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Governor finally joins base relocation talks

Date Posted: 2006-09-10

The Okinawa Governor prevented a collapse in talks regarding the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, listening to last minute appeals for his participation.

Governor Keiichi Inamine had been boycotting the meetings arranged by the central government, failing to show for the first consultative meeting. After a series of frantic telephone calls by the Minister in Charge of Okinawa Affairs, Yuriko Koike, Inamine agreed to attend the meeting.

The eleventh hour deal is keeping the talks alive, but there’s little optimism negotiations will be easy. Koike says the government will proceed with the development plan for the prefecture’s northern region, even without local government support. “The government will deal with the implementation of the plan,” she said, “on the condition Futenma relocation talks are moving ahead smoothly.”

The central government had made its plan for U.S. Forces realignments last May, overturning a 1999 cabinet document that had been the roadmap. The prefecture had said it would boycott the new meetings, arguing that conditions for moving Futenma had “not been met”. As the prefecture backed away from the session, so did Nago City’s representatives.

The Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nakai had prepared for the meeting, along with Koike and Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga. With Nago’s Mayor, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, and the governor missing, the phone diplomacy was pressed into play. Although Koike and Nukaga sweet-talked the governor into playing semantics that “conditions have been met” for the talks, observers say the development plan will proceed without the government caving in on demands for concessions.

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