Okinawa City to research potential effects of joint military/civilian use of Kadena Air Base

Okinawa City to research potential effects of joint military/civilian use of Kadena Air Base

Kadena Air Base

June 18, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Ryota Shimabukuro

Okinawa City has incorporated “working on research studies and activities appealing to the national government” regarding the joint military/civilian use of Kadena Air Base into the early stages basic plan of the city’s fifth comprehensive plan that sets forth policy guidelines for FY2021 through FY2025. According to Okinawa City, this is the first time that the city has systematically researched the joint military/civilian use of Kadena Air Base. The city aims to compile the results of studies about the legal system, economic effects, and the impact on noise during the plan period.

The plan cites “development of the central region and revitalization of the city” as the reason that joint military/civilian use is a goal. Meanwhile, Kadena Air Base already has a noise problem, and city officials maintain that the studies will also verify the disadvantages of joint military/civilian use.

The plan states that “the functionality of the airport and port as hubs for tourism and distribution is essential” and that the city will “conduct research studies on the utilization of Kadena Air Base, which has two runways, and make requests to the national government.” The city has built upon the goals of the 4th comprehensive plan for “promoting the return of U.S. military bases, etc., and advancing efforts toward joint use of base facilities.”

Establishing joint military/civilian use of Kadena Air Base was a campaign promise by Mayor Sachio Kuwae. Mayor Kuwae explained in an interview with the Ryukyu Shimpo that “Kadena Air Base is a great burden, but if it can be effectively used as a resource, I would like to use it for economic development in the central part [of the island].” He also expressed his desire to visit bases such as the U.S. military’s Misawa Air Base in Aomori prefecture, which is already a military/civilian joint-use facility. He said, “It can be nerve-wracking because the area surrounding Kadena Air Base is troubled by noise, but the noise of civilian aircraft is different from that of fighter aircraft. Due to the presence of Naha Airport, the number of flights seems unlikely to increase.”

Mayor Kuwae expressed his understanding that requests to the national government and the U.S. military will be premised on consensus among neighboring local governments, such as the Three Municipalities’ Liaison Council concerning Kadena Air Base (Trilateral Liaison Council) made up of Okinawa City, Kadena Town, and Chatan Town. Mayor Kuwae said, “We haven’t reached a consensus with the Trilateral Liaison Council yet, and we must pursue it as a process. A proposal will come with careful attention to our timing.” He acknowledged that “the hurdles are high”, such as receiving assent from the U.S. military.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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