Okinawa may get extra money for for Futenma relocation effort
November 23, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Just a day after Okinawa voters rejected a gubernatorial candidate who opposed U.S. bases on the island, Tokyo officials reportedly are discussing giving the prefecture extra subsidies.
Kyodo News, citing unnamed government sources, reported Tuesday that the Japanese government will provide extra grants to Okinawa “as part of its efforts to promote an early relocation” of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.
A Self Defense Agency spokesman told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday the subsidies have been in the works for some time.
A U.S.-Japanese agreement in May to realign U.S. troops in Japan calls for building a new air facility on Camp Schwab to replace MCAS Futenma by 2014.
When the realignment plan was agreed, said the spokesman, who asked not to be named, “the Self Defense Agency made clear that … the government needs to provide subsidies to the related municipalities” according to the burden realignment would impose on the communities.
“Economic-promotion measures and the amount of the subsidies, as well as any new legislation that might be needed, are being reviewed among the related ministries and agencies,” he said. “These can be applied to all related municipalities throughout Japan, not just Okinawa.”
On Sunday, Hirokazu Nakaima was elected governor, defeating a challenger who opposed the Futenma relocation project and called for moving Marine air operations outside Japan.
Nakaima said he had reservations about the Camp Schwab project but was willing to talk with Tokyo about adjusting the plan. He also referred to a relocation council formed just after the May agreement.
“After the new governor assumes office” in December, said the Defense Agency spokesman, “we hope to resume the relocation council at the earliest possible time to obtain understanding of local communities” about the Camp Schwab project.
In Tokyo late Sunday, Defense Chief Fumio Kyuma said he was optimistic about working closely with Nakaima on the Camp Schwab plan.
Nakaima “said various things during the campaign,” Kyuma said, according to a Defense Agency transcript. “But instead of merely opposing the plan, [he asked] what plan would be acceptable or feasible. This is an important point. I believe that Mr. Nakaima is a person with whom I can candidly discuss this issue.”
Kyodo News reported Tokyo will provide 95 percent of the cost of Okinawa public works projects, an increase of more than 50 percent. The money is earmarked for roads, airports, fishing and shipping ports and land reclamation projects.
Okinawa also will be given preferential treatment in funding for fire-fighting, parks, water and sewer-system improvements, mudslide prevention and school construction projects, according to the report. Other regions of Japan to be affected by the realignment, such as Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture, also will see an increase in subsidies.
No monetary figure was mentioned but the measures are to be incorporated in a bill to be submitted at the Diet’s next session in January, Kyodo News reported.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.