Monday, February 29, 2016

PF Mar 2016 - Military Presence in Okinawa - Con Position

Resolved: The United States should withdraw its military presence from Okinawa.

This analysis begins here.

Con Position

The Con position claims the U.S. should not withdraw its military presence from Okinawa. Given a definition of withdraw as, "to remove", Con can still support a reduction of forces or support a smaller footprint in the region. Con can not support a complete withdrawal or relocation to other regional locations.  Con debaters should take time to look at the map.  Okinawa is located in an arc of islands stretching more than 1000km between southern Japan and Taiwan.  This chain is a natural "fence" through which Chinese military adventurism must pass to gain rapid access to the Pacific should such a threat come to pass.  Okinawa is within easy operational proximity to North and South Korea, China, Japan, the eastern ports of Russia, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. Okinawa is truly a strategic asset for those who view the world as potentially dangerous place.  But beyond the obvious utility as a operational post for launching strikes against enemies, it is also a short hop to one of the most geologically active regions on the planet where earthquakes, tsunamis and natural disasters have increasingly serious consequences on the one of the most densely populated regions of the world. The military facilities on Okinawa have been the staging area for many humanitarian operations. Proximity has advantages which save lives.

The Humanitarian Advantage

The importance of the U.S. presence in carrying out humanitarian missions cannot be overstated.

Klingner 2011:
The Okinawa Marines have routinely been the primary responders to major natural disasters in Asia, such as the 2004 Asian tsunami, mudslides in the Philippines, and the typhoon in Taiwan. The Marines have led or participated in 12 significant humanitarian assistance–disaster relief (HADR) missions during the past five years alone, helping to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the region.[26]

Klingner reports such operations have generated enormous goodwill with affected nations. Yet despite the obvious benefit of rapid response to tragedy, some in Okinawa are conducting a propaganda campaign which casts doubt about U.S. intentions and angers many.

Klingner 2011:
the Ryukyu Shinpo criticized the U.S. Marine humanitarian assistance as a “tool for political manipulation [and an attempt] to gain the support of the Japanese people to keep the FRF within Okinawa.” The Shinpo editorialized that the U.S. statements highlighting the benefits of having the Marines available to assist Japan was “very discomforting” and “tricks.” The Okinawan Times chimed in as well, posturing that the U.S. was using the disaster as a “political tool [to] manipulate our political decision-making…. [I]t is something we cannot allow.”[27]

These kinds of accusations would poison the well for Con were it not for the obvious live-saving actions of U.S. Marines in conjunction with Japanese Defense Forces. In fact, pointing this out to a U.S.-centric PF judge may cast doubt on the reliability of some of Pro sources. Just bear in mind, if you decide to take up this argument media propaganda may be a two-way street and Pro can claim media sympathetic to the U.S. position is unbalanced and pushing a political agenda.

So we can establish a case which takes advantage of the fact that military resources can serve multiple purposes by responding to many kinds of threats.

Chanlett-Avery & Rinehart 2016:
The U.S. military presence in Japan, and particularly Okinawa, allows it to fulfill its obligations under the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security to not only defend Japan but to maintain security in the Asia-Pacific region. The forward-deployed presence of the U.S. Air Force and Navy also allows for response to humanitarian disasters in the region, as demonstrated by the rapid U.S. assistance after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and after the November 2013 super-typhoon in the Philippines. The deployment of MV-22 “Osprey” tilt-rotor aircraft to Okinawa reportedly has enhanced the operational capability of the Marines based there, because MV-22s have a greater range and faster cruising speed than the helicopters they replaced.[4]

The Strategic Military Advantage

This is perhaps the most serious challenge to the Pro position, even as important as humanitarian responsiveness may be.  The western Pacific has a history of war, insurrection, rebellion made all the more serious by the presence of nuclear devices in North Korea, and full strategic nuclear strike capability in China, Russia and presumably some of the U.S. occupied islands in the Pacific. Terrorists activities are on-going in Southeast Asia and parts of China. North Korea is becoming increasingly aggressive, literally launching several attacks against South Korea in recent years. Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea is an existential threat to Japanese territorial claims.

Chanlett-Avery & Rinehart 2016:
The intensification of the territorial dispute between Japan and China over small islands in the East China Sea has provided another rationale for the approximately 19,000 marines stationed on Okinawa. The main island of Okinawa is only 270 nautical miles from the disputed islets, called Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China, and Diaoyutai in Taiwan. The potential role of U.S. Marines in defending and/or retaking uninhabited islands from a hypothetical invasion force is unclear, but the operational capabilities of the Okinawa-based Marines are aligned with the needs of such a mission.[4]

Perhaps given the recent threats, an argument could be made for increasing the U.S. military presence in the regions so as to protect the military facilities in Okinawa.

