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Nakaima, Defense Minister clash on airfield assessment plan

Date Posted: 2007-09-13

Okinawa’s governor and the Japanese Defense Minister spent the weekend parsing words on development of an airfield in northern Okinawa to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan.

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima steadfastly insists he wants the airfield to be located at Camp Schwab to move forward, but that Japan must agree to some modifications to the proposal generated by the US and Japanese governments. “We’re sorry to say the assessment paper came to Okinawa without first asking the Prefecture for an opinion,” Nakaima tells reporters. “It was steamrolling” by the Japanese government. Nakaima says “after we accept the assessment report, is the government ready to approve reclamation modifications we are asking?”

Newly appointed Defense Minister Masahiko Takamura, making his first Okinawa visit to discuss the Futenma relocation plan, says he heard Nakaima differently. “I’m sure I heard the Governor tell me ‘we don’t say stop advancing the assessment operation,’ but the governor’s word was that we can’t agree with the current assessment because there is a need for modifications.”

“Okinawa’s governor did actually admit the assessment report,” Takamura said, “telling me ‘after we accept the assessment we can do modifications, but it will take 2-3 years, I believe.” That approach is not workable, says the Defense Minister. “It will be difficult to change the assessment after acceptance,” he says, “so our opinions are different about going with the current assessment or changing the assessment.”

The plan will go forward with our without Nakaima’s consent. “The assessment plan will be forwarded quietly anyway,” Takamura stated. “If data comes in a practical way, then the current assessment would see changes.”

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