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Suga gives Nakaima base plus aid pitch

Kyodo

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga went to Okinawa on Wednesday for talks with local leaders, seeking their acceptance of the plan to replace the U.S. Futenma base with a new airstrip to be built in the prefecture while offering aid to support local economic development.

Suga met with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, explaining to him the central government’s plan to commemorate April 28, the day Japan recovered its sovereignty under a 1952 peace treaty following its defeat in World War II, although Okinawa was forced to remain under U.S. control for another 20 years, and thus regards the date as a “day of insult.”

In the agreement with the U.S., the Futenma air station in the city of Ginowan will be closed and its operations relocated at the new airstrip at a less populated coastal area farther north on Okinawa Island.

Suga’s visit, his first since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his Cabinet in December, came after the administration asked Nakaima last month to allow land reclamation at the new site following assessment of the environmental impact.

“I will check the content (of the application) based on the reclamation law. It will take some time to come up with a result,” Nakaima told Suga.

The government at the same time is offering development assistance to Okinawa. It has also been negotiating with the U.S. to return to the prefecture some of the land the U.S. military uses for its facilities. Nakaima asked Suga to come up with a timeline for returning U.S. land south of Kadena base, but Suga merely said the government is working on it.