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Governor stands firm against Futenma move

Date Posted: 2011-11-18

Japan’s central government insists it will press on with plans for relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to northern Okinawa, and Okinawa’s governor remains staunchly opposed, telling the nation’s Defense Minister it would “simplify matters if the base was moved outside the prefecture.”

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa was again in Okinawa this past week, lobbying to get Governor Hirokazu Nakaima to soften his stance and accept the plan to shift Futenma from downtown Ginowan City to the largely uninhabited area of Nago City’s Henoko district. Flatly, the governor responded he’s not interested.

Neither is the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly, which Monday unanimously adopted a petition directed at Tokyo opposing the plan. The Assembly petition asks the central government to not even present an environmental assessment report. One Tokyo presents the report, the central government is expected to ask Okinawa for permission to reclaim the waterfront area adjacent to Camp Schwab to construct new military buildings and other facilities needed to accommodate the aviation missions and operations that would move from Futenma.

Ichikawa and the central government plan on presenting an environmental impact assessment report to Nakaima before the end of the year. Governor Nakaima must approve all land reclamation projects in the prefecture, and reclamation is needed to construct the two V-shape, 2,500-meter runways that will extend into Oura Bay next to the Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab. He says he won’t do it.

The Defense Minister says he’s “not specified a date” for submitting the report, but assures reporters “I will proceed with the consent of the Okinawan people.” Some political observers are suggesting the comment may indicate Tokyo is considering backing off a specific date for submitting the report.

The State Minister in Charge of Okinawa Affairs, Tatsuo Kawabata, and Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba are now planning trips of their own to Okinawa. Officials say the two will try to persuade Okinawans, who are strongly opposed to keeping Futenma in the prefecture, to accept the relocation plan. Reports indicate the pair will offer economic incentives to the prefecture in hopes of swaying opinions.

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