Governor Onaga says reports that he accepts helipads were inaccurate

Governor Onaga says reports that he accepts helipads were inaccurate

Governor Takeshi Onaga explaining measures on the morning of November 29 at the Prefectural Assembly Hall.


November 30, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On the evening of November 29, Governor Takeshi Onaga told reporters that despite his statement at a news conference the day before that the partial return of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area conditioned on the construction of new helipads presented “the ultimate painful decision”, he does not accept the helipad construction. “I do not accept that the helipad construction is moving forward despite the fact that no environmental impact assessment has been done with regard to the Osprey deployment,” explained Onaga.

Onaga mentioned that in 1996, when the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) final report was published and the partial return of the Northern Training Area and relocation of helipads was agreed upon, the plan to use the new helipads for the use of the Marines’ MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft had not yet been revealed, and said that the construction of helipads for Osprey use “differs from what was in the SACO agreement.”

Governor Onaga said that reports that interpreted his “painful decision” comment as indicating acceptance of the helipad construction did not capture his intended meaning.

Meanwhile, he explained, “It can’t be helped if you [news media] interpreted my comment in that way. That was the interpretation of the media, but it would not have been right for me to explain.”

At the press conference on November 28, when asked for a comment on the fact that the partial return of the Northern Training Area is not happening in a way that satisfies with the wishes of the local communities, Governor Onaga said, “It is difficult to object to the return of roughly four thousand hectares of land.”

He further stated, “If the Osprey are entirely removed [from Okinawa], it would probably be difficult to utilize the helipads fully. When thinking about the steady implementation of the SACO report and the relationship of trust with the two villages [of Higashi and Kunigami], I think everything converges on the removal of the Osprey,” emphasizing his belief that removal of the Osprey would render the helipads useless.

Ceremony for partial return of Northern Training Area to be held on December 22

The national government has begun the final stages of planning for a return ceremony on December 22 to celebrate the partial return of the Northern Training Area. The partial return is conditioned on the construction of new helipads currently being carried out by the central government, and the government plans to finish the construction in mid-December. Plans are being made for the ceremony to be attended by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other relevant cabinet member from the Japanese side and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and others from the U.S. side. The government also plans to invite Governor Takeshi Onaga to the ceremony.

* Two articles have been combined into one for this digital edition article.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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