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Inamine balks at new Nago airport deal

Date Posted: 2006-04-15

A promise to build two runways instead of one was enough for Nago City to agree to a government plan to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Camp Schwab.

Nago City Mayor Yoshinobu Shimabukuro and Self Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nakaga settled the airfield move with the deal to construct two flight lines and runways, one for take offs and another for landings. A no-fly zone will be established over Toyohira, Abe, Henoko, Ginoza Village and the Matsuda area.

“It’s great that I made them hand over our demands for the four areas,” said the mayor. “Now the states listened, and we can make an agreement.” The Director General also discussed the plans with Ginoza, Higashi and Onna Village mayors, as well as the Kin Town mayor, reaching agreement with them as well.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine rejected the deal, sticking to his stance the replacement airfield must be constructed farther out to sea, and not on land. Earlier plans did call for such a runway, but it ran afoul of environmentalists who blocked the offshore project. “While I respect the local authorities’ attitude,” Inamine said in Tokyo after meeting with Nukaga, “Okinawa remains firmly opposed.”

Still, Nukaga and Inamine have agreed to keep talking. “We’re still continuing,” Nukaga said, “because the governor shares our view that the Japan-United States security treaty is necessary. I think we can settle the issues through further discussions.”

A 1996 plan called for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to be relocated away from heavily populated Ginowan City. The Prefecture had agreed to the plan, which would have created an alternative airfield to be used by both military and civilian aircraft near Cape Henoko

The sticking point now is that Okinawa Prefecture must approve any offshore construction. Without Inamine’s approval, the central government cannot reclaim land in the bay.

Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya says the government will be patient as it seeks support from the Prefecture. Moriya says there’s plenty of time to earn the Prefecture’s trust, noting that construction will first take place on Camp Schwab. The Defense Agency predicts that reclamation work would not begin for about three years after construction begins.

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