Suga wows government goal to stop Futenma operations by 2019

Visiting Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told Governor Hirokazu Nakaima during their meeting, Wednesday, that the Japanese government aims to stop the use of MCAS Futenma in 2019. Facing media after the meeting, he added that the five-year countdown to the closure had begun in February. Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has repeatedly made requests that the operations at the MCAS Futenma be stopped within five years.

Suga also stated that, “We must remove the dangers arising from the Futenma base and prevent the facility from being kept permanently at its current location.” He said that both politicians are “on the same page” regarding the planned transfer of the base.

To that end Suga said that the government would steadily implement the planned relocation of the MCAS Futenma to Henoko based on agreements between the Japanese and U.S. governments.

Nakaima then called on the government to promote the transfer of some U.S. military drills from Okinawa to other prefectures, and to redouble efforts to realize a proposed new Japan-U.S. treaty that would enable environmental surveys at U.S. bases in the prefecture. Suga only replied that the central government would try hard.

This visit was Suga’s third to Okinawa since he became the chief cabinet secretary in Dec. 2012, and his first since he assumed the concurrent post of the minister for easing Okinawa’s burden in the Sep. 3 cabinet reshuffle.

The visit and Suga’s remarks regarding the MCAS Futenma were obviously designed to boost the chances of the incumbent Nakaima to win the third term in the Nov. 16 Okinawa gubernatorial election, Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima also attended the Suga-Nakaima meeting.

Earlier on Wednesday, Suga took a JSDF helicopter to inspect the drilling survey site off Henoko.