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Glimmers of hope flicker in

Date Posted: 2009-05-07

It could have been a ‘done deal’ in acceding to Okinawa’s requests for shifting a pair of V-shape runways as part of a new American military airfield, but the abrupt resignation of the prime minister thwarted the process.
The former Chief Cabinet Secretary says Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s administration was working with local Okinawa officials to resolve the conflict surrounding exactly how far out into Oura Bay to set the two runways. Nobutaka Machimura says Tokyo had hoped to resolve the entire airfield issue last fall, while George W. Bush was still in the White House.
“We had handled the issue with the intention of building a consensus with Okinawa,” says the former Chief Cabinet Secretary, “but Fukuda’s sudden departure made it impossible to proceed with the plan.” He talked about the process this week after his successor, Takeo Kawamura, spoke of plans for Prime Minister Taro Aso’s administration to “handle the matter sincerely” in discussions with Hirokazu Nakaima, Okinawa’s governor.
Okinawa officials are holding out hopes that the current administration will begin talking with them, and listening to them. The governor has asked the central government to modify the current plans and move the runways at last 50~90 meters further into the bay, off the shoreline at Camp Schwab where the main elements of the airfield are to be located. The Prefecture contends that safety and noise issues of concern to local residents can be resolved by moving the runways farther offshore.


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