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Tomon rejects Awase joint-use project with Americans

Date Posted: 2008-07-10

Okinawa City’s mayor has refused to sign an Awase reclamation project contract, saying “if we go for use together with the Americans, it means we give a new military base to America.”

The contract was to move forward with Awase land reclamation work in the second area of Nakagusuku Bay, but Mitsuo Tomon refused to sign it because it meant a cooperative effort with the U.S. military, because the project area is on the American side of the water’s edge. She says the project will “disturb use of the land,” explaining she’s already notified the Prefecture and the central government of her refusal to sign the contract.

The Okinawa General Bureau and the Prefecture now are shifting gears, packaging the project for Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s signature, switching responsibility for the joint project away from Okinawa City into the hands of Okinawa Prefecture. Okinawa City is charging that the central government and the Prefecture are trying to neglect Okinawa City, and Okinawa City residents are complaining they’re upset by the decision.

Okinawa Prefecture says “this second area’s reclamation project hs a Prefecture-owned bayside road and a green area outside the new area, and there must be maintenance on it. If we want this work to go smoothly, we need to join together with the military.” The Prefecture is now conferring with the local Self Defense Office to change the signature authority from the Okinawa City mayor to the governor.

“It’s not changing the land user,” a government official says, “it’s just a procedural change for applying for renewal of projects. The contract for the 31.2 hectares area would be for five years. A request for the U.S. military to turn back the land was refused, leading to the agreement by Japan and the U.S. in 1999 to address area land reclamation as joint use projects.

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