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Budget assigns ¥30 million to get new airfield started

Date Posted: 2008-12-25

The central Japanese government has allocated ¥300 million to begin the construction necessary to relocate Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the Henoko area of northern Okinawa.

The money is wrapped in the 2009 Defense Ministry budget, with the funds earmarked to deal with the waterside protection works and maintenance in Oura Bay adjacent to Camp Schwab, site of the replacement airfield. Officials, in assigning the funds, noted construction procedures are expected to be delayed about eight months.

The money for Henoko is part of an omnibus ¥11.172 billion budget that focuses on initiating the accord between Japan and the United States that will, in conjunction with the Futenma relocation, pave the way for relocating 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The Futenma project is expected to initially cost ¥940 million, with the final price tag in the area of ¥24.7 billion. Defense Ministry officials in Okinawa expect to begin reclamation projects this year to shore up the seawall banks.

A sticking point to the deal is the requirement for approval from Okinawa’s government, an agreement Hirokazu Nakaima has yet to okay. He’s holding off on granting necessary approvals to begin reclamation work until several specific problems on runway location are cleared up. Nakaima is also confronted with objections both from local area residents and the Prefecture Assembly’s ruling opposition party.

Defense Ministry officials are pressing to get the project moving, a 2009 necessity if there’s any hope of achieving the 2014 troop relocation goal. Some observers predict opposition to the airfield relocation will intensify, and be more violent this coming year.

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