Japan to propose shifting Futenma move forward

Japan’s defense minister is speaking publicly about his government’s latest thought: how to construct the Futenma Replacement Facility and make it operational much earlier than the target date of 2022.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is now saying, “How much we can speed up the construction of a substitute facility is one of the efforts we consider,” telling reporters he’d like to see the return of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan City expedited.  The Okinawa Prefectural Government has been demanding Futenma be closed within five years.

Onodera is one of many senior Japanese ministers who are aggressively working to woo Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s support for approving the land reclamation work in Oura Bay, the designated location for the new FRF at Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago City.  Nakaima’s support for the project is critical to the government plan, and he’s said he’ll make his decision by the end of the year.  Nakaima only a week ago reiterated his demand Futenma close within five years and that land handed back to Okinawa.

The official position is that creating a new military airfield would take nine years once Nakaima gives his approval to the landfill work.  The 2022 date for completing the project was set last spring, but officials say they think there are ways that date could be moved forward by adjusting procedures.  The defense minister concedes he’s not discussed the idea with the U.S. government, and says he’s not sure Washington would be willing to go along with the expedited project plan.