The top U.S. military official in Japan will discuss U.S.-Japan military relations on live TV Thursday night as the controversy over the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma deepens.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, is scheduled to appear at 8 p.m. Japan time on “Prime News” on BS Fuji, an affiliate of the popular network Fuji TV.

Rice will appear with Shigeru Sugiyama, former chairman of the Joint Staff Council of Japan Self-Defense Forces, and Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow for the Tokyo Foundation, according to the show’s spokesman.

Rice will be asked to discuss the controversial relocation plan for MCAS Futenma on Okinawa and Sunday’s mayoral election in Nago. The winner, Susumu Inamine, opposes the proposed U.S. military expansion to his city. Rice will also field questions from the viewing audience submitted online.

The future of the air station has been debated fiercely since September, when Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his party took power and began questioning a 2006 deal that would move Futenma operations from urban Ginowan to the more rural Nago. U.S. officials want to keep the 2006 deal in place and say it’s integral to the plan to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

It will be the first live television interview for Rice in at least a year, though he periodically appears in taped interviews with Japanese media, as well as speaking engagements throughout the year, USFJ spokesman Marine Master Sgt. Donald Preston said.

Adm. Robert F. Willard, the top military commander in the Pacific, told reporters this week that the U.S. has “a good amount of work to do” to explain the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance to the Japanese people, according to the The Associated Press.

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