Okinawa governor rejects Schwab impact report
NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on Tuesday disapproved an environmental impact assessment report Japan’s Ministry of Defense conducted for a new U.S. Marine Corps air field planned to be built on Camp Schwab.
He demanded a more thorough evaluation of how the new air facility would affect local communities and the surrounding environment.
According to a 2006 bilateral agreement to restructure U.S. forces in Japan, the facility is slated to completed by 2014. The yearlong survey’s findings were submitted in April to Nakaima for his review, although the final decision is ultimately up to the Tokyo government.
The relocation project has been a controversial issue, especially since the Democratic Party of Japan-led coalition government took power in September. New government leaders have promised to re-examine the bilateral agreement and have said they will give the opinions of Nakaima and the people of Okinawa serious consideration. But there has been no timeline set for the government’s decision on whether to rework the bilateral pact.
After submitting his opinion in writing Tuesday to the ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau, Nakaima expressed his frustration over not knowing if the new government would follow the realignment pact.
"If the new government is to review [the entire realignment plan], what is this assessment for?" he said at a news conference.
Nakaima also stressed that he has shown support to move the air field to Camp Schwab only because it removes the danger posed at it’s current location, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which sits in the center of a heavy-populated area. Moving the facility to a less-populated site on Okinawa was the second option, not the best, he said.
"I asked the government to show us a concrete plan as soon as possible," he said.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the State Department’s top Asia policy official, said he would like to see a breakthrough before President Barack Obama arrives in Japan next month.
"We hope to have real progress over the course of the next several weeks," Campbell said Monday in Japan, according The Associated Press.
However, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters Tuesday that he does not think U.S. and Japanese governments could reach an agreement on the issue before Obama’s visit Nov 11-12.