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Government intent on moving Futenma to Henoko

Date Posted: 2011-05-11

Discussions on plans for relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to northern Okinawa brought Japan’s Defense Minister and Okinawa’s Governor together, but the conversations at Prefecture Headquarters did not bring the two closer together.

Toshimi Kitazawa pressed the case for a Henoko relocation using Camp Schwab as the base, with V-shape runways extending into Oura Bay. The defense minister told the governor the central government is seriously seeking to implement the U.S.-Japan Agreement made in May 2010 to transfer the controversial base to the Henoko coastal district of Nago, a point that did not please Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

Nakaima rejected the idea, demanding that the Futenma base be moved out of Okinawa. Former Democratic Party of Japan President and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged to move the base out of Okinawa, Nakaima reminded the defense minister. Hatoyama’s failure to deliver on that campaign promise led to his resignation. Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration says the Japanese government plans to accept a U.S. proposal to construct the two runways aligned in a V-shape. Japan and the U.S. have already agreed to decide the specific location and construction method for a Futenma replacement facility before the next two-plus-two meeting.

Kitazawa told the governor Tokyo and Washington will be able to reach an agreement on reducing noise at U.S. military bases in Okinawa at a so-called two-plus-two security conference involving both the defense and foreign ministers of the two nations, and at a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and U.S. President Barack Obama.

On a more conciliatory note, Nakaima and Kitazawa confirmed that the central Okinawan governments will hold a policy panel meeting soon to discuss a new program for revitalizing Okinawa’s economy. The program is set to begin in the fiscal year starting next April.

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