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Hatoyama to pitch Futenma plan in Okinawa Tuesday

Date Posted: 2010-05-01

It’s anything but a Golden Week for Japan’s Prime Minister, who’s trying to put together a plan for relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station without antagonizing communities in Okinawa or Kagoshima Prefecture.

Yukio Hatoyama’s latest hope is to move 1,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Tokunoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture, but he’s already been rebuffed by politicians and the general public in Tokunoshima, and has an uphill road to convincing the U.S. government to buy into the plan. The Tokunoshima Airport, he hopes, would be able to satisfactorily handle the MV-22 Ospreys slated for deployment to the Okinawa-based Marine Air Wing in coming years.

The Prime Minister has already sent his plan through diplomatic channels to the U.S., which combined with his ideas for modifications to the 2006 agreement for relocating Futenma to Nago’s Henoko District, would give him a settlement. Hatoyama is coming to Okinawa on Tuesday to meet with Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

His latest move for Okinawa is to keep the proposed site at Henoko and Camp Schwab, but dump the plan for building two V-shape runways in reclaimed land. Instead, he would build a pier-type, pile-supported single runway. He reportedly has support from his Defense Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada for building the 1,800-meter runway. That combined with using Tokunoshima Airport for helicopter operations and training, would solve his problem.

Tokunoshima wants no part of the plan. Hatoyama met with a retired-but-influential Tokunoshma lawmaker, Torao Tokuda, this week, but heard the same rejection of the idea as “unacceptable”. He fared no better with Tokuda’s son Takeshi, who is a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member.

Any plan that Hatoyama brings to the table that includes Okinawa as a site for the replacement airfield is sure to bring the wrath of his political allies. The Social Democratic Party has already rejected the idea, and a rally last weekend by 90,000 Okinawans opposed to the base here puts the Prime Minister in a hot spot. The idea of using a quick installation platform method of building a new runway was proposed years ago, and rejected by both Japan’s Defense Agency and the U.S. Fears that terrorist attacks on such a runway, knocking it out of commission, were cited as problematic.

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