Takae helipad construction to resume this month
The central government plans to resume construction of helipads in Takae in the northern Okinawa later this month despite local protests that have been going on for almost 10 years.
The construction of the helipads is included in an agreement between the governments of Japan and U.S. to return a portion of the Northern Training Area known as Camp Gonsalves. The government plans to deploy about 500 riot police to the site to ensure an access to the construction sites that the protesters are blocking.
According to press reports, the Okinawa Defense Bureau started bringing construction materials and equipment into the area last week. Governor Takeshi Onaga has warned that the move would damage relations between the central government and people in Okinawa.
At the meeting of a special committee set up to resolve the dispute over the construction of the MCAS Futenma replacement facility in Henoko, the government asked for Okinawa’s cooperation in building the helipads. Specifically, the government asked the prefecture to tighten the control of a prefectural road near the construction site where protesters are blocking the access to the construction site.
The prefecture claims that building the helipads might promote the use of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft whose safety the protesters question.
Camp Gonsalves is the largest U.S. military installation on Okinawa by area, and in 1996, the U.S. agreed to return about half of the area on condition that Japan builds six helipads on the remaining training area. By now, only two helipads have been completed, but the work on the remaining four has been suspended because of the protests. The work first began almost ten years ago in 2007, and almost immediately prompted protests from local residents.