Futenma meeting agenda includes demand for 15-year limit
December 20, 2003
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — National government representatives and Okinawan local officials began two days of meetings in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to a planned airport in the waters off northeast Okinawa.
The first Futenma Relocation Council session covered plans to redevelop the 480-acre air station, located in the middle of the city of Ginowan, in urban central Okinawa.
A session Friday was to cover plans for the new air station, including demands by Okinawa officials to limit the Marine use of the facility to 15 years and allowing commercial aircraft to operate there.
An environmental assessment of the area recently resumed after Tokyo agreed to pick up the tab for the entire new facility — estimated to be about 330 billion yen (more than $3 billion).
The government had wanted Okinawa to contribute to the construction, since part of the airport would be dedicated to civilian use, but the prefectural government balked at dedicating any money to the project.
Thursday’s meeting at the prime minister’s official residence was attended by Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine and Toshimitsu Motegi, the state minister in charge of issues concerning Okinawa and Japan’s Northern Territories.
The air station’s relocation was suggested by the bilateral Special Action Committee on Okinawa in 1996.
In 1999, the national and local governments agreed on a plan to build a new facility on reclaimed land and a reef offshore from Henoko village and adjacent to the Marines’ Camp Schwab.
During this week’s session, the council was to hear from Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha, who is against relocating MCAS Futenma within Okinawa and wants the existing facility to be shut down within five years.
The council also will discuss the distribution of 2.2 billion yen (about $20 million) earmarked for Northern Okinawa in the fiscal 2003 budget as part of a special economic package promised in return for Okinawa’s approval of the relocation project.