Thursday, February 07, 2008

Environmental Survey in Okinawa

Okinawa leans toward allowing environment survey on Futemma relocation
Feb 7 08:22 AM US/Eastern

(AP) - TOKYO, Feb. 7 (Kyodo) — Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima showed a positive stance Thursday over a plan to start an environmental assessment later this month as part of procedures prior to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station within the prefecture during a meeting with central government officials, participants said.

It came after the Defense Ministry resubmitted a report to the Okinawa prefectural government Tuesday containing concrete methods on how to conduct the environmental assessment, meeting a set of requests by Nakaima, who had complained the old report lacked details.

The participants, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, got together for the first time since December. But they mainly compared notes on the relocation issue Thursday and only agreed to meet again possibly by the end of March, the participants said.

Nakaima told reporters the latest report dealt with "most" of the requests he made.

The governor said the process of the environmental assessment will "proceed easily" if the prefectural government's panel on the issue recognizes the report as satisfactory, but declined to elaborate.

Nakaima also said the central government's side showed "more flexible" positions Thursday on other contentious issues such as redesigning of the current plan to build a relocation site.

The central and Okinawa governments have remained apart over a call by Okinawa to move offshore two runways in a V-shaped formation on the envisioned relocation site in Nago using the coastline at the Marine Corps' Camp Schwab and a new landfill.

Ishiba told reporters that he told the meeting the central government "cannot move the position of the runways without any good reasons." But he added the government will deal with the issue "fully recognizing there is such a call in the local community."

The planned relocation of the Futemma base in the densely populated central Okinawa city of Ginowan to Nago is a pillar of the overall plan for the realignment of the U.S. military presence in Japan in line with a 2006 bilateral accord.

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