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HENOKO, Okinawa — If Japan is going to build a new Marine base here, the residents of this northern Okinawa fishing community would like to benefit from it.

Cash, would be fine, thank you.

Members of the Henoko Community Board are asking the national government to compensate village residents before a new Marine air station is built offshore. The board decided earlier this week to ask that each of the community’s 450 households be paid for the “burden” of hosting the new U.S. base, planned to be built on reclaimed land and a reef next to Camp Schwab. No monetary amount has been made public.

The base is to replace the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, in the middle of urban Ginowan in central Okinawa. In 1996 the United States and Japan agreed to close the Futenma base if a suitable alternative site could be found on Okinawa for Marine air operations.

After years of wrangling, the Henoko site was chosen. An environmental study of the area now is underway but no date has been set to construction.

It’s the first time a community in Japan has asked for direct compensation to residents for hosting an American military base.

“The new military base, which no one wants to have in his back yard, is going to be built in our community under national policy,” said Yasumasa Oshiro, Henoko District mayor. “Yet, no compensation has been offered to the residents. We agreed that the request should be made at the earliest possible time.”

As mayor, Oshiro is the head of the Henoko Community Board.

The board also will ask the government to use an area along Oura-wan Bay as a construction material storage site and part of the base, so workers will spend money in their community.

“We made a formal request to the Nago municipal government on March 22,” Oshiro said. Henoko is a district of Nago.

The request was forwarded to the national government by Nago City, he said.

“It is our community which accepted the new military airport, which no one else in other 47 prefectures wanted,” he said.

“They said that there is no precedent for what we are asking,” he said. “Well, if there is no precedent, we believe that our case should set the precedent.”

The national government compensates Okinawa communities for being near U.S. bases to the tune of $297 million a year. Nago city receives about $44.5 million, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Government.

He said the community reluctantly supported construction of the new facility.


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