Koizumi set to discuss Marine realignment
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday he would meet personally with Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine to discuss their differences concerning a plan to relocate Marine air operations on the island to Camp Schwab.
“It would be good to have a heart-to-heart talk with the governor about how to reduce the burden on Okinawa, promote the economic development of Okinawa and the importance of the alliance between Japan and the United States,” Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo, a spokesman for his office said Monday.
Okinawa is said to have the “burden” of hosting 75 percent of the land used by U.S. bases in Japan. Almost half of the 51,900 U.S. troops stationed on bases in Japan and with the U.S. Seventh Fleet are based on Okinawa.
The U.S. and Japan agreed in October to a broad plan to realign U.S. troops in Japan, a plan that included scrapping plans to build an offshore Marine air base about two miles off Okinawa’s northeast shore and instead build the air facility on Camp Schwab and reclaimed land in Oura Bay.
Local city and village officials accepted the Camp Schwab plan Friday after Defense Chief Fukushiro Nukaga offered a revised runway plan that would remove local villages from flight paths. However, Inamine announced Saturday, following a meeting with Nukaga, that he opposed the Camp Schwab plan.
Inamine has insisted that the offshore plan was best for Okinawa — if the replacement for the existing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in the middle of urban central Okinawa, had to remain on Okinawa. He also demanded that any airport plan have the conditions that it would be jointly used by civilian aircraft and that military use be limited to 15 years.
No date has been announced for the meeting between Koizumi and Inamine.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Japanese officials are to meet later this week in Tokyo to continue to discuss the realignment plan details. One major issue is the U.S. request for Japan to cover about 75 percent of the estimated $10 billion it would cost to move some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, most of them to Guam.
Earlier Monday, Koizumi met with Nukaga to discuss the cost.