Prefecture official calls Okinawa Futenma relocation impossible

An Okinawa Prefecture official continues to insist that it is virtually impossible to move the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station within the prefecture, based on the current relocation plan for the facility.

Implementing the current plan is effectively impossible due partly to opposition in Nago City, says Susumu Matayoshi, head of the office of Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, in talks with Marc Knapper, director for the Office of Japanese Affairs at the Department of State, and Christopher Johnstone, director for Northeast Asia at the Department of Defense.  The governor’s position is to pursue the base’s relocation outside of the prefecture, Matayoshi added.

The current plan calls for moving the base in Ginowan City to the Henoko coastal area in Nago. The U.S. government is increasing hoping that the current stalemate in the Futenma relocation issue will be broken following the launch last month of the new Japanese administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Matayoshi apparently warned that Washington should not be overly optimistic about the situation. In response to Matayoshi’s remarks, the U.S. side said that there is no change in the country’s stance that the current relocation plan is the best option.

Matayoshi also protested that the Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft deployed at Futenma are repeatedly flying over residential areas under helicopter mode in violation of a Japan-U.S. agreement on safety operations of the controversial military aircraft.  Under the agreement, helicopter mode flights are allowed only above U.S. military facilities in principle.

Twelve MV-22 Ospreys arrived at the base last October in the first deployment of the aircraft in Japan. Okinawa has strong concerns about the aircraft’s safety in the wake of a series of accidents.