News: Japanese business, government leaders visit US installations on Okinawa
Story by Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Case
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Members of Forum 21 met with leadership from Marine Corps Installations Pacific and III Marine Expeditionary Force May 24 at Camp Foster and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma as part of the forum’s 2013 leadership development program.
Forum 21 is comprised of prospective government and business executives of Japan, and the visit serves as a way for the members to learn more about U.S. facilities on Okinawa and to enhance their understanding of the Japan-U.S. relationship.
“The U.S. and Japan have collectively addressed mutual security concerns for over 60 years, securing our common interests and contributing significantly to regional stability,” said Col. Daniel J. Haas, the III Marine Expeditionary Force chief of staff. “U.S. facilities on Okinawa have played a prominent role during that time due to their strategic location. Current events indicate the need for a cooperative, stabilizing partnership is likely to continue, if not increase in the years ahead.”
During their visit, the Forum 21 members learned about the capabilities that MCIPAC and III MEF commands provide throughout Japan.
“It is important for leaders and policymakers to understand both the capabilities and limitations of U.S. forces and facilities on Okinawa to make informed decisions when developing policies,” said Haas.
Forum 21 was established in 1987 to foster leadership skills in government and business executive candidates, develop a wide range of human networking, and make proposals and recommendations on national policies and issues.
This year’s theme is to revive Japan as a tier-one nation and its focus includes the constitution of Japan, the Japan-U.S. relationship, energy and food issues, and education reform, according to Aya Urasaki, a community relations specialist, G-7, government and external affairs, MCIPAC.
“Myself and the 39 other Forum 21 participants are all studying together the importance of national security, so this is one of the most crucial parts of the visit,” said Jun Miyama, a Forum 21 member and general manager of 4th Sales Division, Packaging Operations, Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd. “Our time visiting Okinawa is limited, but it is very valuable to us.”
The visit provided the members of Forum 21 with an opportunity to ask questions directly to U.S. service members.
“During other parts of this program we visited Misawa Air Base, but we haven’t talked with service members like we did during this visit,” said Miyama. “To hear directly from members of the Marine Corps is very meaningful. As leaders, we need to think about how to disseminate the information we learned.”
Participants of the program and leaders of III MEF and MCIPAC feel this visit was a significant way to strengthen relations between Japan and the U.S., according to Haas.
“Forum 21’s visit provides us an opportunity to speak candidly and directly with the participants about III MEF and MCIPAC’s presence in Japan and our broader presence in the Pacific—why we are here, what we do, and how we support our mutual security,” said Haas. “This type of dialogue enhances our ability to understand one another and builds trust.”
The Forum 21 members finished their visit with a positive outlook on the U.S. presence in Okinawa and Japan as a whole, according to Miyama.
“We are very appreciative of the contributions the Marine Corps makes to the peace and stability of this region,” said Miyama. “With looking to the future of East Asia, I believe the importance of III MEF is going to increase.”