Timeline seen for Futenma land reversion

Accelerated plan to shrink U.S. footprint in Okinawa nears

Kyodo

Tokyo and Washington plan to stipulate that the site of a contentious U.S. Marine Corps base in Okinawa be returned to Japan’s control within nine years and that the handover of five other facilities and areas leased to the U.S. military in the prefecture be hastened, government sources said.

The two sides want to craft a plan, possibly in the first half of April, to return facilities and land south of U.S. Kadena Air Base in an effort to reduce the concentration of U.S. facilities and troops in Okinawa.

The five sites are Camp Zukeran, the Makiminato Service Area, Camp Kuwae, part of the port of Naha and Kuwae Tank Farm No. 1.

In 2006, Japan and the United States agreed to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the crowded city of Ginowan to a less populated coastal district of Nago by 2014. But the plan has made little headway amid fierce local opposition to keeping the base inside the prefecture.

In 2011, Tokyo and Washington decided to drop the previous deadline of 2014 and instead committed to completing the relocation “at the earliest possible date.”

On Friday, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a news conference that “Futenma will be included” in the planned land handover.

A senior ministry official argued the plan would send a critical signal, saying, “It’s important that the government shows its stance to prevent Futenma from remaining (in Ginowan) as a way to gain approval from Okinawa (for the relocation).”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo on Saturday that Japan and the United States “are energetically negotiating” the return of the five facilities and areas “so we can reach agreement on it, including a schedule.”

But he declined to elaborate on whether the two countries will be able to specify a time frame for the return, saying only, “All issues are under negotiation.”

Under a bilateral agreement reached last April, the facilities and areas south of the Kadena base will be returned to Japan to ease the impact of U.S. forces on Okinawa. At the time, this process was delinked from progress on the Futenma base’s stalled relocation.

  • Kenichi Kino

    With NK threatening nuclear war, China trying to expands territory through force and intimidation now is time for a security agreement that puts the right force at the right place. Or it will be all lost anyway. Japan and ROK cannot prevent Chinese aggression or NK nuclear missile development, it has to be a combined effort that includes US Forces. They should all agree on what they will defend and what they will not.

    • nosnurbd

      With such high stakes, I’m sure all contingencies have been considered and allies are aware of what will be defended in any scenario. NK is a wild card at best, but no one else is threatening hostilities. The fact that the US can send B2 bombers on very short order to this area, it hardly seems necessary to have The Marines sitting on Okinawa waiting to board Osprey’s. China of course is trying to gets its way. Diplomacy, diplomacy, not aggressive actions is the only reasonable path to security and peace.

  • David E. Spence

    Japan is a country that is now mostly made up of “Senso wo shiranai kodomotachi,” as the old 1970s Enka song goes. That is why there is a rise in the number of people in Japan who want their constitution to be amended to allow a real armed force (it is as much a matter of national pride as it is anything). The reality is that, without the US bases in Japan, China would expand their military presence in Asia more rapidly than otherwise. Japan, with its “self-defense force” (whatever that means in the modern world, sitting next to the no longer sleeping tiger) would, essentially, be helpless. China’s dependence on Japan is waning and their (China) desire to be more influential in Asia will outweigh any economic considerations, especially with the twenty year stagnate Japanese economy. This is a “political” problem for the beleaguered Japanese politicians, one which trumps Japan’s strategic needs.

  • jrbsdcal

    What the 40k plus troops in japan going to fight off million plus china and NK? Get real… I don’t think China has invaded other countries around the world or killed hundred of thousands of innocent people that america has in the last decades. America is the Gobal menace! Just think if china and russia had bases in mexico and doing fake bombing drills on america! Don’t you think america would build up forces because of that. Americas presence and warmongering is only worsening the problem not helping. Violence begets violence.