U.S. official in Tokyo to discuss Futenma
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Ongoing realignment talks between the United States and Japan remain snarled over where to move Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless is in Tokyo this week to discuss the remaining two options for a new air station — either a facility on Camp Schwab and extended into the shallow waters of Oura Wan Bay or a base built on reclaimed land and a reef on the other side of Camp Schwab in the waters off the fishing village of Henoko.
The Japanese side, according to reports, favors building on Camp Schwab, where some barracks now stand. U.S. officials favor the Henoko plan, a smaller airport than the one that met with stiff opposition from environmental and anti-base groups.
After recent talks in Washington, D.C., Japanese officials last Friday said a failure to reach an agreement on the relocation plan could stall the realignment talks. An interim report on realigning U.S. troops in Japan was to be issued around this Friday.
Japan Defense Agency Chief Yoshinori Ohno said, “Failing to reach an agreement is not an option.”
But the interim report could be delayed, he told reporters in Tokyo last Friday.
“Such a situation is possible,” Ohno said. “However … we have no choice but to continue to make an utmost effort to find common ground.”
Officials from both countries conducted site surveys of the proposed sites last week.
“A decision based on the surveys is yet to be made,” Ohno said.
Both plans face stiff opposition from Okinawa’s environmental and anti-base groups.
Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine, who approved of the original Henoko plan with its approximately 1.6-mile runaway, instead of the approximately 0.93-mile facility being discussed, also opposes the options. The smaller airport wouldn’t be suitable for joint use by civilian aircraft, a requirement Inamine considers non-negotiable.
In a related matter, a Japan Self-Defense Force spokeswoman told Stars and Stripes on Monday that Japanese press reports announcing the United States and Japan have agreed to move Marine facilities from the Naha area in Southern Okinawa — including Camp Kinser — to northern Okinawa were premature.
“In the process of reviewing the number of troops stationed on Okinawa, with the possibility of closing some military facilities, both governments are discussing various ideas with the intention of coming to an early settlement,” the spokeswoman said. “Details of the discussions on each installation are not releasable at this point.”
She also declined to confirm reports that the two nations have agreed to relocate the training of some Japan Ground Self-Defense Force units to Camp Hansen.
“It is still premature to release any information on negotiations on individual installations,” she said.