Thursday, February 11, 2010

Japan to propose possible locations for Futenma move

Japan to propose possible locations for Futenma move

By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, February 5, 2010

GINOWAN, Okinawa — A list of possible relocation sites for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma will be compiled by the end of March, Japanese officials announced Tuesday night.

The deadline was announced by the special committee formed to review the 2006 pact with the U.S. that calls for moving Marine air operations to a new air facility on Camp Schwab, in rural northeast Okinawa. The committee is examining alternate sites both on and outside Okinawa.

The proposed alternates also include Guam. Under the pact, both sides agreed that some 8,600 Marines on Okinawa would be relocated to the U.S. territorial island once Futenma operations could be moved to Camp Schwab.

The committee said it will send a "fact-finding team" to Guam Feb. 10 at the request of the Social Democratic Party, one of the two minority parties in Japan’s new left-center government.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is committed to deciding whether to go forward with the current relocation plan or opt for an alternate site by the end of May. His government remains fractured on the issue, with the SDP threatening to leave the coalition if an Okinawa site is selected.

And one high-ranking official, Foreign Minister Katuya Okada, suggested that MCAS Futenma, located in the middle of urban Ginowan, would have to continue operations indefinitely if no suitable alternate site is found.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Tomoko Abe, a senior member of the committee, said the Japanese government needed to be united in opposing the Camp Schwab plan. She criticized comments made by some ministers casting doubt on finding an alternate site.

"It’s as if a doctor told a patient before the operation that he was going to die," said Abe, a medical doctor and head of policymaking advisory board of Social Democratic Party.

"The key for a successful operation is for the doctor to show his willingness to fight with his patient against the illness," she said in a comment posted on her Web site. "The comments by the ministers lack in empathy and warmth to people of Okinawa."

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Japan Security Subcommittee also met in Tokyo on Tuesday, where U.S. officials told their Japanese counterparts that the 2006 agreement to move Futenma operations to Camp Schwab was still the "best" option.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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