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Safety issues surface with construction near Futenma

Date Posted: 2006-11-17

Futenma Marine Corps Air Station cannot get out of the public spotlight.

The latest incident attracting Ginowan City attention, and that of the local media, involves construction near the airbase in central Okinawa. The U.S. military and the American Consulate in Naha deny there’s anything wrong, but Ginowan’s mayor isn’t so sure.

“Futenma Air Station should be outside Okinawa,” says Youichi Iha, the fiery anti-American Socialist mayor. “We don’t need American bases in Okinawa.” The firestorm broke after reports Futenma has signs posted saying ‘Keep Out’ and ‘Prohibited Area’ on both sides of the flight line. The signs are consistent with American safety policies that seek to keep approaches to the airfield clearn and safe.

The American Consul General, Kevin Maher, says “Actually, we don’t touch on anything about airport construction. We don’t have any regulations.” He referred officials to the Prefecture government, to the central government in Tokyo, and even to Ginowan City. “They could tell you why there are public facilities or housing areas around the base. Why it was allowed to be constructed is something we don’t know.”

That answer irritates Mayor Iha, who says the Americans built the base, and not only housing areas. He says bases are located in what should be quiet areas, “but here in Okinawa the situation is a little different. The U.S. just took the land from Okinawa and built the base. This place is not just alongside the air station.”

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