Japan, U.S. to set up body on return of five Okinawa facilities

Kyodo

Japan and the United States have basically agreed to set up a consultative body on returning to Japanese control the land used for five military facilities, all south of the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena base on Okinawa Island, sources said Tuesday.

While agreeing to set up the body separately from ongoing bilateral negotiations on the realignment of the U.S. military in Japan, the U.S. is reluctant to accept a Japanese request that the body draw up plans by fall for returning the land, according to the sources.

Creating the new consultative body is expected to be included in an interim report on the reorganization of U.S. forces to be compiled by the end of April.

The facilities include Camp Foster, the Makiminato Service Area, Camp Kuwae and port facilities in Naha.

Japan is requesting that the land be returned in the hope of easing the burden on local people for hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.

The U.S. has been reluctant to handing over the five facilities without other considerations, arguing that returning them back to Japanese control is related to the planned relocation of the Futenma airbase in Ginowan to Nago, which has stalled due to local opposition.

Seeing little room for progress on the issue, the Japanese side proposed that it be discussed separately, and the U.S. side agreed to it in the main, the sources said.