Futenma saga continues
December 27, 2010
The U.S.-Japan effort to shift military forces on Okinawa hit its most recent roadblock in November, when the prefecture re-elected a staunch opponent to the relocation of a key air base.
Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, 71, has said he wants Marine Corps Air Base Futenma moved off Okinawa and will oppose moving the base farther north to a quiet beach area that is home to the dugong, an endangered marine mammal. The U.S. and Japan national government support that move.
Nakaima’s re-election means that the decade-long opposition over the existence of Futenma on Okinawa will continue. The southernmost prefecture has protested the Futenma base as noisy and dangerous, especially since the 2004 crash of a military helicopter at a nearby university. But it also opposes relocating the base in an environmentally sensitive area.
The U.S. and Japan signed off on the Futenma relocation in 2006, and it remains a lynchpin in a plan to realign military forces in the region, including the transfer of 8,600 Okinawa Marines to Guam by 2014.