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NAHA, Okinawa — Gov. Keiichi Inamine said Friday he remains opposed to replacing MCAS Futenma with a new Marine air facility to be built on Camp Schwab but has not completely closed the door on the plan.

The move is key to realigning U.S. troops in Japan and eventually shifting more than half of the Marines on Okinawa to Guam.

During a Friday afternoon news conference in his Naha office, Inamine said comments from officials in Tokyo indicating he’d accepted the plan’s general outline were premature.

He called his meeting Thursday with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Defense Agency Chief Fukushiro Nukaga merely the beginning of discussions between Tokyo and Okinawa.

At that meeting, Inamine and Nukaga signed an agreement about the airport issue.

In it, Tokyo promised to take into account the facility’s effect on nearby residents and the environment, and Okinawa agreed to use the realignment “roadmap” adopted May 1 in Washington as the basis for relocating Marine air operations to Camp Schwab.

The new facility, to be built on the lower part of Camp Schwab and landfill in surrounding bays, is to be completed by 2014.

“The note of basic confirmation was exchanged to affirm … discussions would continue,” Inamine said at a quickly-called news conference after he returned from Tokyo. “This is the beginning.”

Last week, Inamine demanded Tokyo build a temporary helipad on Camp Schwab before the new airport is completed in 2014, so MCAS Futenma could be closed at once. But Japan’s government isn’t considering that proposal seriously, Takemasa Moriya, Japan Defense Agency vice minister, indicated after Inamine’s visit.

And in talking with reporters Thursday, Koizumi praised Inamine’s agreement with Nukaga, saying, “It was a very difficult decision for the governor. The agreement is very significant because it was made after he gave consideration to all various factors - his position, Japan’s security and reducing the burden of Okinawa.”

Koizumi’s cabinet is expected to adopt the realignment accord before he meets with President Bush in Washington in June.

The governor of Okinawa must approve any plan to fill in the shallows off Henoko Point, making that official’s approval key to going ahead with the new airport. The decision, though, likely would be Inamine’s successor: He has said he won’t be a candidate in November’s gubernatorial election.

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