TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked U.S. President Barack Obama at their February meeting to return to Japan the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Kinser in Okinawa Prefecture — which the two countries agreed to do last year — before Futenma Air Station is relocated, it has been learned.
Abe apparently hoped this would be a tangible sign that the prefecture's burden of hosting such facilities was being reduced, and create conditions that would give a nudge to the long-stalled plan to relocate the Futenma facility.
At the summit meeting in Washington, Abe and Obama discussed the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, both in the prefecture.
"If the relocation [of the Futenma facility] goes ahead, Camp Kinser should be returned to Japan before that," Abe was quoted by government sources as saying.
Obama reportedly responded by telling a U.S. government official at the meeting to examine the situation and the feasibility of Japan's request, but stopped short of explicitly saying how to handle the request, the sources said.
Camp Kinser, or Makiminato Service Area, is in Urasoe, just east of the Futenma base.
On April 27, 2012, Japan and the United States issued a joint statement about their review of the realignment plan for U.S. forces in Japan.
The statement, issued by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, also known as the two-plus-two, stipulated the United States will return five U.S. military facilities and precincts south of Kadena Air Base on the prefecture's main island to Japan, and the return will be handled separately from the relocation of the Futenma facility.
These facilities and precincts are Camp Zukeran, the Makiminato Service Area, the U.S. Army tank farm, Camp Kuwae and Naha port facilities, which total about 1,408 acres.
In the statement, these facilities were divided into three categories:
- Areas eligible for immediate return after completion of necessary procedures.
- Areas eligible for return once replacement facilities in the prefecture are provided.
- Areas eligible for return as U.S. Marine Corps forces relocate from the prefecture to locations outside Japan.
The joint statement said districts inside the Makiminato Service Area also will be returned in accordance with the three steps. A storage area that takes up most of the service area was categorized in the second stage.
Urasoe is located next to Naha, and locals are eyeing a plan for a housing development project after the land is returned.