Abe reiterates that the government will stick to the Henoko relocation plan

Abe reiterates that the government will stick to the Henoko relocation plan

On February 2, at ANA Crowne Plaza Okinawa Harborview in Naha, Nakaima (right) and Abe discussed base issues and budget measures to help develop the prefecture.

February 3, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

On February 2, for the first time since regaining the premiership, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Okinawa to meet Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima at a hotel in Naha. While Nakaima expressed his gratitude to Abe for meeting Okinawan requests for about 300 billion yen in development funding for the prefecture in its draft fiscal 2013 budget, he again requested that the central government relocate Futenma Air Station outside of the prefecture. Abe reiterated that the central government intends to adhere to its plan to move the facilities to the Henoko area of Nago as agreed with the U.S. government. The prime minister talked to the press after the meeting with Nakaima, saying, “We are not thinking about lodging the application for the land reclamation in the Henoko coastal area before my trip to Washington later this month.” Members of the media were allowed to attend the first part of the meeting, but Abe and Nakaima then moved to a separate room where they continued their discussions for about 30 minutes by themselves.

Nakaima requested that Abe rescind the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft now deployed at Futenma Air Station, saying, “The Okinawan people are really concerned about the safety of this aircraft.” Abe responded saying, “We will definitely ensure the safety of the Okinawan people. The central government is doing its best to dispel residents’ concerns over safety issues, and is trying to arrange for training in the aircraft to be held outside of Okinawa to the greatest extent possible.” With regard to the return of six other U.S. military facilities located south of Kadena Air Base, Abe said, “We will work to speed up the creation of an integrated plan.”

Abe suggested that the former administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) worsened the relationship between the central government and Okinawa. He said, “Over the past three years, the DPJ failed to build a trusting relationship with Okinawa. First of all we want to work to regain the trust of the people of Okinawa.”

Abe stated that the central government will allocate budget to build a second runway at Naha Airport, and will reduce the period required for construction. He said, “We have managed to secure budget for the project. It is regarded as an investment in the future, and is expected to have a large and positive economic impact. It will be a feature of the economic policy of my administration.” With regard to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), Abe said that he will promote the school as part of national policy, saying, “OIST is one of our strategies to boost the nation’s growth.”

In addition to the meeting with Nakaima, Abe visited the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Naha Air Base and OIST. After looking over Futenma Air Station from the Kakazu observation deck, he flew back to Tokyo that night.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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