Abe says airfield replacement will be in Okinawa

The opinions of Okinawans not withstanding, Japan’s Prime Minister says the replacement for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station will be in Okinawa due to the contentious security environment.

Abe was straight forward in his remarks to the Diet, saying “units of the U.S. Marines need to stay together, and I have to say that it would be an infeasible policy to separate the Futenma unit and move it outside the prefecture.”  Only a month ago, Abe had met with Okinawan leaders to seek their support for the central government position.  He says his stance is necessary because of “provocations against Japan’s sovereignty, as well as its land, sea and airspace.”

He called deterrence provided by Marines on Okinawa “indispensable for security in our country and peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific area.”  He pointed out the tensions with the Senkaku Islands, and also the belligerent announcements these past days by North Korea, including scrapping the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.  Abe called it “a provocation. The situation does not allow optimism.”

Plans by Washington and Tokyo are to replace Futenma, now in densely populated Ginowan City, with the new airfield at Camp Schwab in Nago City’s Henoko district.  Abe reiterated that Futenma must be replaced, and “should never be fixed at the current location.”

Tokyo is expected to later this month ask Okinawa’s governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, for permission to begin landfill operations at the Henoko site.  Okinawans continue to demand the government move Futenma out of  the prefecture.