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Government freezes subsidies promised for Henoko

Date Posted: 2007-08-02

Billions of yen promised by the central government to boost northern Okinawa’s economy have been put on hold.

Okinawa was to begin receiving ¥10 billion in subsidies this month, money promised by the Japanese Ministry of Self Defense as part of a deal to relocate Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. The money was to go to Okinawa Prefecture and to Nago City, site of the proposed new airfield at Henoko. The Self Defense Agency now says the money’s been deferred to the 2008 budget.

The money freeze is being linked to completion of an environmental assessment needed before a new airfield can be built. Complications have arisen to that assessment as the Prefecture and Nago City began asking for project changes, and the northern Okinawa promotion budget approved in 2006 by the Self Defense Minister is shelved at least temporarily. Yuriko Koike had approved the money, and now Okinawa’s governor is going to ask her to work out a solution to the problem.

The problem is changes sought by Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima after he won the governorship. He told the cabinet office “we’ll accept the plan to build the heliport outside Henoko, but on condition of a few flight line changes.” Expecting those talks to be fruitful, the government approved the budget, saying “Okinawa’s governor has made a new council committee to discuss the transfer, so the conditions haven’t collapsed.”

The Ministry of Self Defense is now saying “since Okinawa has refused event to accept the letter initiating the environmental impact assessment and how to proceed, we can’t say Okinawa is cooperating smoothly. Without Okinawa accepting the letter, we can’t release the money.” Nakaima’s conditions, which he is insisting upon, call for “moving the landing field outside of Henoko area to ensure the safety of our residents, and close Futenma Air Station within three years.”

Nakaima has not accepted the paperwork requested by the Self Defense Agency, so a spokesman says “the Japanese government has not said yes. Paperwork is frozen at the government side, especially now, as Keiko Itokazu has won election to the House of Councilors.”

Itokazu, a staunch opponent of U.S. forces being on Okinawa, has demanded “No, no heliport to be built at Henoko.” She’s told the two governments to “take the heliport outside of Okinawa. We don’t need bases anymore.”

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