Marines will be at Futenma for the next 10 to 15 years

May 11, 2013 Ryota Shimabukuro of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

Maj. Gen. James Kessler, commander of the Marine Corps Installations Command, told a Senate hearing, “We will be at Futenma for probably the next 10 to 15 years.” On May 9, at a subcommittee meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Marine general commented on progress on the consolidation plan of U.S. forces in Okinawa. In April the governments of Japan and the United States announced in their bilateral agreement that they would return the facilities south of the Kadena in “fiscal 2022 or later.” However, Kessler suggested that they would be using Futenma until 2027. This is the first time that U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged that the return of Futenma could be delayed.

Maj. Gen. Kessler explained that the Japanese government has applied to the Okinawa Governor to reclaim land in the waters off the Henoko area of Nago as part of the relocation plan of Futenma. He predicted that it would take about one year to gain the necessary permission from the Okinawa Governor. In April the U.S. Department of Defense announced the budget for the 2014 fiscal year running from October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014. It includes $5 million (about 500 million yen) for the cost of maintaining the base at Futenma. Kessler stated that it would be spent on the safety fence at Futenma Air Station. He said that ongoing support for the aging facilities at Futenma is needed to maintain a level of safety and operational capability until alternative facilities are completed. Kessler suggested that they need about 4.7 billion yen over the next three years.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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