Okinawa Governor calls for Futenma base to stop operating within 5 years

Okinawa Governor calls for Futenma base to stop operating within 5 years

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima hands his requests to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left), at the meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council. In the Prime Minister's Office in the morning of December 17.

December 18, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima called for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to stop operating within five years at the Okinawa Policy Council meeting held in the Prime Minister’s Office on December 17. He also requested a reduction of the prefecture’s burden of bases, including the return of the Makiminato Service Area within seven years and revision of U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded by saying that he will do all he can to meet these requests. It is the first time that the governor has requested the Futenma base to cease operating and set a deadline of within five years. However, on this occasion he did not ask the government to relocate the base outside the prefecture.
Prime Minister Abe, all his cabinet members and Okinawa Governor Nakaima attended the meeting to discuss the economic development of Okinawa and U.S. military base issues.

Government officials explained their efforts to reduce the burden of bases, promoting use of the land returned from the U.S. military and 2014-tax reform. Nakaima noted that improving the operation of the current Status of Forces Agreement is not necessarily a realistic way to resolve issues. He suggested that before the land is returned the government should carry out investigations in the bases, including environmental measurement-while-drilling and added that stricter environmental standards should be applied. He requested that the Osprey aircraft on the Futenma base be moved outside of Okinawa as well as the majority of the training programs. He indicated a willingness to fit in with the government’s security policy, saying, “I want to contribute to the stability and development of the Asia-Pacific region.”

He said that the government’s development programs could lift Okinawa up to the level of the other prefectures, but that support is still needed for a while yet. He requested the introduction of a railway to the main island and that 340.8 billion yen be allocated in the next fiscal year’s budget for the development of Okinawa.
After the meeting, the governor spoke to reporters about the timing of his decision to approve or reject the application for the Henoko landfill. Again indicating that he wants to settle things by the end of December, he said, “It might just sneak in before the end of the year.” He went on to stress that his earlier thinking has not changed. “I never said that I’ve given up on relocating it ‘outside the prefecture.’ It would be more time consuming and involve greater effort to move the base to Nago. I still think it would be quicker to move the base out of Okinawa.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in the press conference, “We will adhere to our basic position that we want to make every effort for Okinawa Prefecture.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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