Futenma unwelcome: Nago mayor

by Masami Ito

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine met Wednesday with the foreign and defense ministers in Tokyo for the first time since his election last month and reiterated his position that his Okinawa city would not accept a relocated U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

“I ran in the election promising that I will not let (the government) build new bases either on land or on sea,” Inamine told reporters in the evening after meeting with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa. “I have made these promises and I asked (Kitazawa) not to do anything to make the citizens feel anxious or to impose a burden on them.”

Inamine, who won the Nago mayoral poll in January, met with both Kitazawa and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, and was expected to meet Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Thursday to express his constituents’ rejection of the relocation of Futenma from Okinawa’s Ginowan to Camp Schwab in Nago’s Henoko district.

The Social Democratic Party, a minor partner in Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling coalition, has threatened to quit the ruling bloc if the base is relocated inside Okinawa.

Meanwhile, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), another junior coalition partner, has reportedly drawn up two proposals to relocate Futenma within Okinawa, including moving its flight operations more inland than the envisaged coastal area of Nago. Inamine, however, rejected the plans.

The government task force headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano was expected to have the SDP and Kokumin Shinto submit their ideas for a new relocation site Wednesday. But this was postponed to allow the parties more time to coordinate.