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Former Obama advisor calls for moving Futenma to Kadena

Date Posted: 2011-05-11

The former national security advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama is speaking out in Washington, telling Japanese lawmakers he thinks Futenma Marine Corps Air Station should be co-located at Kadena Air Base in central Okinawa.

James Jones, who was Obama’s key national security advisor until a few months ago, is raising the issue in the nation’s capitol again, brushing aside U.S. military opposition to the idea of a shared air base and saying the Japan-U.S. agreement made a year ago can be revised. Jones told Japanese lawmakers at a meeting in Washington that perfect timing for an administration policy shift would be next month, when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates hands the keys to the Pentagon to Leon Panetta.

His thoughts were revealed at a news conference by the Japanese lawmakers, including Mikio Shimoji, secretary-general of the People’s New Party, the junior partner of the Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling coalition. Shimoji represents a constituency in Okinawa. The quoted remarks by Jones, who is a former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, are expected to have repercussions on the intractable issue of Futenma relocation.

According to the Japanese lawmakers, Jones told them that when Japan and the United States first reached an agreement in 2006 on shifting Futenma base functions to a replacement facility in Nago’s Henoko district, he was unable to imagine that the accord would ever be put into practice. Referring to Oura Bay off Henoko, Jones said he doesn’t want to see runways in the beautiful sea when he visits with his family some day. Jones, the lawmakers said, claimed he has long advocated the integration of Futenma functions into the Kadena Air Base.

The military’s opposed to sharing a base between Air Force fighter jets and Marine helicopters. Some pilots have expressed opposition simply because they do not have enough skill, Jones is quoted as saying, noting that many bases are actually operated in such an integrated manner. According to Shimoji, Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who was in Okinawa only days ago, said he finds it difficult to move the Futenma bse to Henoko after making a visit to the seaside location. Webb said that he, along with Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will announce soon a set of proposals regarding relocation of the Futenma base and the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

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