Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has finally officially approved the landfill work in Nago that would pave the way for the relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base. This is a major step to mark the end of an 18 year wait for the fulfillment of the 1996 agreement between Japan and the United States.
Nakaima previously refused to grant the permit for the landfill because he wanted the air base relocated outside of Okinawa, to lessen the burden on his prefecture of hosting majority of the U.S. military forces in the region. The central government has been seeking the Okinawa government’s approval of the construction of the replacement facility in Nago to be able to move the Futenma base from Ginowan, a densely populated area in Okinawa.
Nakaima met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, where they revealed measures on reducing the burden on Okinawa as well as plans to provide financial support for the prefecture to stimulate their local economy. “I’m grateful for the surprisingly good proposals made by the prime minister,” said Nakaima after their meeting. The relocation of the air base is a controversial issue among his constituents, as anti-base sentiments are deeply ingrained in most Okinawans. Safety concerns about military operations in the area is also a major issue for both residents and local politicians. During his term in 2009, then prime minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged that the bases would be moved outside of the prefecture but eventually caved in to political pressure and signed a deal with the U.S. that is basically the same as the 2006 bilateral agreement.
[ via RT ]