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Inamine stands firm on Clinton’s call for Futenma relocation by G8 summit

By: Michael March

Date Posted: 1999-07-03

U.S. President Bill Clinton’s call to resolve the relocation of Futenma Air Station in time for the G8 Summit in Nago next July will not affect Governor Keiichi Inamine’s determination to settle the issue at his own pace.

In a press conference held after his arrival from a fact-finding mission to the G8 conference in Cologne, Germany, Governor Inamine said the relocation issue must be “clearly separated” from the G8 agenda.

“The question of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station becomes complicated if it is linked to the Okinawa summit,” Inamine said, adding the relocation will be “clearly separated from the summit as we will steadily proceed on the matter based on the consensus of Okinawans, just as we have been doing.”

President Clinton, however, appears to want the matter resolved far quicker than the Okinawan governor, and was quoted by The Japan Times as saying, “I don’t want to go over there (Okinawa) and have all these things hanging out. I hope they’ll all be resolved.”

Despite Inamine’s pledge to work at his own pace and that of his fellow Okinawans, he is under growing pressure to speed up the decision-making process. According to a Mainichi Shimbun report, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Foley, recently urged Inamine to resolve the issue quickly adding that delays would be detrimental to both parties.

The Japanese government’s official stand, said the Mainichi, was to keep both issues separate, but has yet to “say so to Washington.”

Some Okinawan residents are now questioning the government’s decision to pick Nago as the host city for the G8 summit. Many regard the decision not just as a “reward” for its role during the Battle of Okinawa, but as an exchange to give the government leverage to push through the relocation issue sooner rather than later.

The relocation issue first surfaced in 1996, when agreement was reached by both the U.S. and Japanese governments to return Futenma Air Station, located in a busy residential area in Ginowan City, within five to seven years. Under the Special Action Committee on Okinawa agreement, helicopter landing sites must be found to replace those lost at Futenma.

A plan to construct an offshore facility has met with little enthusiasm from the local government. Other proposed sites, such as the forested areas to the north of the island, have also been criticized. Japanese and American environmentalists and scientists claim the forests in the Northern Okinawa hosts some of the rarest species of plants, animals and insects in the world and the construction of landing sites would threaten their existence.

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