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Okinawa’s governor still dislikes Tokyo plans

Date Posted: 2010-08-19

Japan’s central government continues to try selling the idea of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station’s move to Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago City, and Okinawa’s governor continues to tell Tokyo “it’s far from being acceptable.”

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is standing firm that Futenma must leave Okinawa, and has been rebuffing efforts by Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama and others who’re trying to persuade him the base is necessary in Okinawa. Fukuyama says he understands Nakaima’s frustrations, and says of his meetings with the governor “unfortunately, I have the feeling my explanations are not satisfactory to the governor.”

Fukuyama is the latest in a string of government officials to make the trek to Okinawa to appeal for support for the new airbase, even as apologies continue for Okinawa having to bear the largest share of burdens involved with hosting U.S. forces in the country. Nakaima’s support is essential, as only the governor has the authority to approve land reclamation in Oura Bay that is needed to build the two V-shape runways called for in the 2006 Japan ~ U.S. agreement.

Despite their disagreements, Nakaima and Fukuyama say they’ll continue talking as they seek a solution. Fukuyama says he hopes to gain local understanding by thoroughly consulting with the prefecture about ways to ease the burden on Okinawa. Nakaima, for his part, says Fukuyama’s ideas are far from what he and Okinawans are willing to accept. Fukuyama continues to press Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s position that the central government is making every possible move to ease burdens on Okinawa, while pressing forward with the relocation.

Kagoshima Prefecture’s governor, Yuichiro Ito, and three mayors of that prefecture’s Tokunoshima Island, have continued their objections to relocating some of Okinawa’s U.S. military training on that island. This week’s petition is the first sent by Kagoshima Prefecture and Tokunoshima Island officials demanding the island be removed from plans for relocating U.S. military training since Kan took office as Prime Minister.

Governor Nakaima has also renewed his call for Futenma to be closed. “There are several ways technically to remove the current risks of the Futenma base as soon as possible,” Nakaima said on the sixth anniversary of a Marine Corps helicopter crash just after takeoff from Futenma. He once more proposed relocating U.S. military training now staged from Futenma to other locations within mainland Japan.

The August 2004 crash of a Marine Corps CG-53D heavy lift helicopter onto the campus of Okinawa International University adjacent to Futenma injured no Ginowan City residents. Three Marine Corps crew members were injured. The crash led to calls for removing Futenma, which sits atop a hilltop surrounding a densely populated city.

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