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Tokyo to try mediating Futenma dispute

Date Posted: 2008-07-17

The central government Friday will try to convince Okinawans it wants to be responsive to their requests on the Futenma relocation issue, while at the same time trying to persuade the US to be more flexible.

At issue is the relocation of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to a new site in northern Okinawa, while expediting a closure of the controversial base in Ginowan City. The U.S. and Japan have already agreed to moving the base to a new facility near Nago City, on Camp Schwab, an agreement at odds with the wishes of Nago City and Prefecture officials. Okinawans want the V-shape runways extended further into Oura Bay, a proposal rejected by the U.S.

Equally controversial is the Okinawa demand that the current Futenma facility be closed within three years. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has asked Tokyo to expedite the construction of the new base, now slated for completion in 2014, and to close Futenma’s airfield and relocate its activities to other places. Futenma, located in densely populated Ginowan City, was the site of an August 2004 helicopter crash just outside the base, on the campus of Okinawa International University.

The U.S. has rejected plans to change the runway arrangement, but has said it will address changing the Futenma flight patterns until the base is ultimately closed. Nakaima, irritated by the U.S. position, asked Tokyo to intervene. Friday’s meeting is being tagged a consultative meeting that will hopefully lead to creation of a joint study group that will study the potential dangers of continued Futenma operations.

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