Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Japanese Concessions on the Futenma Base Relocation

Govt to make concession on Futenma base relocation
The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government intends to make a concession on a stalled relocation plan of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture by allowing alternative facilities to be built on reclaimed land about 90 meters further from the current shoreline than previously planned.

The Okinawa prefectural government and the Nago municipal government, which is to host the relocated facilities, have indicated they may be willing to accept the government's new plan, according to sources.

The government's initiative may break through the impasse over the planned relocation of the Futenma facilities currently situated in Ginowan to a coastal area of Camp Schwab in Nago. The planned relocation has been up in the air for nearly 12 years since Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 that the Futenma facilities be returned to Japan.

In April 2006, the then Defense Agency and the Nago municipal government reached a basic agreement that two runways would be built in a V-shaped formation on a waterfront area of Camp Schwab. The municipal government then requested that the runways be built on reclaimed land 300 meters or more closer to the water than the initial planned location. Although the prefectural government supported the plan, the government did not. Since then the difference of opinion has remained, and only procedures on environment assessment have gone ahead. The government plans to submit an application for landfill work for the surrounding water areas to the prefectural government in August 2009 and complete the construction of the alternative facilities in 2014.

The local governments sought to move the facilities further from the current shoreline, saying that noise and risks from crashing aircraft would be mitigated. The government, on the other hand, opposed the idea as it would mean renegotiating with the U.S. government. But the government made a concession at the initiative of Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura since it has to obtain the governor's approval on landfill work in surrounding sea areas, the sources said.

(Jan. 1, 2008)


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