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Building restrictions now eased around Futenma

Date Posted: 2008-08-22

The Japanese government is defending its decision to permit new building construction around Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan City, a move that concerns both the American Consulate in Okinawa and many local citizens who’ve been calling for the base’s closure because of safety concerns.

The new Japanese rules describe the area surrounding Futenma as an urban district, and seem to be at odds with the Futenma Air Station Master Plan that has for nearly two decades restricted construction near the base for safety reasons. The Japanese government, in fact, bought out many buildings near the base flight paths in 1990, and had the buildings torn down.

The U.S. Consul General in Naha City, Kevin Maher, is one asking questions as to why new high rise buildings are being permitted. The answer he’s been given by the Japanese government is that Japanese standards of aviation safety are not applicable to American military base lands. The Master Plan prohibits construction in an extended area extending beyond both ends of the Futenma runway, but new construction is taking place anyway.

Citizens say that memories of the August 2004 crash of a Marine Corps heavy lift helicopter just outside Futenma, onto the campus of Okinawa International University, are fading, but one resident insists “we should not forget about this accident.” Others are simply confused at how construction can be allowed at the same time the mayor and other community leaders are calling the airfield’s existence already a safety hazard.

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