By AMELIA SKACZKOWSKI.
Eight thousand US marines could be relocated to Guam when the US marine base in Japan closes down.
The United States territory of Guam could become home to 4700 marines, with some of the 3300 remaining moving to Australia.
The move comes after fears that infrastructure requirements and public needs in Guam could not be met.
Increased government funding is needed for water, sewage, landfill and transportation developments.
Guam Senator for Community, Culture and Recreation Tina Muna-Barnes said the sudden population growth could have both negative and positive consequences for the tiny island.
“Our roadways will have to be reinforced and in some cases restructured to sustain the increased traffic ,” Senator Barnes said.
“The island’s only hospital is in dire need of repair and upgrades to the existing facility, not to mention additional resource requirements to include medical staff and equipment.”
Moreover, Guam’s agriculture capabilities would struggle to sustain the sudden boom.
“It has been estimated that over 90 per cent of all consumables are imported to the island,” Senator Barnes said.
“As the cost for fuel continues to increase we need to increase our work to develop a sustainable farming industry that can meet present and future food supply demands.”
The Department of Defence will bear some of the costs but the rest could come from the income tax of non-resident US military and federal personnel.
Approximately $52 million is already received annually, with this amount set to soar if and when the 4700 marines are transferred from Japan.
“The time for the official transfer of marines to Guam is unclear as it remains unclear whether the Department of Defence will have the financial means or the political support to make the relocation a reality,” Senator Barnes said.
Dr Dave Chapman of the Adelaide University said political pressure has been building over the years to close down the American marine base in Japan where the 8000 marines are currently housed.
“Japanese locals have been campaigning to close down Futenma after the sexual assault of a local schoolgirl by three servicemen in 1996,” Dr Chapman said.
The move to Guam would reduce America’s marine presence in Japan while allowing the US to maintain its coverage of the Asia Pacific region at a time when Japan’s military power is on the rise.
“This would have a mixed effect for Japan – a US presence increases stability in the region especially with North Korea and China nearby, but having US marines around does not help socially,” Dr Chapman said.
“In terms of finance, Japan may end up worse off.
“The US is currently campaigning for Japan to financially help move US marines from Japan to Guam.
“This is the first situation I have ever heard of where one national is asking another to pay for the removal of the first nations troops” Dr Chapman said.
One reason for the 15 year delay in moving marines is space.
Guam must undergo massive restructuring to provide an additional 8.9 sq km of land, on top of the 145.7 sq km the Department of Defence already controls on the 541 sq km island.
A large proportion of this land will act as a live firing range, and the preferred site is the town of Pagat.
“It is home to an ancient Chamorro village which could include ancient pottery, tools and perhaps even ancient remains,” Senator Barnes said.
The Department of Defence has also called for 0.3 sq km of live coral reef to accommodate a nuclear carrier.
“Discussions are ongoing however, to finalise any land requirements identified by the Department of Defence,” Senator Barnes said.
Despite these possible environmental repercussions, Guam could financially benefit from the addition of almost 5000 people.
“From construction to retail, the Guam build-up could potentially mean jobs in every sector of every industry on our tiny island,” Senator Barnes said.
It is suggested the remaining 3300 troops could be stationed in Australia, Hawaii and the Philippines on a rotational basis.
Photo courtesy of Ian Britton, Freefoto.com