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Prefecture reacts quickly to loss of Henoko subsidies

Date Posted: 2007-08-03

Only one day after learning ¥10 billion in government subsidies would not be paid because of a lack of progress on an agreement to construct a replacement airfield in northern Okinawa, the Prefecture notified the central Japanese government it’s ready to talk.

The money was linked to development of a new two-runway airfield to be built on Camp Schwab, in the Henoko area under Nago City’s administrative control. The new airfield is to replace the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in heavily populated Ginowan City. The project has been stalled for years because of environmental, economic and political challenges.

“We’ll accept the assessment of your ideas,” the Prefecture has told Tokyo. “If you have plans with more ideas, like moving the runways, a contract on this assessment can proceed, and the Prefecture is ready to approve it.” Still, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima tells Tokyo he is refusing to accept the current plan, saying it breaches his promise, and it’s something the opposition parties will criticize.

“Nago City’s idea to move the runway 350 meters away from land will not be possible because of the dugongs and algae there, but another plan is to move the runway towards Nagashima, away from land, going offshore,” the Prefecture response stated. “We’ll approach the U.S. Government and ask them to bring other plans, too, to make it possible for Okinawa to accept the assessment paper.”

The Self Defense Ministry stands fast in its statement “Without accepting the assessment contract paper, money for the northern part of Okinawa’s promotion will not be given.” The Minister of Self Defense, Yuriko Koike, is charging the Prefecture and Nago City to “please think about it more carefully, and we’ll receive very seriously your opinions.” She also told the local lawmakers “we think about Nago City peoples’ lives, too. We have a responsibility to protect their lives.”

Koike reminded them “we did make an agreement with America, and we need a real answer, and not always saying ‘no, no’.” She says “I want to give the ¥10 billion subsidy money, but how can I ask the Cabinet Agency for this money without an answer.” She told the Prefecture she hoped for smooth discussions to be forthcoming, and the Prefecture says they’ve agreed.

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