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Effort to ease Okinawa's burden

New subsidies eyed for hosts of U.S. bases

Kyodo

The Abe administration is considering launching a new subsidy program in fiscal 2015 to help prefectures facing a heavier burden from hosting military bases due to the ongoing realignment of U.S. forces, an administration source said Monday.

The move is aimed at winning greater cooperation from base-hosting prefectural governments in efforts to reduce the burden on Okinawa, home to most of the facilities exclusively used by the U.S. military in Japan and site of a key gubernatorial election in November.

About 40 cities, towns and villages around the country were designated as of fiscal 2013 as recipients of realignment-related subsidies from the central government to help alleviate the burden of accepting additional U.S. troops and aircraft.

The envisioned program would expand the recipients to prefectures, including Yamaguchi, that are expected to bear one of the heaviest realignment burdens under a 2007 Japan-U.S. agreement.

In line with the realignment pact, 15 KC-130 air refueling tankers are to relocate to the U.S. military’s Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in Okinawa, by the end of August.

By around 2017, 59 U.S. Navy aircraft are to be moved to Iwakuni from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture.

As part of the same force realignment, the Futenma base is to be moved to a new replacement facility to be built at a site in Henoko, in the city of Nago, also on Okinawa’s main island.

But the relocation project has met strong opposition from many locals, who bristle at the concentration of U.S. military bases in their prefecture.