The Okinawa lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have agreed to support the plan to relocate the United States Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to a less populated area in the region as part of the U.S.-Japan treaty. The five elected officials met with LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba to confirm that they are backing this plan that has met with opposition from several Okinawa officials.
Previously, the Okinawa base of the LDP were demanding that the relocation be done outside the prefecture, which already hosts majority of the U.S. military forces in the region. This went against the position of the central government and the LDP, which is to move the air base from the highly populated city of Ginowan to the sparsely populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago. The five lawmakers have agreed to try to seek the authorization of Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima to finalize the reclamation of the land that is needed in order to finally push through with the long-delayed relocation. However, Nakaima has still not given any comment to indicate whether or not he will issue the authorization. He has been one of the vocal critics regarding the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, given the strain it has put on his constituents.
At a press conference after the meeting, Ishiba said that they agreed that “In order to remove the dangers of the Futenma Air Station, we agreed not to rule out any possibility, including relocating the base to Henoko.” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato welcomed this change of heart from the lawmakers and said it was “a step forward” towards finally fulfilling the terms of the treaty with the United States.
[ via Mainichi ]