Chang 2015:
On the day after Christmas, three Chinese boats, one modified to carry four cannons, entered Japan’s territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands in the southern portion of the East China Sea. The move, a dangerous escalation, is the first time the People’s Republic of China sent an armed vessel into an area that Tokyo claims as its own.
The sending of the three Chinese vessels on Dec. 26 appears to signal a new phase of incursions to grab not just the Senkaku Islands but the nearby—and far more important—Ryukyu Islands. Those include Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the 54,000 American military personnel in Japan, including those at Kadena Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Buckner and Torii Station, eight Marine Corps camps, as well as Air Station Futenma and Yontan Airfield, and the Navy’s Fleet Activities Okinawa.
Geopolitically, Okinawa is key to the American-Japanese alliance and the heart of America’s military presence in Japan. But if Beijing gets its way, U.S. military bases will be off Okinawa soon. And Japan will be out of Okinawa, too.

Following the Second World War, Japan has grown to be an important ally and trading partner with the U.S. The importance of the island nation to the U.S. economy and regional stability is key to maintaining U.S. interests.  The defense of Japan is vital.

Kingner 2011:
U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos has explained that the fundamental role of U.S. military forces in Japan is to “make those who would consider the use of force in this region understand that option is off the table. The forward deployment of U.S. forces puts us in a position to react immediately to emerging threats.”[7]
The December 2010 Japanese National Defense Program Guidelines underscored Roos’s comments by noting that the presence of U.S. armed forces in Japan gives countries in the Asia–Pacific region a strong sense of security by “functioning as deterrence against and response to contingencies in this region.”[8] Foreign Minister Okada affirmed that “the presence of U.S. Marines on Okinawa is necessary for Japan’s national security [since they] are a powerful deterrent against possible enemy attacks and should be stationed in Japan.”[9]
History has repeatedly shown that ground troops are necessary to influence an opponent. Removing combat elements of the only rapidly deployable U.S. ground force between Hawaii and India would degrade U.S. deterrence capacity and limit response options.

The Korean Threat and U.N. Legitimacy

There are many threats both man-made and natural which are potentially mitigated by U.S. capability in the Pacific and particularly Okinawa. Perhaps one of the more serious threat exists just beyond the 38th parallel in Korea.  Little is publicly understood about the North Korean leader and the seriousness of nuclear threats against targets in the south and the U.S. west coast.  It is clear, they are developing capability which increases the already intense threat against South Koreans and the thousands of U.S. citizens that work and reside there.

Klingner 2011:
The U.S. Marines on Okinawa play a critical role in Operations Plan 5027, the joint U.S.–South Korean war plan for responding to a North Korean invasion. Marine forces are capable of conducting a full range of combat operations in Korea. Even the threat of an amphibious invasion would force North Korea to divert ground forces from the front line.

Even more important to the U.S. strategy is the role that would be played by the military facilities in Okinawa as a staging area for the defense of South Korea. The U.S. has long known there would be resistance to U.S. plans for the Okinawan bases but U.S. operations are carried out under a U.N. flag.

Halloran 1998:
The war plan envisions the possibility of amphibious assaults into North Korea by U.S. Marines into the narrow waist of North Korea to cut the country in two. "The entire resources of the U.S. Marine Corps would flow here," said a U.S. official, referring to the Marine division on Okinawa, another in California, and the third in North Carolina. The U.S. broke North Korean and Chinese forces with an amphibious landing at the port of Inchon, west of Seoul, during the Korean War of 1950-53.
Most U.S. reinforcements would pass through Japan, particularly Okinawa, which would undoubtedly cause political problems in that pacifist nation despite its alliance with the U.S. Those operations would test new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines that require Japan to provide logistic support in the event of conflict in that region.
Even without the defense guidelines, the U.S. has the right to move troops, weapons, and supplies through Japan to Korea because American forces are posted here under a United Nations flag. A small and little known unit, the UN Rear Command, which has been at Camp Zama, southwest of Tokyo, since the Korean War, provides the legal and diplomatic cover for those movements.

The Kadena military facility confirms it flies the U.N. flag.

Kadena 2008:
Kadena's central location also enables it to serve as a staging base for humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts throughout the western Pacific, as it did in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami that devastated several Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Additionally, Kadena is one of seven bases in Japan that fly the United Nations flag as part of the United Nations Command Rear (UNC). In this capacity, Kadena's main role is to provide facilities for UNC aircraft. 

I will leave it you to research the implications of this.  The security of Korea is managed by the United Nations Command (UNC), comprised of a coalition of 18 nations established by international agreement.  U.S military resources in Okinawa serve under that mandate.  It seems withdraw from Okinawa could be much more complicated than first assumed.


Chang, GG., (2015) Now China Wants Okinawa, Site of U.S. Bases in Japan, Daily Beast, 12/31/2015. accessed 2/15/2015 at:

Chanlett-Avery, E., Rinehart, IE., The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, Congressional Research Service, January 20, 2016 accessed 2/15/2016 at:

Halloran, R. (1998), New Warplan Calls for Invasion of North Korea, Nov. 14, 1998, posted on The Free Republic on 2/8/2003. Accessed 2/16/2016 at:

Klingner, B. (2011), Top 10 Reasons Why the U.S. Marines on Okinawa Are Essential to Peace and Security in the Pacific, Heritage Foundation, June 14, 2011. accessed 2/15/2016 at:


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