Government, Okinawa remain apart over U.S. air base issue
NAHA (Jiji Press) — Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga held their first meeting on Saturday, and they failed to narrow differences over a planned U.S. military base in the prefecture.
During the 40-minute meeting in the prefectural government office in Naha, Onaga requested in writing that the central government abandon the plan to build a facility in the Henoko coastal area of Nago that will take over the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base in Ginowan, another Okinawa city.
Inada, who took office last month, said the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is committed to the base relocation plan.
Onaga noted that the prefectural government has appealed a recent high court ruling against his revocation of his predecessor’s permission for land reclamation in Henoko.
Inada said it is important for the national and prefectural governments to continue out-of-court talks as well.
Following a U.S. warplane crash off Okinawa Prefecture last week, Onaga criticized the central government for giving the prefecture no updates on a U.S. helicopter crash, also off the prefecture, in August last year.
Inada said that the central government needs to disclose information on the previous accident and figure out its cause, in order to restore trust from the people of Okinawa.
Also at the meeting, Onaga pointed out that U.S. military aircraft frequently arrive in Okinawa Prefecture from outside the prefecture. “We don’t see any progress on [the state’s pledge of] reducing the burden [on Okinawa] of hosting many U.S. bases,” he told Inada.
Earlier on Saturday, the defense chief had a meeting with Seikyu Iju, mayor of the Okinawa village of Higashi, where a U.S. helipad is under construction amid fierce opposition from some local residents.
The mayor asked Inada for financial aid to a district of the village near the helipad site. The defense minister expressed a positive stance on the demand.
The helipad construction is a condition for the return of land currently used for the U.S. Jungle Warfare Training Center in northern Okinawa, including part of the village.
Inada seeks thorough probe
NAGO, Okinawa, (Jiji Press) — Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on Saturday called for the U.S. military to conduct a thorough investigation into the crash of a Marine warplane off Okinawa Prefecture last week.
She made the request in a meeting with Maj. Gen. Charles G. Chiarotti, deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Japan, at a hotel in the Okinawa city of Nago.
Inada also demanded thorough disclosure of information about the accident in which an AV-8 Harrier fighter jet crashed into the ocean off the east coast of Okinawa’s main island on Thursday.
Chiarotti pledged efforts to meet the requests.
Inada said that if the crash occurred in residential areas, it would have been catastrophic.