Japan to start work on Futenma relocation site ahead of schedule


The Japanese government is planning to start construction of a facility for the relocation of the U.S. Marines' Futenma air base in Nago, Okinawa, sometime in the autumn.

Refill work is expected to begin ahead of an expected Okinawan gubernatorial election in November. The original plan called for work to begin in 2015.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to make progress on the project as he seeks a tighter relationship with the United States in the face of an assertive China.

Last December, Okinawan Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved a plan to move Futenma's functions from a populous part of central Okinawa to Nago's coastal Henoko area. It was a reversal of his long-held position that the air base should be moved out of the prefecture.

However, the plan still faces local opposition. Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, a staunch opponent of the relocation, was re-elected in January, defeating an opponent who backed the project and ran with the strong support of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Afterhis re-election, Inamine said the plan must go back to square one and that he would reject all procedures that are premised on the landfill project.

Delays in relocating the U.S. Marines' Futenma air base, a move first agreed between Tokyo and Washington in 1996, have long been an irritant in U.S.-Japan ties.

Seeking to soothe discontent, The central government has earmarked 348 billion yen for Okinawa's economic development in the draft budget for the year from April and pledged about 300 billion yen per year through 2021/22.

© Japan Today/Reuters

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Maybe in Abe's constitutional revision he needs to include the concept of eminent domain and eliminate prefectural veto of national projects.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to make progress on the project as he seeks a tighter relationship with the United States in the face of an assertive China.

As he should, but unfortunately, many people won't see this as sufficient reason for accelerating the timetable. Indeed, most will call this an underhanded tactic. I'm not saying it isn't, but with China bullying Vietnam like there's no tomorrow, Japan seriously needs to increase its defensive capabilities and build a tighter relationship with the US, before China tries to employ the same aggressive tactics to get the oil under the Senkaku Islands.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Abe's anxiety is evident and his nervousness is leading him into making even more mistakes. Forcefully starting the work is tantamount to going against the wishes of Okinawans. Does he care at all for Okinawa or is Okinawa nothing but only for use by the central government?

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A long time ago, there was a case when residents and local (Tachikawa )sued legality of US Base. . The Tokyo District Court ruled the presence of U.S. forces violated the Constitution, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling. The top court;s ruling stated: "Japan is allowed to take self-defense measures that are necessary for maintaining its own peace and security and ensuring its existence"

Marine bases upgrading has been taking too many years in Iwakuni so this Futema relocation will not go smoothly, I'd bet.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Things will not go smoothly - there are still many unresolved issues to decide before moving the trucks in. Destroying pristine ecosystem of Henako Bay is a crime against Nature -- so there still needs to be lots of discussions - not bullying. The land has been used by the indigenous Okinawa's for longer than the USA and mainland Japan has been using the land so doesn't the final say be the original occupants? This is the main issue--it is an environmental issue not just a base issue. Around the world, the rights of the indigenous peoples are now recognized, and being respected by democratic governments including the USA.

A good replacement for Futenma has already been built by taxes- the under used Ibaraki or Shizuoka airports--and there is still . The distance from these airports is closer to Beijing and Pyongyang. Japan will still have the main Kadena airbase in Japan after Futenma moves.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As Abe was able to ram his States Secrets legislation and National referendum law through the diet without paying any political price he may feel emboldened. However, the people of Okinawa are not pushovers and have a tenacity not seen in their main-land cousins. They don't trust politicians who have for the most part sold their interests out by doing complete reversals on their campaign promises so I look forward to see how far Abe's bulldozers get in Nago.

Bansai, Bansai, Bansai

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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