Japanese Prime Minister and Okinawan Governor remain far apart on Futenma relocation issue

Japanese Prime Minister and Okinawan Governor remain far apart on Futenma relocation issue

At the Okinawa Prefectural Office at 8:55am on February 27, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (left) and Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima discussed issues including the Futenma relocation.

February 27, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

In the morning of February 27, during his visit to Okinawa, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima at the Okinawa Prefectural Office.
With regard to the return and relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Nakaima demanded the relocation of the base outside of Okinawa, saying, “[Acceptance of] relocation to the planned coastal area of Henoko in Nago will take a very long time. It would be quicker to find a site for relocation elsewhere in Japan. The relocation of the base outside Okinawa has become the purpose and goal of the Okinawan people. I want to see this happen.” In response, Noda told Nakaima that the Japanese and the U.S. governments are sticking to the current relocation plan, saying, “We see this as the only viable option. I would like to make steady efforts to obtain local understanding on this, and at the same time work to return military facilities and land occupied by the U.S. military south of Kadena Air Base.” With this there was no progress on the issue.

In the meeting, Noda said, “I want to win back the trust of the Okinawan people by providing tangible results in terms of promoting the Okinawan economy and easing Okinawa’s [portion of the national] burden of hosting U.S. forces.” As the leader of Japan, Noda announced his determination to put all his effort into generating results on these matters.

With regard to the fact that the central government has changed its policy, in which when Democratic Party of Japan assumed power in 2009, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised to move the base out of Okinawa or at least to another part of Japan, only to later return to the current relocation plan, Noda said, “The central government did pursue the possibility of relocating the base out of Okinawa, but we ended up endorsing the current Japan-U.S. accord. The people of Okinawa were disappointed because they had expectations regarding the relocation of the base outside of Okinawa.” On that basis, Noda said, “I would like to sincerely apologize to the Okinawan people, and the governor, for causing you trouble including the injudicious remarks that were made last year by the former director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau about the base relocation.”

With regard to promotion of the Okinawan economy, Noda promised to push for the passage within this fiscal year of the Act on Special Measures for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa and the Act on Special Measures Incidental to Reversion of Lands in Okinawa Prefecture Offered for Use by United States Forces in Japan. Noda also mentioned the need to swiftly construct a second runway at Naha Airport.

Noda visited Futenma base, Camp Kinser and Okinawa IT Shinryo Park on the same day. After holding a news conference late in the afternoon, the prime minister flew back to Tokyo.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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