Japan to initiate request for landfill process approval

Even as Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Washington a few days ago for a summit with American President Barack Obama, the wheels began turning to reenergize the relocation process for moving the unpopular Marine Corps air station from central Okinawa.

Officials say the Japanese government will apply as early as March for permission from Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima for landfill work needed for the planned relocation of the Futenma Mariniate request for landfill process approvalular Marine Corps air station from central Okinawa.heels began turning toe Corps Air Station. The top leaders of Japan and the United States confirmed at their meeting on Friday that the Futenma base in Ginowan will be relocated to the Henoko coastal area of Nago, also in the island prefecture, at an early time, in line with the current bilateral agreement.

“A further delay of the relocation would wear out the patience of the United States,” a senior government official said. During the summit talks in Washington, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stopped short of mentioning the specific timing for filing the application but told U.S. President Barack Obama that he will take “concrete action.”
The Japanese government completed on January 29th  all necessary procedures for the environmental assessment needed for the application. Nakaima at the time said the prefectural government would not block a central government application for the landfill work in the Henoko coastal area to construct a replacement facility for the Futenma base, although he’s waffled on that stance since.

A senior Defense Ministry official said “An application should be made immediately” in order to ensure steady progress on the relocation. Abe is cautiously looking for the right timing by weighing Japan’s relationship with the United States and domestic politics including issues related to Okinawa, informed sources said, but there are no prospects for the central government obtaining the go-ahead from Nakaima for the reclamation.

At his meeting with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on February 16th, Nakaima reiterated that he has promised to voters that he will move the Futenma base out of the prefecture as soon as possible. Since his Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in December 2012, Abe has been trying to build a relationship of trust between the central government and Okinawa after their ties were dented under the previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan. The Okinawa government, however, has shown no signs of change.

At last week’s summit meeting, Abe and Obama agreed to accelerate efforts for the return to Japan of five U.S. military facility sites south of the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena base in Okinawa. They are hoping that the agreement, designed to reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. military bases, will smooth the way for the Futenma relocation.