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New ministers call for Futenma move outside Okinawa

Date Posted: 2009-09-24

The newly formed government spawned by the Democratic Party of Japan’s sweeping victory over the Liberal Democratic Party last month has quickly brought calls from two newly appointed ministers to move Futenma out of Okinawa.

Only a week after assuming office, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism have issued calls for the U.S. and Japan to reject the plan to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to northern Okinawa’s Henoko District. Katsuya Okada, the new Foreign Affairs Minister, and his colleague have both said “Don’t make the new base.”

Okada has met with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, saying Campbell is “soft spoken, not strong talking, but insists Futenma has to transfer to Henoko.” He told Campbell, the East Asia and Pacific Assistant Secretary that “all Okinawan election district candidates want Futenma Air Station to transfer outside of Okinawa.” Okada said Campbell, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, rejected the appeal noting the agreement was already made between the U.S. and Japan, and “to keep the matter as agreed should be the general rule.”

The new Foreign Affairs Minister says he insisted to Campbell that it is time to “start talking about this between Japan and the American military reorganization people.” Okada says “we have to negotiate with America more within this year to decide where to move Futenma. Otherwise, we have to think about Futenma in next year’s budget.”

Okada also raised the question “whether there are any secret understandings existing between the U.S. and Japan?”, telling Campbell he needs to investigate what may have been agreed upon secretly by the two governments at the time of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972.

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