Prefecture signals neutrality on landfill application

The Okinawa prefectural government will not block or reject a central government application for reclamation work needed to carry out a key U.S. air base relocation plan in the southernmost prefecture.  Or will it?

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said last week he’d let the process proceed, although he  did not say whether he will actually approve the planned reclamation in the Henoko district in Nago City, where a replacement facility for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station will be built based on a Japan-U.S. agreement. The governor made the remark to reporters after a meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at the prime minister’s office.

Only three days later, on Monday, the governor wasn’t sounding quite so pro-landfill.  Speaking with reporters he said “I’m ready to throw the ball back to the central government,” suggesting he’s thinking he might reject the expected central government application for his permission to accomplish the landfill work necessary for relocating the controversial airbase.  His comments were in response to a query about what the Tokyo government is planning.

The central government is considering submitting an application in March at the earliest after giving up on completing it ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States. The notion now, according to Tokyo, is to move forward with an application for the governor’s signature sometime early in March.  At the summit between President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington this month, the reaffirmation was made to relocate Futenma to Henoko, despite Okinawa’s strong opposition to the project.  Nakaima has said he really wants the base moved outside the prefecture.

Nakaima is also showing unhappiness with the timelines being proposed for relocating Futenma to Henoko.  “Does the government think that it can be done in a short period of time?”  he’s asking.  Prime Minister Abe has told President Obama that his government is ready to take concrete steps to promote the base relocation program, but Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine is criticizing Abe’s comment.  He has told reporters “I can’t understand the prime minister’s remark at all,” noting Okinawa remains opposed to the current plan.’the government think that it can be done in a short period of time?”ng Futenma to Henoko.  “rime Minister Shinzo Abe in Was

At Nakaima’s meeting in Tokyo, he and Suga agreed to restart discussions by the Okinawa affairs council on measures to promote the local economy and issues related to U.S. bases in the small prefecture. The council, made up of all cabinet members and the Okinawa governor, last met in May 2012.