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Pentagon presses Japan for Futenma decisions

Date Posted: 2010-01-21

The U.S. Defense Department has sent yet another set of signals to Tokyo that it doesn’t like Japan’s time frame for making decisions on Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and its relocation to Henoko in northern Okinawa.

The Pentagon’s Press Secretary has issued a call for Japan to take immediate steps to resolve the issue, and not wait until May. Geoff Morrell said May “is not the preferred timeline, as far as we are concerned. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time.” Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said he’ll not make a decision on where to relocate Futenma until at least May. The United States had called on him to finalize the relocation decision by the end of 2009.

Morrell now is encouraging Japan to develop a “positive conclusion” on Futenma “as soon as possible.” The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and the Pacific, Wallace Gregson, has told a visiting Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker that waiting will only make the decision process harder. Gregson, a retired three-star Marine general who once commanded all forces on Okinawa, met with Shigeru Ishiba of the LDP to review the plan developed and approved by Japan and the United States in May 2006.

That plan called for Futenma to be relocated to the Henoko district of Nago City. The replacement airfield facility ground operations were to be located on the Marines’ Camp Schwab, while a pair of V-shape runways were to be constructed on reclaimed land in Oura Bay. The LDP was the ruling party at the time, and now Prime Minister Hatoyama has threatened to dump the earlier decision and start over.

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