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U.S., DPJ firm in Futenma disagreement

Date Posted: 2009-09-10

U.S. State and Defense Department representatives are quietly but firmly reiterating that plans for a Futenma relocation will continue as scheduled, even as Democratic Party of Japan political leaders promise to shake things up.

The Democratic Party of Japan, riding high after its historic landslide Lower House of Representatives victory 11 days ago that will put its leader in the prime minister’s seat in the next week, is taking to the airwaves explaining how it will change plans for the new Marine Corps airfield to be built at Camp Schwab and on reclaimed land extending into Oura Bay in northern Okinawa. DPJ’s Vice President, Seiji Maehara, is talking about his party mapping out new plans for relocating the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station out of Ginowan City, and out of Okinawa completely.

Maehara says his party will be meeting with both the U.S. government and the Okinawa Prefecture government to discuss DPJ ideas. Maehara’s position is that the Liberal Democratic Party ousted from power in August 30th elections made many plans, proposals and recommendations over the past 13-14 years that were “unachievable”.

The new Consul General in Okinawa, meanwhile, has told Okinawa’s governor “Since we have set our goal for 2014, we would like to realize the project,” speaking of the plans for force realignment and the Futenma relocation. Consul General Raymond Greene reportedly told Hirokazu Nakaima the U.S. plans are not only for the Futenma airfield project to continue, but the plans to close bases south of Kadena are still in the works.

Greene, who has only been in the Okinawa post since August 25th, reportedly told the governor “The Obama administration is trying to realize the project,” calling the new airfield near Henoko “a necessary project for U.S. security policy.” Local Okinawa media are widely reporting that Greene has informed Governor Nakaima that the new U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, will visit the island prefecture soon.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense, Wallace Gregson, has also spoken out against the DPJ thoughts of altering the Futenma relocation agreement. Speaking from Hawaii, Gregson says “we are very satisfied with the present program.” Gregson, a retired Marine Corps three-star general who commanded the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa a few years ago, appears confident he’ll be able to work the issue. “We always look forward to working with the Japanese government,” he said.

The NTV ‘News Zero’ television program, meanwhile, is focused on American and Japanese media reports about the Democratic Party of Japan being given a grace period to get settled. The Japan Affairs Director at the Department of State, says “I am very confident we will see even closer cooperation with the Japanese government.” Ken Maher, the former Consul General in Okinawa before becoming the Japan Affairs Director in Washington, has suggested there will be changes in the DPJ positions as it settles into the offices of government.

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