Abe’s word: Futenma MCAS move to Henoko will take place

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima have failed at their first meeting since Abe took office to reach an accord on the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station in the southernmost Japan prefecture.

Meeting at a hotel in Naha City on Saturday, Nakaima reiterated the “strong wish” of the people of Okinawa that the Futenma base will be moved outside the prefecture, which is hosting many U.S. bases.  “The Futenma base must not be fixed at the current place,” Abe said, but he added, “We will proceed based on our agreement with the United States,” pointing to a plan to relocate the Futenma base in Ginowan to Nago.

Abe visited Okinawa for the first time since he took office in late December, hoping to rebuild the government’s relationship with the prefecture, which worsened during the previous administration of the Democratic Party of Japan, now the largest opposition. Abe took office after his Liberal Democratic Party ousted the DPJ from power in general elections in December.  Abe told Nakaima that in its draft budget for fiscal 2013 starting in April, the government boosted spending for development in Okinawa from a year before to exceed 300 billion yen.

I will listen to your voices,” Abe stressed. “I hope to begin by re-establishing trust between us.”  Speaking to reporters later, Abe said the government has no plans to submit a request to the Okinawa prefectural government for permission for landfill work necessary for the Futenma relocation plan, before he visits the United States later this month.  The agreement to move Futenma north was made in 2006, the last time the Liberal Democratic Party was in power.

Earlier in the day, Abe gave a speech at a Self-Defense Force base in the prefecture, pledging to “stand at the forefront” of efforts to protect the country’s territory, apparently keeping in mind China, which is repeating provocations near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands off Okinawa.