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Okinawa lawmakers simply want Futenma moved away

Date Posted: 2009-02-18

Okinawa’s eleven members of the Diet are divided over the agreement inked this week by Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and they’re not even in the same political parties.

Seven of the 11 Diet members from Okinawa Prefecture oppose the agreement, which calls for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in densely populated Ginowan City to be relocated to Camp Schwab in Nago City’s Henoko District. Five of the seven lawmakers are from Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s Liberal Democratic Party. The five, including Seiji Nakamura, want the controversial base closed, but don’t want the airfield relocation linked to the larger plan of moving 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam.

LDP members have aligned themselves with the governor, who’s the LDP leader, in demanding the base’s runways be moved further away from land to enhance safety and reduce noise pollution for nearby residents. The Japanese and U.S. governments have refused to consider any changes to the airport layout and design.

Opposition lawmakers go farther; they want Futenma closed. They oppose any plans for shifting the Marine Corps airbase to another location within Okinawa, demanding the military “take it outside of Okinawa.” The opposition parties say they expect to grow stronger in the next elections, and when that happens, they’ll turn thumbs down on the Futenma transfer, sending everything back to square one. If that happens, observers say, Futenma would likely stay open for an extended period, the new airfield plans would stall, and the agreed-upon plan for moving Marines and their families to Guam would go on hold.

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