Yamaguchi agrees to accept KC-130’s from Okinawa
One of the many pieces to the puzzle surrounding moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa has been settled; Yamaguchi Prefecture has given thumbs up to letting the U.S. Marine Corps move its KC-130 tankers from Futenma to Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.
The Prefecture’s Vice Governor, Hidenori Fujibe, joined Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda in a call on the Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo to deliver the news. Moving the 15 KC-130 refueling tankers from Futenma MCAS in Ginowan to Iwakuni could come as early as June next year, with a completion date of September. The move is part of a master plan for closing Futenma after a Replacement Futenma Facility is built at Camp Schwab, and in Oura Bay adjacent to the facility.
The agreement to close Futenma and build a new airfield was agreed to more than a decade ago for the Henoko district of Nago City.
The one concern being voiced in Tokyo was by a worried Mayor Fukuda, who told Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera that he’s concerned Yamaguchi Prefecture could encounter problems if the political situation deteriorates and Futenma remains open after the KC-130’s are moved to his community.
The transfer of the 15 KC-130s from the base in Ginowan, Okinawa, to the marines’ Iwakuni Air Station southwest of Hiroshima is expected to take place between June and September next year as part of an agreement originally reached in 1996 to build a sea-based replacement facility for the Futenma base. He told the Defense Minister “If the relocation of the Futenma air base isn’t realized and the base continues to be used, it won’t make sense to relocate the KC-130s in the first place and it won’t lead to a reduction of the burden on Okinawa.”
The next piece of the puzzle is to be decided by Governor Hirokazu Nakaima within the next few weeks. He must sign paperwork allowing the land reclamation projects to move forward. He’s publicly expressed the opinion Futenma should be moved outside the prefecture, but at the same time has not rejected the Henoko project. The central government is lobbying Nakaima and other local leaders to get behind the relocation project.