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Tanaka promises no Futenma shortcut

Date Posted: 2012-01-27

Only days after a herky-jerky start in his role as Japan’s Defense Minister, Naoki Tanaka is seeking to allay concerns he and the central government would try an end run around Okinawa’s government to get the Futenma relocation project moving.

Tanaka has assured reporters in Tokyo he and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will not introduce a special bill in the Diet to bypass Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s authority and approval for land reclamation needed to begin the new airfield project. Plans for constructing a new airfield at Camp Schwab in Nago City’s Henoko district, with a pair of V-shape 2,500-meter-long runways extending into Oura Bay adjacent to the Camp, require the landfill, which must be approved by Nakaima.

The alternative, by law, if for the central government to pass a bill overriding the governor’s authority. “The Japan-U.S. Agreement continues to be the basis for relocation,” he says, and “I want to deepen the understanding of Okinawa locals.” Tanaka promised to “decrease the burden in Okinawa Prefecture, so both the Japanese and U.S. governments want to move the plan forward as soon as possible.”

Okinawans want the base moved off Okinawa, and Governor Nakaima’s strong opposition was enough to lead Prime Minister Noda’s senior leaders to consider fast-tracking a bill through the Diet to bypass the governor. Tanaka was forced to back of this comments made only days ago about timelines, assuring his opponents “it’s not about setting an exact time frame, goal or deadline.”

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