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U.S. general nixes Futenma – Kadena move

Date Posted: 2009-11-05

The American three-star general commanding U.S. Forces in Japan has politely brushed off the idea of consolidating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station with Kadena Air Base on Okinawa during discussions with the Japanese Defense and Foreign Ministers.

Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, in a rare direct meeting between an American military leader and senior Japanese Cabinet ministers, told Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada it would be difficult to merge the two services’ military operations at Kadena. Rice had met the two senior Japanese leaders to defuse a proposal for putting Marine aircraft at Kadena that in recent days has gained media attention.

The Foreign Minister had brought the idea up, saying it was his own idea. Okada cited the speed with which Futenma could be closed by shifting the Marine base to Kadena, which already has infrastructure and runways available. The idea surfaced years ago, but was rejected. Defense Minister Kitazawa has suggested Japan move forward with the plan agreed to in 2006, moving Futenma to Henoko and Camp Schwab in northern Okinawa, while Okada thinks Kadena’s the more logical choice.

A Japanese lawmaker, meanwhile, has come up with a new idea linking moving the Marines to Kadena with a 15-year time limit on their being at the sprawling U.S. airbase. The unnamed politician wants Futenma units moved to Guam or the U.S. mainland in the long term, a ban on use of Kadena Air Base for fighter training by units not stationed there, and redeployment of at least half the 28 F-15 fighter aircraft stationed at Kadena.

Tokujitsu Miyagi, Kadena Town’s mayor, has quickly stepped forward to say “I’m opposed to the plan. It can’t be accepted.” Both the U.S. military and Kadena Town officials worry noise pollution would increase with the higher levels of flight operations.

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