConGen Naha was puzzled by the Japanese central
government's claim that most of Camp Foster must be returned to
satisfy the Okinawan polity. We were not hearing complaints
about ATARA's lack of land returns at Camp Foster, or anywhere
else. We decided to survey the people with the largest stake in
land returns. Camp Foster overlaps the municipal boundaries of
Okinawa City, Ginowan City, Chatan Town, and Kitanakagusuku
Village. We spoke with the leadership of the Okinawa
Prefectural Federation of Military Land Owners Associations, and
the municipal military land owners' associations for each of the
host municipalities.

(U) To provide a bit of context, Camp Foster is a multi-use
facility, hosting the headquarters U.S. Marine Corps Bases,
Japan, U.S. Forces Japan's Okinawa Area Field Office, Awase Golf
Course, family residences and Marine barracks, a commissary,
post exchange, movie theater, and many other facilities. It is
located between Kadena Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air
Station (MCAS) Futenma. The total area of Camp Foster is
approximately 1,587 acres (642.5 hectares). Camp Foster does
not include training facilities for operational forces, and has
very little nuisance impact on its host communities. As of
2003, the central government was paying about Y8.542 billion
(US$79.09 million) rent per year to 4,414 Camp Foster land
owners, and paying the salaries of 2,364 Japanese employees at
Camp Foster.

(SBU) We spoke with the presidents of the Federation of Okinawa
Prefecture Military Land Owners' Associations, Chatan Town
Military Land Owners' Association (hosting 40.1% of Camp
Foster), Kitanakagusuku Village Military Land Owners'
Association (hosting 32.8% of Camp Foster, including Awase Golf
Course), Ginowan City Military Land Owners' Association (hosting
24.4%), and Okinawa City Military Land Owners' Association
(hosting 2.7%). These associations represent the private owners

NAHA 00000008 002 OF 003


of land on which Camp Foster is located, and who accept rent
from the national government. They do not represent protest
landowners. Note: "One tsubo" (3.3 m2) land owners purchase
tiny plots of base land in order to refuse to take rent. There
are approximately 30,000 rent-taking land owners and 3,000
protest landowners in Okinawa. End note.

Current Majority Position: Keep the Rent Coming

(SBU) The associations' leaders unanimously agreed that, for
now, the majority of Camp Foster's landlords want to continue
receiving rents from the Japanese government, and do not want
their land returned to them. The original land owners are
elderly, and some receive a large enough income stream from
their rent to live on. They have no interest in stopping that
stream.

(SBU) Chosho KYUNA, president of the Okinawa Prefectural
Federation of Military Land Owners' Associations, estimated that
90% of its associations' members would want to renew their
leases with the central government in 2012, when the leases
would expire. He and other officers of the Federation were
concerned, however, about 3,000-odd one-tsubo protest land
owners. Their numbers were increasing as the original land
owners passed on. The Federation expected they would do what
they could to interfere with the majority's interest in carrying
on receiving rents.

(SBU) Choko MAKABE, president of the Chatan Town association,
agreed that his members would participate in the lease
extensions in 2012, but would demand higher rates, especially
for land along route 58. His members felt "cheated" by the last
round of extensions, as their land had not appreciated as much
as land across the street from them that had been returned and
redeveloped. Note: Land from the former Camp Hamby and a
returned portion of Camp Lester have become the commercial and
governmental core of Chatan Town, and more development is
planned. Years passed between return and use, and considerable
public and private investment went into developing the area.
Military landlords assumed no such risk. End note.

(SBU) The Federation's Kyuna guessed that, over time, more
landlords would want their land back. The protest land owners
were getting a little of the land as it changed hands, but most
the original land owners left their land to multiple heirs, who
were "normal" landowners. The second-generation landowners,
with smaller plots, received less rent. Thus, they were more
interested in eventually having the land returned for their own
use. The municipal associations echoed the distinction between
elderly and next generation landlords. They all noted, however,
that there were more than generational differences at play,
especially the likely ease and potential profitability of
redevelopment.


Mind the Gap

(SBU) All associations' leaders complained bitterly about the
central government discontinuing rent payments for most land
three years after it was returned by the United States to Japan.
Preliminary surveys and negotiations took far longer than three
years, so there was a gap between income from rent and
profitable after-use. They also noted that infrastructure
consumed some portion of all returns, and a larger percentage of
small returns, significantly reducing the benefit of getting
back the land.


NAHA 00000008 003 OF 003


(SBU) Chatan's Makabe noted that initial land surveys would be
required, as nobody actually knew their property boundaries.
The Ginowan association president Shinichi MATAYOSHI noted that
environmental and cultural surveys took years, and detailed
planning had to wait for the results. Masanobu NAKAMA, the vice
president of the prefectural federation and a Kin Town Council
member, noted that some returned land necessarily went to access
roads, power, water and sewer lines, and even for parks, schools
and other public facilities. The land owners who retained their
land had to appease the land owners who would "lose" their land
to public use, in order to get their cooperation in
redevelopment. Small area returns were particularly
contentious, because over half of the land might go to
infrastructure, with too little land to compensate the losers.
Nakama estimated that surveying, planning, and negotiating could
eat up fifteen years or more before anybody broke ground.

(SBU) Ginowan's Matayoshi said that most of the 600 land owners
opposed the return of the Futenma Housing Area, under the second
phase of the SACO final report. Since the return would be only
136 acres (55 hectares) of hilly land, compensation would last
only three years beyond return. Matayoshi said the
association was asking the Okinawa Development Bureau (ODB) to
either expand the returned area so that it extended to route 58,
or buy the land outright from the private land owners.

(SBU) Jousuke ISA, president of the Kitanakagusuku Village
association said his members also opposed the SACO report's
return of 14.8 acres (6 hectares) of Kishaba Housing. The
village wanted to use over half of the area for roads. The
landowners association had requested ODB to make the land "joint
use," so that they could continue receiving rents after the area
returned to civilian (but largely public) use. Isa's membership
is, however, looking forward to building a shopping center once
Awase Golf Course is returned pursuant to the SACO final report.

(SBU) Conclusion/Comments: The central government's insistence
on the return of substantially more of Camp Foster than we had
understood in the ATARA discussions is not based on political
necessity in Okinawa. The majority of Camp Foster's landlords
hope to extend their leases to the central government in 2012,
and intend to bargain for higher rates, especially along the
busy route 58 corridor. Elderly land owners are in the majority
and want their steady income stream to continue. Second and
third-generation land owners may welcome land returns, but even
their interest is conditional on their risk/benefit
calculations. While it would be an overstatement to say that
nobody in Okinawa wants to see more of Camp Foster returned, it
is a priority for very few. We can assure U.S. negotiators and
policy makers that expanding the return of Camp Foster is not
key to ATARA's success from an Okinawan perspective. We do not
speculate on what might be driving the issue in Tokyo.
Okinawa's priorities vis a vis land returns are MCAS Futenma,
Camp Lester, Naha Military Port and Camp Kinser. End comment.

(U) All conversions are at the rate of Y108/US$1. Senior
Political Specialist Hideo Henzan and Commercial Specialist
Akinori Hayashi contributed significantly to this report.
MAHER

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