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Prime Minister to make his first Okinawa visit

Date Posted: 2012-02-24

Japan’s Prime Minister is preparing himself for his first ever visit to Okinawa, and he’s got his hands full trying to figure how to sway local leaders to see eye-to-eye with him over the Futenma relocation issue.

Yoshihiko Noda will arrive in Okinawa Sunday for a two-day visit, which will include meetings with Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who’s just released his opinion opposing the government’s environmental assessment report on why relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan to Henoko in northern Okinawa should be no problem.

Nakaima is staunchly opposed, while Noda is coming to Okinawa to press the urgency of getting the governor and other local officials to reconsider their opposition to the current plan for relocating the controversial air base to Henoko. The visit beginning Sunday is the first for Noda since taking office in September. He’s told officials he plans to both talk with local officials and brief them on discussions with the U.S. regarding adjustments to the U.S. forces realignment in the country.

Noda is expected to reiterate the new policies discussed by Japan and the United States, and how they’ll ease the military burden on Okinawa. Tokyo and Washington have revamped the 2006 bilateral agreement, delinking the Futenma relocation from the transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and the return of lands to Japan.

Nakaima’s session with the Prime Minister remains full of questions, as the governor and local officials have demanded Futenma be moved completely out of Okinawa.

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