Subscribe

NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine on Thursday demanded Tokyo build a helipad on Camp Schwab before the new airport planned for completion by 2014 as a means to close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma as soon as possible.

At an hourlong closed-door meeting with Iwao Kitahara, director general of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, Inamine said closing Futenma in urban Ginowan was urgent.

Kitahara talked with Inamine on the first day of his three-day Okinawa tour to meet local communities leaders affected by the coming realignment of U.S. military forces on Japan. Now that the United States and Japan have agreed on a “road map” to carry out the plan — which includes replacing MCAS Futenma with a new facility on Cape Henoko — Japanese officials are briefing local officials.

Following their session, Kitahara told reporters he and Inamine met in “good faith.”

“I explained to the governor, sincerely and wholeheartedly, the changes that will affect Okinawa,” he said. He did not mention Inamine’s proposal.

Besides moving Marine air operations to Camp Schwab, the plan calls for moving 8,000 Marines and their dependents to Guam and eventually closing most U.S. bases on Okinawa south of Kadena Air Base by 2014.

Inamine announced his alternate plan at a later news conference.

“The closure of Futenma air station is an urgent issue and removing the danger is where we all started from,” he said. Calls for closure heightened after a Marine helicopter crashed on a Ginowan university campus in August 2004.

He called the eight-year wait for the Camp Schwab project to be completed too long, saying, “It is necessary to take an emergency measure.”

Inamine suggested building a helipad at a site on the lower part of Camp Schwab now occupied by barracks. The area would be razed anyway for the airport, he said.

Inamine, a longstanding opponent of the whole Camp Schwab project, also stressed that his helipad proposal does not signal an about-face approval of the plan.

“My proposal is by no means acceptance of a new airport,” he said. “It should be an emergency measure, therefore a temporary facility.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up