Okinawa governor’s initial correspondence to U.S. government requests MCAS Futenma closure

Okinawa governor’s initial correspondence to U.S. government requests MCAS Futenma closure

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki

May 28, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

Recently Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki sent his first correspondence to the U.S. government, requesting the prompt suspension of operations on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) is once more appealing for an immediate halt to operations, due in part to the five-year period within which the Japanese government had promised Okinawa that operations on MCAS Futenma would be terminated hitting its deadline in February this year, and results of the prefectural referendum showing that more than 70 percent of Okinawans oppose Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) construction in Henoko. Governor Tamaki’s missive states that the OPG believes that the relocation to Henoko will not bring about the prompt elimination of the dangers posed by MCAS Futenma.

According to the OPG, this is the first time that Okinawa’s governor has corresponded directly with the U.S. government requesting the suspension of operations on MCAS Futenma. Governor Tamaki sent the letter on May 24 and officially announced it on May 27. He commented, “I want the United States government to heed the will of the Okinawan people, and work toward suspending operations on the airfield and eliminating the danger as soon as possible.”

The missive was sent to four people: U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty and Commander of the United States Forces, Japan (USFJ) Kevin Schneider, and residing in Okinawa, Consul General of the U.S. to Okinawa Robert Koepcke and Okinawa Area Coordinator (OAC) Eric Smith. In the letter, Governor Tamaki asks for the letter to be forwarded to President Trump. An Okinawan official said that the document aims to make known that the new base is bound to lead to problems for the United States, too.

This missive brings up the dangers of MCAS Futenma, including the current overlarge share of the base burden on Okinawa, the helicopter crash onto an Okinawa International University building in the vicinity of MCAS Futenma in 2004, and the helicopter window part that fell on Futenma Daini Elementary School in 2017. It goes on to explain that the population density of Ginowan City, which bears MCAS Futenma, has approximately the population density of Chicago.

Furthermore, the missive presents the fact that over 70 percent of Okinawans who voted in the prefectural referendum voted in opposition to land reclamation as part of FRF construction in Henoko, Nago City. It points out that since soft ground has been found in the construction area, completion of the FRF remains uncertain.

The letter also reminds readers that ground improvement work is planned only for aircraft runways. It continues, “This means that once an earthquake occurs, all reclaimed areas other than runways would become liquefied and unusable as a military base. If a seawall collapses or suffers damage, the recovery of the landfill area is beyond feasible. As stated, the existence of soft ground potentially impairs the Marine Corps readiness against foreign aggression.”

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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