Iwakuni mayor says realignment necessary
Stars and Stripes March 1, 2008
The relocation of a Navy air wing to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is necessary for the region and the city should cooperate, newly elected Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda said Thursday.
His remarks in his first policy speech to Iwakuni’s city council marked a departure from his predecessor, a staunch opponent of plans to realign U.S. forces in Japan.
Meanwhile, Iwakuni will continue to press the central Japanese government for protections against crime and noise, which many residents fear will come along with the the 50 Navy aircraft and 4,000 sailors and their families by 2014, Fukuda said.
Fukuda was elected in February after beating incumbent Katsusuke Ihara, who tangled with Tokyo for years over realignment.
The city was one of the country’s last holdouts against the plan, which also includes moving about 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
“I recognize that we should basically cooperate as certain considerations have been taken to ease the burden,” Fukuda said.
The military realignment in Japan is “necessary for peace and stability … not only for Japan’s security but also for the Asia-Pacific region and international society,” he said.
Safety and noise concerns will be handled by “saying things that need to be said to the national government,” Fukuda said.
Iwakuni base spokesman Master Gunnery Sgt. John Cordero said Marine officials would have no comment on Fukuda’s speech, saying as a general policy the air station does not comment on local politics.
Fukuda said the city will now negotiate with the central government for funding related to the realignment. Japan typically compensates cities that host the U.S. military.
Municipalities also can be sanctioned for opposing military plans. Iwakuni lost funding for its new city hall project midstream during Ihara’s political opposition.
Fukuda said he will request that city hall funding be restored so construction can continue.