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Futenma relocation floundering as sides canít agree on runways

Date Posted: 2008-05-16

The shape, size and location of runways at the proposed replacement military airfield at Henoko are issues dragging progress deeper into the Oura Bay mud.

Six months after a major conference on the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation took place at the prime ministerís official residence in Tokyo, absolutely nothing has happened. And that conference, the fourth between the central government and Okinawa leaders, came ten long months after the third. The agreement inked several years ago called for construction of the new airfield at Camp Schwab, near Nago City, with the twin V-shape runways extending out into Oura Bay.

Okinawa Prefecture wants to modify the plan, moving the runways 80 meters further offshore, a proposal that has drawn a flurry of negative responses from the U.S. and Japanís central government. The Prefecture contends America wonít listen to the Okinawan opinion, and the Japanese position has been largely one of trying to get the U.S. and Okinawa to listen to each other.

ďYes, itís possible to move the runway out a bit farther off shore,Ē says Nobutaka Machimura, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, ďbut not much.Ē The American side isnít budging from the original plans, leading the American Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, to tell Machida ďdonít say itís an easy way to an Okinawan. Donít give the answer that we can move the runway farther offshore. The American military will get complaints.Ē

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