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Government backs down; offers to move new airfield further offshore

Date Posted: 2007-12-21

Okinawa’s demands that runways for a planned airfield at Camp Schwab be moved offshore appear to be being met.

The central government, which has steadfastly rejected Prefecture appeals to move the replacement airfield’s new runways farther offshore for months, reversed course and offered to move them 50 meters farther offshore. The new airfield near Nago City is to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan City.

The proposal, made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura October 31st to Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, was revealed this week. The governor didn’t appear swayed by the government move, insisting the runway should be moved 200 meters into the bay.

Machimura is quoted as telling the governor “We can promise to move the planned relocation site by 50 meters,” adding he wants the environmental assessment process to move smoothly. Okinawa Prefecture, which by law must approve the environmental assessment in order for construction to begin, has already signaled it approves, but still wants to see the runways moved farther out to sea.

This week’s revelation was the first indicator the central government was budging on the proposed design. Japan and the U.S. agreed months ago to relocate the Futenma base to the new site at Camp Schwab, building two V-shape runways extending across the base into the bay. Nakaima is now urging Tokyo to continue pushing the proposed runways farther offshore, 50 meters at a time during planning, until they’re 200 meters from land.

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