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NAHA, Okinawa — With a newly elected governor on Okinawa, Tokyo’s “ambassador” to the island said Monday that he sees no major changes in plans to relocate U.S. Marine air operations to Camp Schwab by 2014.

During a monthly press conference, Toshinori Shigeie, ambassador in charge of Okinawan Affairs for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he welcomed Hirokazu Nakaima’s win in the governor’s race Nov. 19.

Nakaima, 67, a former vice governor and former president of the Okinawa Electric Power Company, defeated an anti-base candidate. The incoming governor said he’s willing to negotiate the details of a plan that would close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in urban Ginowan and move air operations to runways to be built on Camp Schwab and reclaimed land in Oura Bay.

According to an agreement the United States and Japan reached in May to realign U.S. troops, the Futenma relocation project is the key to eventually transferring some 8,000 Marines to Guam and closing bases in southern Okinawa.

But although Nakaima, who was supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said he objected to some relocation plan details, Shigeie said he did not expect any major changes.

Tokyo would be willing to “closely communicate” with Nakaima, but alteration of the current plan would be difficult, Shigeie said.

“The government believes that it is crucial to move forward with steady implementation of the realignment plan,” he said. “One of the plan’s major goals is to reduce the burden shouldered by local (Okinawa) communities hosting the bases,” he said.

A relocation council formed of national and local Okinawa leaders has been formed to discuss the realignment plan implementation.

“The government is in a position to steadily move forward with the plan,” Shigeie said. “On the other hand, the government is also ready to hear Nakaima’s thoughts on the issue.

“We believe that it is highly important to exchange opinion on the matter,” he said.

Nakaima assumes office on Dec. 10.


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