Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) led a 10-member bipartisan Congressional delegation trip to Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, and Japan. The 8-day trip focused on the proposed relocation of Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam; allowed Members to conduct oversight of the military buildup on Guam; and provided an opportunity to meet with American and South Korean officials about the basing and readiness issues on the Korean peninsula.
House Members in Skelton’s delegation included Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO). Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) joined the delegation for the Hawaii portion of the trip.
“The United States has many critical strategic interests in the Pacific, but these interests do not always receive the attention they deserve, most recently because our focus has been trained on Iraq and Afghanistan. I was pleased that so many of my colleagues joined me to learn more about current security issues facing the United States and our allies in the Pacific region,” said Skelton.
“One of the major issues facing the U.S. military in the Pacific concerns the proposed relocation of up to 8,000 U.S. Marines from bases in Okinawa, Japan, to Guam and the associated movement of the remaining 10,000 Marines within Okinawa. We need to ensure that we have a full understanding of the practical as well as the strategic implications of this proposed realignment. This trip, which highlighted the benefits expected from this realignment but also identified questions that still must be answered, will serve as the starting point for detailed oversight during the coming legislative season,” said Skelton.
In Hawaii, the delegation was briefed by Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
In Guam, the delegation toured military facilities and was briefed by U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force officials. The delegation also met with the Governor Felix P. Camacho of Guam, members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, and students at the University of Guam.
In South Korea, the delegation met with General Walter L. Sharp, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea. The delegation also had an office call with the President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung-bak, and met with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Defense Minister Lee Sang Hee, and the Chairman of the Korean National Assembly’s Defense Committee, Kim Hak-Song.
In Okinawa, Japan, the delegation met with U.S. military officers, U.S. Consular officials, and with the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture Hirakazu Nakaima to discuss the proposed realignment of Marines from Japan.
On two occasions, the delegation paid tribute to those who fought and died during World War II by laying memorial wreaths at The War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam and at the Mount Suribachi Memorial on the island of Iwo Jima, site of the historic U.S. Marine invasion.
“It was a deeply moving experience to visit the World War II memorials on Guam and Iwo Jima. Our nation must never forget the sacrifices of our service members and the Pacific Islanders who fought against tyranny during one of history’s most brutal wars. I consider it a privilege to pay our respects to these heroes,” said Skelton.