SDP to seek moving Futemma to Guam, PNP eyes integration with Kadena
Feb 13 04:32 AM US/Eastern
TOKYO, Feb. 13 (AP) - (Kyodo) — The Social Democratic Party plans to include Guam among proposed alternative sites for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Okinawa, while the People's New Party is eyeing integrating Futemma's functions with the nearby U.S. Kadena Air Base among other options, party members said Saturday.
The two junior coalition partners in the Democratic Party of Japan-led government are set to present their relocation proposals Wednesday to a government committee exploring possible alternative sites for moving Futemma, currently located in the city of Ginowan.
The proposals, however, are unlikely to aid the Japanese government in achieving its target of finalizing an alternative site by May as both ideas have been floated in the past but were seen as difficult to realize.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has set the target, although the U.S. government has maintained that an existing plan, agreed with Japan in to move the Futemma facility to the coastal area of the Henoko district in Nago, a less populated city in Okinawa, is the best option.
Among a number of proposals that it plans to present, the SDP, which has called for Futemma to be moved out of Okinawa or abroad, will place emphasis on Guam as the destination for most of the base's functions, with party policy chief Tomoko Abe saying, "The bases in Guam are big and there are many possible locations."
Although Guam Gov. Felix Camacho has expressed a negative view about relocating the functions to the U.S. territory, the SDP believes such a move would be accepted by residents of Guam if the infrastructure there were improved to enable it, according to the party members.
In addition, the party is considering an Air Self-Defense Force base in Nagasaki Prefecture and Saga airport in neighboring Saga Prefecture among other prospective relocation sites, but many SDP lawmakers remain cautious about proposing an alternative location within Japan, the members said.
Meanwhile, the PNP plans to present a set of proposals centering on the idea of integrating Futemma's functions with the U.S. Air Force's Kadena base and moving some of the training activities there to other parts of Japan, the PNP members said.
The proposal would entail moving some F-15 fighter drills at Kadena to the U.S. Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture and some other exercises to civilian airports including Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture, they said.
"We will also work on reducing noise pollution for residents near Kadena," said Mikio Shimoji, the PNP's policy chief.
The party is also exploring the possibility of including Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands as candidate sites for some of the exercises.
Some members of the Japanese government committee studying alternative sites for the relocation of Futemma, including Abe and Shimoji, have recently made inspection trips to places such as Guam and Tinian Island.
The transfer of about 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam is planned under the 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and is linked to the completion by 2014 of a new facility in Nago to take over Futemma's heliport functions.