Deputy prime minister insists that maintenance and repair of Futenma Air Station is necessary

Deputy prime minister insists that maintenance and repair of Futenma Air Station is necessary

At the Ginowan Municipal office on March 17, Mayor Atsushi Sakima (left) uses an aerial photograph in his explanation to Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada.

March 18, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, who visited Okinawa for the first time since he was appointed, met Ginowan mayor Atsushi Sakima in the municipal office on March 17. Okada insisted that maintenance and repair work on U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is necessary in order to continue using the base, saying, “The more run down the facilities become, the more likely it is that accidents will occur.” In that context, Okada tried to obtain the consent of Okinawans who are worried that Futenma will become a permanent fixture, asserting that, “The Japanese government should look at maintenance and repair work for the base quite separately from that matter.” Okada and Sakima agreed that they want to avoid the situation in which the base becomes a permanent fixture.

While Okada asserted that the Japan-U.S. agreement by which the governments of Japan and the United States will relocate Futenma Air Station to Henoko, Nago will go ahead, he said, “The Japanese and U.S. governments will strive to eliminate the dangers posed by the base until we actually relocate the base.”

With regard to the situation in which the U.S. military does not comply with agreements on aircraft noise abatement countermeasures prohibiting military aircraft from flying during the early morning and night hours, Okada said, “We would like the U.S. government to keep its promises. If we make exceptions to the agreements, they will not work anymore. We strongly urge the U.S. government to comply with established agreements.”

Before going back to Tokyo, Okada held a press conference at a hotel in Naha. With regard to the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft that are scheduled to be deployed at Futenma Air Station this year, Okada said, ” Judged from data provided by the United States, the frequency of accidents involving the Osprey, makes us believe that their deployment will not lead to an increase in the burden on Okinawa of hosting U.S. forces.”

With regard to the Futenma relocation issue, Okada asserted, “The Japanese government will move in keeping with the Japan-U.S. alliance and implement the current plan.” On the matter of local opposition to the plan, Okada said, “We would like to foster a trusting relationship in order to secure local consent and will handle the situation in good faith.”

At the meeting, Sakima demanded the early return of Futenma Air Station, the elimination of dangers posed by the base and the upgrade of Route 11.
Before his meeting with Sakima, Okada met Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima at a hotel in Naha. Although it was unofficial, Nakaima and Okada were reported to exchange opinions regarding the reduction of the burden on Okinawa of hosting U.S. forces and the need to swiftly construct a second runway at Naha Airport.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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