Bidding starts on Futenma base relocation work

JIJI, KYODO

The Defense Ministry announced Tuesday it has opened the bidding for work related to the relocation of the Futenma U.S. air base within Okinawa.

The announcement by the ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau came two days after the re-election of Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who opposes the relocation plan. Nago is where the central government wants to build an airstrip to replace Futenma.

The move confirmed the government’s intention to relocate the operations of the base, situated now in a congested area in the city of Ginowan, to an area near U.S. Marines Corps Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago based on agreements with the United States.

The government appears to be moving full-steam ahead even though the Liberal Democratic Party-backed candidate who supported the relocation plan was defeated in the mayoral election.

The start of the bidding procedures so soon after the election drew an angry response from Inamine, who told reporters it was “insensitive” for the ministry to “ignore the election results.”

At a meeting of LDP executives Tuesday, the party president, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said, “the election result was disappointing, but we will proceed with the relocation plan.”

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima gave approval last month for land reclamation in the Henoko area as part of the relocation project.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau will invite bids for drawing up blueprints for the landfill and embankment work.

To access the marine environment impact in Henoko, the bureau will solicit proposals for the supply of equipment to monitor dugongs and for coral research and protection in the area.