Japanese poll: Most Okinawans oppose Camp Schwab air station plan
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A recent poll by two Japanese newspapers indicates most Okinawans object to a plan to build a new military air station on Camp Schwab.
Some 72 percent of those polled said they opposed the plan outlined recently in a bilateral report on realigning U.S. troops in Japan. And 84 percent of those opposed said the replacement for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma should be built in either Hawaii or Guam.
The local Okinawa Times and the national Asahi Shimbun newspapers conducted the random poll of 915 people on Nov. 12 and 13.
The United States and Japan agreed in 1996 to close MCAS Futenma in the middle of urban Ginowan and move it to a more remote Okinawa location. After several years of negotiations with Okinawa prefecture and the city of Nago, a plan was adopted to build a large sea-based airport about two miles off Okinawa’s northeast shore.
That plan was scrapped. On Oct. 29, the U.S. and Japan issued a joint interim report on realignment that called for building a smaller Marine air station on Camp Schwab, extended into Oura Wan Bay’s shallow waters.
The plan also called for moving 7,000 Marines to Guam and other parts of Japan. However, U.S. officials have stressed that moving the Marines, estimated to take place within six years, is contingent on building the new airport.
Just 15 percent of those polled said the plan was acceptable. Some 31 percent cited environmental reasons for opposing the plan and 29 percent said they opposed it because they felt it would not help reduce the island’s U.S. military presence. Fifteen percent of those polled said the new air station would increase Okinawans’ so-called “burden” of housing U.S. military bases on their island.
Twenty percent said they were upset local communities were not consulted during realignment planning.
Meanwhile, Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine said Wednesday he objected to a remark by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during a joint news conference earlier in the day with President Bush in Kyoto.
Koizumi said he realized local governments objected to the report “but I would say Japan’s prosperity is based on peace and security. Japan has to pay the necessary costs for it.”
He said local communities “are, in fact, enjoying the security being offered through the U.S.-Japan alliance and, therefore, we hope that the local communities will rethink that very hard, and take up the issue of transformation very seriously in that context.”
Inamine countered: “I cannot understand why Okinawa, which has been carrying the excessive burden of hosting military bases, must continue to pay the cost of security. The prime minister owes us an explanation why this is the only approach Japan can make to ensure national security.”
Okinawa hosts about half the U.S. troops in Japan. U.S. bases cover about a fifth of the island.
“The Okinawa prefectural government will continue its utmost effort to reduce the military presence in visible ways,” Inamine said.