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Airfield future unclear after Tokyo meeting

Date Posted: 2006-12-28

Okinawa’s new governor has met with Tokyo officials about the proposed airfield designed to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, but his message was mixed.

Hirokazu Nakaima told a special committee meeting in Tokyo’s Prime Minister Hall that “you decided to have the new airport with landing and take off runways in V shape, but you never asked or discussed it with us.” He told the committee “we can’t agree with you, because it is too dangerous for the residents.”

The governor, who took office earlier this month replacing airfield opponent Keiichi Inamine, also told the committee he wants “Futenma Air Station to close, or at least not allow helicopters to fly.”

Nakaima shared the meeting stage with Nago City’s mayor, members of surrounding town and village offices, and prefecture staff.

Japan’s Minister of Self Defense, Akio Kyuma, told Nakaima “we’ll do our best” concerning the proposed airfield, adding “we didn’t mean to do anything without Okinawan people’s opinions. I’m very sorry if Okinawan people took it the wrong way.” Kyuma pledged to work more closely for understanding with Okinawa.

From there, the meeting became more muddled. Nakaima insisted Futenma must close before any talks could proceed about a provisional airport. “If the new airport is temporary, and is small, the American military can divide the heliport somewhere else,” he says. “so it will be a safe life for local residents. We don’t need to make them afraid.”

Kyuma continued the Tokyo line, telling the Okinawa delegation “I will take your opinion seriously, and we need cooperation from local people. If we can have that, we are ready to build the airfield quickly, as it is important to be complete by 2014.” The Self Defense Minister also told Nakaima he’s ready to discuss revamping the V-shape runway concept with the U.S. military. “We want the dangers removed from the local residents too, but want you to give a little understanding when we build the airport on Camp Schwab. Do not oppose it, but understand our position a little, please.”

Nago City, in whose jurisdiction Camp Schwab is located, has already agreed to the new airfield, together with its V-shape runways.

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