Hatoyama taps Nago for base relocation

Kyodo News

A draft obtained Tuesday of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s plan for the Futenma air base specifies the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, as the relocation site — in line with the existing deal signed by Tokyo and Washington fours years ago.

In an apparent bid to highlight the administration’s efforts to review the 2006 deal, the draft proposes examining the feasibility of building the replacement runway on piles in shallow waters instead of on new landfill and stipulates that the government will give “utmost consideration” to local residents and the environment in its construction.

The eight-month-old administration, which has increasingly lost public support partly because of its handling of the base issue, has given up on meeting the May 31 deadline set by Hatoyama for settling the dispute amid strong local opposition to keeping any of Futenma’s functions in Okinawa.

The draft also names Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, about 200 km northeast of Okinawa, and Self-Defense Forces bases across the country as possible sites to host some of Futenma’s functions and drills, while suggesting some drills be transferred to Guam or other places outside of Japan.

It incorporates the idea of concluding a special treaty to oblige Washington to protect the environment at U.S. military bases in Japan, following the discovery at some facilities of dioxin levels in excess of Japanese environmental standards.

The draft states that the government will construct a 1,600- to 1,800-meter runway around “Henoko in the city of Nago where the coast of (the U.S. Marines’) Camp Schwab is located” and that experts from both Japan and the U.S. should study the technical feasibility of construction methods for the runway, including pile supports.

The Hatoyama government is aiming to present the plan at bilateral working-level talks Wednesday in Washington.

The government is likely to face continuing difficulties as residents of Nago and Okinawa as a whole are opposed to any base relocation within the prefecture, while a pile-supported design isn’t likely to find much favor in the U.S.