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NAHA, Okinawa — Japan’s special ambassador to Okinawa on Wednesday predicted “steady progress” in Tokyo-Okinawa negotiations about closing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

But Toshinori Shigeie, Tokyo’s ambassador for Okinawan affairs, asked for Okinawans’ understanding about the arrival of new F-22A Raptor warplanes to Kadena Air Base.

At a news conference in his Naha office on Wednesday, Shigeie called it “very important” to close and relocate Futenma as soon as possible “very important … especially, when one of the major goals of realignment of U.S. forces in Japan is to reduce the burden placed on Okinawa.”

In response to the Kadena Town Council’s protest resolution against deploying F-22A Raptors — the Air Force’s most advanced jet fighters — to Kadena Air Base, Shigeie asked Okinawans for “their understanding.”

“The deployment will be temporary for about three months, starting the beginning of February,” he said. “They need to be deployed to the air base to maintain the deterrence power of the military in this region.

“I ask people on Okinawa to understand the entire picture of the security systems in the world,” he added.

Kadena Town’s protest also addressed early-morning flights of F-15s from the air base. Shigeie said the government is working closely with the military to seek a solution. Pre-dawn jet aircraft noise has drawn criticism from local residents.

The Tokyo-Okinawa liaison said he was “deeply troubled” that early-morning F-15 flights might be disturbing residents in neighboring communities.

However, finding a solution has been difficult, he said, because jets flying long distances have to leave early to also enable safer daylight arrivals.

“But efforts are being made to find a way to address the issue,” he said.

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