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Kan’s government backpedals on Futenma decisions

Date Posted: 2010-08-05

The Nago City Assembly election in September, the Okinawa gubernatorial election November 28th, and the prevailing anti-government and anti-U.S. bases sentiment overshadowing the process for finalizing details of the May agreement on moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to a sparsely populated area of northern Okinawa has sent Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration into a ‘delay and defer’ mode until late this year.

A weekend visit to Okinawa by Seiji Maehara, the Okinawa Affairs Minister, led to his declaration “we must have the flexibility to allow us to say we cannot move things forward without Okinawa’s acceptance,” a lightly veiled code phrase meaning nothing will happen until the Democratic Party of Japan and Kan see what Okinawa voters will do in the upcoming elections. Maehara spent the weekend apologizing to the mayors of 12 municipalities in northern Okinawa, telling them the government has forced the municipalities to shoulder “great” base-hosting burdens.

Maehara would not, however, back off to the point he agreed with Nago City’s Mayor, Susumu Inamine, who declared to the Minister “I’d like you to take my words seriously because I have said all along that we cannot accept the Futenma relocation.” The Okinawa Affairs Minister suggests instead that everything wait until the voters make their decisions, and opposition to the base move dies down.

When the two nations agreed to the latest pact in May, Japan and the U.S. reaffirmed their “intention to locate the replacement facility at the Camp Schwab Henoko area and adjacent waters,” a part of Nago City. The late May declaration said the two countries would finalize a study on the new facility’s “location, configuration and construction method, in any event no later than the end of August.” That deadline, Maehara and other national leaders suggest, will not be met. Instead, everything other than working level discussions will go on hold.

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