1.6 billion yen paid towards the maintenance and repair of Futenma Air Station

March 8 2012, Ryukyu Shimpo

The return and relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was agreed upon by the United States and Japan in the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) in December 1996. It has been revealed that in the years since the agreement, from its defense budget, the Japanese government has paid about 1.6 billion yen for maintenance and repair work for Futenma Air Station as part of the omoiyari yosan (the so-called “sympathy budget”), the financial burden Japan pays for the cost of U.S. forces stationed in Japan. Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Mitsu Shimojo explained this at the Special Committee on Okinawa and Northern Problems held on March 7.

With regard to renovating the base, the Japanese and the U.S. governments have been discussing the need for a large-scale upgrade, and it is possible that the Japanese side could shoulder the expense.

The Japanese government has paid a total of 1.5 billion yen towards the cost of upgrading the base. The specifics are 450 million yen towards the cost of the renovation of air-conditioning facilities in barracks during the period from 1998 to 1999, 930 million yen towards the cost of the maintenance of two primary storehouses during the period from 1998 to 2000, and 180 million yen towards the cost of maintenance of runway threshold identification lights for security measures in the wake of the U.S. military helicopter crash into Okinawa International University. These funds come from the omoiyari yosan.

At the same time, the head of North American Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Junichi Ihara, explained that the U.S. government funded the cost for renovation works for the base’s runway, such as repainting pilot wires in 2005 and 2010.

With regard to the maintenance work on Futenma Air Station, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba stated, “Necessary work needs to be carried out.” Genba said that the Japanese and the U.S. governments would determine which side should bear the costs for the work on the base on a case-by-case basis. In response to Seiken Akamine of the Japanese Communist Party, parliamentary vice-minister of Defense, Mitsu Shimojo, explained that the Japanese government had been carefully budgeting for the cost of the maintenance work on the base to avoid the situation that it, and its inherent risks, would become a permanent fixture.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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