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Henoko airfield construction project funding shelved

Date Posted: 2008-11-27

Plans to relocate Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko in northern Okinawa by 2014 are looking bleak as the government has signaled it will not fund requests for ¥20~30 billion in construction contracts.

The Defense Ministry has requested the funds to initiate contracts for land-fill and other work along the northern Okinawa coastline, where plans call for building two V-shaped runways extending into Oura Bay from Camp Schwab. The exact location of the two 1,600-meter long runways has Okinawa officials at loggerheads with the U.S. military and Japanese Defense Ministry. Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and other local leaders want the runways extended further into the bay than planned, charging safety and noise reduction are essential.

The Finance Ministry’s reluctance to fund the construction start-ups essentially means the new airfield, which would replace the current Marine Corps airfield at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan, will not be completed by 2014. That delay would stall plans to move 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam as part of a 2006 basket full of realignments agreed to by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Some funding is to be approved by the Finance Ministry, though. An estimated ¥10 billion will be approved to finance other projects at Camp Schwab, including removal of barracks that are in the footprint of the proposed airfield.

The upcoming budget negotiations also include money Japan agreed to provide to support the Marines’ Guam move. Japan is to pick up a large chunk of the costs, and is expected to cough up money in the coming year to pay for building new Marine offices and family housing units in Guam.

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