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Futenma to be on Presidentís radar during November visit

Date Posted: 2005-10-28

President George W Bush may find himself embroiled personally in the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation issue during a state visit next month.

Bush is to meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Kyoto, enroute to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Busan, Korea. The two leaders are to meet Nov. 15-16. As the Japanese Foreign Minister and U.S. Secretary of State struggle to break the impass over where to move the airbase, now located in a populated area of Ginowan City, the top leaders can be expected to talk the issues over too.

There is much more than Futenma in a troop realignment plan being discussed, and neither wants it derailed because of the Marine base relocation. Recent discussions between key American officials and combinations of Japanese and Okinawan leaders have centered on plans to drastically rearrange the landscape with American bases dotting Okinawa.

Serious discussions are being conducted to turn back Camp Kinser in Urasoe City, Naha Military Port in Naha City, Camp Foster in Ginowan and Camp Lester in Chatan, in exchange for some concessions on other aviation relocations. Talk includes moving some aviation assets from Okinawa to mainland Japan, while moving the Marine Corps logistics and administrative bases to the northern part of the island. No word on what that would do to construction of a sprawling new U.S. Navy hospital on the east side of Camp Foster.

A Japan visit this month by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was abandoned after the dispute over Futenma became heated.

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