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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Overseas Basing Commission, which skipped a planned visit to Okinawa bases in November, is coming to Okinawa next week.

The commission members will meet with U.S. military officials, the U.S. consulate general and Okinawa’s governor — but not the press — during their one-day visit, the commission’s executive director, Patricia J. Walker, said Wednesday.

“This will be our second trip to the Pacific,” Walker said in a telephone interview from her Arlington, Va., office. “We postponed the Okinawa leg of our trip the last time and wanted to be sure we included it on this trip.”

After visiting Okinawa, the commission members are to fly to Singapore and Australia, she said.

“It’s a fact-finding trip,” she said. “We won’t be making any public statements. Primarily, it’s a trip to get briefings from the commands and see what the talk is all about on the base issues in Okinawa."

She said the commission is collecting information on Pacific U.S. basing needs in preparation for a final report with recommendations to Congress in mid-August.

Commission members are to visit the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma, Kadena Air Base and Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine.

“The prefecture has already sent us written documentation and pictures of the bases and their concerns,” Walker said.

Many Okinawa officials called for the immediate closure of MCAS Futenma after the Aug. 13 crash of a Marine helicopter onto the adjacent to Okinawa International University campus.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine has called for early closure of the base and supports moving all Marine air operations to a new airport to be built in waters off Okinawa.

Inamine and other Okinawa leaders have pushed for reducing the number of Marines on the island and consolidating U.S. military bases, which cover about a fifth the island.

Reiji Fumoto, director general of the governor’s office, said Inamine anticipates the visit, “which we have repeatedly requested through the U.S. Consulate.”

“The governor ... will ask for the early closure of Futenma air station,” Fumoto said, and will urge that the commission’s realignment talks include reducing the U.S. military presence on Okinawa.

Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha called the commission’s visit a “good sign” that U.S. officials are giving serious consideration to Okinawans’ concerns about the bases. “I hope the committee’s efforts contribute to an early closure of the air station,” he said.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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