Base burden reduction on Okinawa still distant concept 25 year after SACO agreement

Base burden reduction on Okinawa still distant concept 25 year after SACO agreement

Futenma Air Station next to a residential area, photographed on September 22 in Ginowan City

December 2, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Manato Akira


December 2 marked 25 years since the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) issued its 1996 final report, which established plans such as the return of approximately 5,000 hectares of U.S. military base land in Okinawa and the relocation of training. The report established conditions, such as the transfer of functions or the construction of substitute facilities in Okinawa, for the return of 11 facilties determined by SACO. The base burden has been shuffled around such that the opposite of burden reduction is occurring, and in addition, there is concern that this could lead to longer-term use of facilities and the burden becoming entrenched.

[Collection] Base concerns include successive accidents, use for other than intended purposes

The Japanese government bears costs for returns and relocations based on the final report under the pretense of reducing the base burden on Okinawa. However, this tends to result in convenient facility updates for the U.S. military.

A condition for returning a major portion (approximately 4,000 hectares) of the Northern Training Area (NTA) was to relocate helipads (helicopter landing zones) to the remaining NTA land. Helipads have been constructed so as to crowd around local communities, and the number of times noise outbreaks occur has increased.

70.3% of US exclusive-use facilities throughout Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. Even if all land returns determined by SACO were completely implemented, there would only be a slight drop in this percentage to 69.6%. If the square measure of the Futenma Replacement Facility in Henoko, which was decided upon after SACO, were also included in calculations, the degree of military base concentration in Okinawa would further increase.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki requests a review of SACO, and for the governments of the United States and Japan to come together again for discussions with the addition of Okinawa’s government.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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