Prime minister: Futenma recommendation will come this month
GINOWAN, Okinawa — Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday that his recommendation on where to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma will be made by the end of this month.
Each of the proposals being considered by a special committee, however, represent a departure from the 2006 agreement between Japan and the U.S., which American officials have said is the only option.
Hatoyama said after the recommendation is made, his government will be ready to negotiate with the U.S. on how to proceed with moving Marine air operations away from Okinawa’s urban center.
He said his original deadline of May is still the target for ending negotiations with the U.S. and Okinawa officials and adopting a new plan.
“We must make a decision as quickly as possible to avoid a situation where nothing has been decided even after March is gone,” he said, according to an NHK televised report. “If the decision is delayed, there is a fear that we might run short of time.”
Hatoyama could still opt for the previously agreed upon 2006 plan to move the Marine air units to Camp Schwab on the island’s rural northeast coast, but Kyodo News, citing unnamed sources, reported Thursday that Japan has told the U.S. it won’t go along with that agreement.
Hatoyama denied reports that Japanese officials have already presented the alternative plans for keeping the Marines on Okinawa to U.S. Ambassador John Roos. However, several alternatives to the current relocation plan are emerging from the ministerial committee studying the issue.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, the panel chairman, told reporters Wednesday night in Tokyo that the government will soon start reviewing options being made by the three parties in the coalition government. None of the proposals include accepting the current plan to build a new air facility on the coastal area of Camp Schwab.
The alternative options include:
• Build a large helipad on another part of Camp Schwab away from Oura Bay in order to protect Okinawa’s marine life.
• Relocating the Marine air operations to Kadena Air Base, with some training to be moved to bases on mainland Japan in order to reduce noise levels in the surrounding civilian communities.
• Move the Marine Corps air units to Guam or mainland Japan.
• Build a new air station on reclaimed land off the Navy’s White Beach port and nearby Tsuken Island, a proposal first floated by Okinawa businessmen in 1999.
All of the alternatives have been rejected previously by U.S. officials.