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Tokyo formally approves troop realignment plan

Date Posted: 2006-06-10

The Japanese Cabinet has signed off on the long negotiated deal between the US and Japan to dramatically realign the American forces structure in the islands.

The realignment affects military forces across Japan, with much of the significant power shifts coming on Okinawa. The plan approves a Futenma Replacement Facility, a two-runway facility to be built on the coast near Nago, and clears the way for 8,000 Marines to move to Guam.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine remains upset by the deal, and insists he and the Prefecture will not abide by it. The central Government is working to smooth relations with the governor, and with local officials impacted by the Okinawa aspects of the deal. Shinzo Abe says the Diet’s meeting brought some changes, including abolition of a 1999 agreement on Futenma’s future, including a joint use military-civilian airport.

Abe, the Chief Cabinet Officer, says “the current danger to Futenma Air Station should be removed and the environment protected. A substitute airport should be made quickly.” Inamine fires back that the government has breeched its promises to consult with the prefecture. “We have a lot of problems with American military bases,” the governor says, “so It’s always necessary to discuss the issues with those who live with the bases.”

Nago City’s mayor, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, says “I don’t understand the Central Government. I’ll tell them what is missing, and what is not needed.” Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha says nothing’s changed. This determination is just like last year’s agreement and gives pressure to Nago City.

Okinawa businessmen, meanwhile, are urging the governor to take a more conciliatory stance.

They’re asking him to reconsider his decision not to participate in council talks on the U.S. Forces Japan realignment. Businessmen say “it would lead to decisive battles with the central government that could affect Okinawa” and are asking him to mend fences with the Tokyo government.

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