Japanese ministry says Camp Schwab move for Marines on track
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Despite Japanese media reports to the contrary, Japan’s Ministry of Defense says it will meet the 2014 deadline for moving U.S. Marine air operations from MCAS Futenma to a new airfield on Camp Schwab.
A ministry spokesman said reports of a budget dispute between the Defense and Finance ministries concerning the project were speculative, based on anonymous sources and not indicative of the true state of the relocation plan.
"There is no change in the project’s schedule at this time while budgetary negotiations for fiscal year 2009 are now unde way within the government," said Takashi Sekine, chief spokesman for the ministry’s International Affairs Office.
According to the Roadmap of Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, construction for the new air station will start in 2010 and be completed by 2014. Work already has begun on an environmental survey.
"The government is making every effort to meet the deadline," Sekine said. According to a report on the Defense ministry’s Web site.
In 1996, the United States and Japan agreed to close MCAS Futenma, set amid an urban area in south-central Okinawa, and build a new airfield in a more rural location. In 2006, the two countries agreed to build the new facility on Camp Schwab, at the tip of the Henoko Peninsula in rural northeast Okinawa. Part of the two runways would be built on reclaimed land in Oura Bay.
According to the relocation plan, once air operations are moved to Schwab, Futenma and several other Marine bases would be closed and some 8,000 Marines and their families would be transferred to Guam.
Besides the cost to build the new airport, the Defense ministry also sought funds for site preparation, which includes razing several existing barracks on Schwab. During the last fiscal year, 4.8 billion yen (about $50 million) was allocated for that part of the project, but Sekine would not elaborate on how much was being requested in the next budget.
"We are putting the plan into practice wherever we can," he said.
In connection with moving Okinawa-based Marines to Guam, the ministry’s Web site also states that it will launch several new projects during the next fiscal year on Guam, including construction of a headquarters building, barracks, family housing and schools.
It also will spend money to improve infrastructure on existing installations and set up a relocation project team.
Of the estimated $10.27 billion it will cost to move of the Marines to Guam, Japan has agreed to pay $6.09 billion.