Japan and the United States will declare on May 28 they have agreed on relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa basically in line with a 2006 bilateral accord, with the announcement coming three days ahead of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s self-imposed month’s end deadline, sources said Wednesday.
The Futenma base accord is likely to entail building a replacement facility that straddles a cape on the Henoko coast of Nago, also in Okinawa — largely in line with a U.S. preference that any modification to the site remain within the framework of an environmental assessment conducted under the 2006 bilateral deal.
The two sides, meanwhile, are likely to postpone finalizing how the facility will be built, given that the U.S. side has expressed reservations about building it on pilings in the sea, which Tokyo proposed to assuage local concerns about the project’s impact on marine life.
The two governments will continue focusing on a plan to build the base on filled-in shallows, as called for in their 2006 relocation agreement, the sources said. Two runways in a V-pattern would be built at Henoko adjacent to U.S. Camp Schwab under the deal.
Hatoyama is expected to issue a statement in his name after a meeting of Cabinet members on May 28 to call on the public to accept Futenma’s relocation to Henoko, according to the sources.
But the local governments and people in Okinawa, who want the Futenma base, now in Ginowan, moved outside of the prefecture, are certain to snub the government’s move and may boost calls for Hatoyama to take some gesture for breaking the vow he made to voters, before last summer’s general election, to move the base outside Okinawa.
Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan won the poll handily, and the Social Democratic Party, his ruling bloc partner, has ruled out accepting any Futenma base move inside Okinawa.
Hatoyama pledged to try to relocate the Futenma base “at least out of Okinawa” to alleviate the base-hosting burden on the prefecture, and his new government has spent months trying to rejigger the 2006 relocation agreement.
The sources said the new agreement may be announced in Japan and the United States under the names of the foreign and defense ministers of both countries, who together comprise the “two-plus-two” Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee.
Details of the agreement will be worked out during working-level consultative talks to be held Thursday and Friday in Tokyo, the sources said, adding that Hatoyama and other Cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, will meet soon afterward, possibly by the end of Friday, to confirm the agreement.
Hatoyama will visit Okinawa again Sunday, following his May 4 trip, to brief Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on the new accord, while Kitazawa will travel to the U.S. for talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, possibly Monday, partly to finalize the details of the accord, the sources said.