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NAHA, Okinawa — The Naha City Council this week became the fifth Okinawa municipality to oppose a plan to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma with a new heliport on Camp Schwab.

Naha, in southern Okinawa, is not affected by the plan to replace MCAS Futenma, which is in densely populated Ginowan in central Okinawa, with a new facility along Okinawa’s rural northeast shore. But Masamitsu Kudaka, the council chairman, said that did not matter.

“As the capital city of Okinawa, the Naha City Council believes it is our responsibility to express our stance clearly at this time,” he said. “Our relation of mutual trust with the Tokyo government was greatly marred by this decision.”

On Oct. 29, the United States and Japan disclosed an interim plan to realign U.S. forces in Japan. It called for abandoning a project to replace MCAS Futenma with a much larger airport on a reef and landfill about two miles offshore, near Henoko and Camp Schwab. Prefectural and local governments had supported that option but opposition from a small group of environmentalists and anti-base activists stalled the project.

The interim realignment report calls instead for building a smaller facility on the portion of Camp Schwab that juts into Oura Wan Bay.

Kudaka said the original Henoko plan resulted from efforts by many people on Okinawa who back the bilateral security alliance but how the new plan was adopted sticks in local leaders’ craws.

The Japanese government “made no prior consultation with the local communities before they agreed on the new plan,” Kudaka said. “The decision was made over our heads. We cannot help but to be infuriated over the government’s attitude to pay little respect to local communities.”

The resolution was adopted unanimously. Besides Naha, the municipalities of Nago, Kin, Kadena and Ginoza also have passed resolutions opposing the new plan.

The resolution the Naha council passed Tuesday is addressed to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Defense Agency Chief Fukushiro Nukaga and President Bush.

Kudaka said although much planning had gone into deciding on the Henoko project, the Camp Schwab plan came about without consulting anyone on Okinawa. “On top of that, the government lied to us by calling the agreement an interim report,” he said, noting that U.S. officials have stated the plan is a “done deal” open to few, if any, changes.

The realignment plan also calls for moving some 7,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and other locations, closing some Marine bases in southern Okinawa, opening some U.S. bases in mainland Japan to joint use by Japan Self-Defense Forces and allowing deployment of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Japan for the first time.


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