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Nago will negotiate, but Tokyo stands fast on Futenma plan

Date Posted: 2006-02-10

A newly elected Nago City administration is signaling willingness to accept changes in the proposed Futenma relocation plan, but the central Government in Tokyo is refusing to budge from its announced position.

The Japanese and US governments last fall agreed to build the replacement airfield within the confines of Camp Schwab, in northern Okinawa. That plan encompassed a 2,600 meters long runway to replace the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station now in heavily populated Ginowan.

Nago Vice Mayor Bunshin Suematsu this weekend asked Tokyo to modify the proposed airfield plan, saying his city would be happy if the central government would consider elements of a prior plan that called for using reclaimed land in the bay adjacent to Camp Schwab. Suematsu’s proposal was the first official signal from Nago City that it would consider changes. The runway extending into the bay would be important to Nago City, because of fears the current proposed flight patterns would “pass over the Toyohara district of Nago, close to residential areas”.

Kazuhiro Toda, deputy chief for the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, quickly rejected the proposals during a meeting in Onna, saying there are “no plans at the moment” to amend the relocation plan. Earlier in the day Toda listened to Vice Governor Hirotaka Makino vigorously oppose the proposed replacement airfield plan.

The DFAA official explained to Makino the new base location is good for easing noise pollution, while meeting safety requirements. Toda told the Prefecture the relocation plan, as now structured, will take about eight years to finish, including thorough environmental impact studies. The plan would have the new airfield operational about five years earlier than an earlier Futenma plan.

Makino is standing fast that Okinawa citizens oppose the new airfield, telling Toda he doesn’t “think the plan will lead to an early return” of the Ginowan land now being used by Futenma.

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