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Chief Cabinet secretary arrives in Okinawa for Futenma base talks with governor

JIJI

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga arrived in Okinawa on Saturday on a two-day visit to hold talks with Gov. Takeshi Onaga.

Their meeting, scheduled for Sunday, is likely to focus on a standoff over the planned relocation of a U.S. Marine base within the prefecture.

Onaga is strongly opposed to a central government relocation plan that would transfer U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, currently located in Ginowan, to the Henoko coastal area of Nago.

Suga plans to seek Onaga’s understanding of the Futenma plan while reiterating the central government’s commitment to promoting Okinawa’s development. It will be the first meeting between Suga and Onaga since the governor took office in December.

Both Suga and Onaga attended a ceremony in Ginowan on Saturday to mark the return to Japan of an area that was previously part of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Foster.

Speaking at the ceremony, Suga said the danger posed by the Futenma base needs to be lifted as early as possible. Leaving the base as it is must be avoided, he said, as it is located in a densely populated area of Ginowan.

The relocation to Henoko is “the sole solution,” Suga told reporters after the ceremony.

Referring to the return of the Camp Foster area, Suga also told the ceremony that steps to ease Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. bases will continue to be taken one by one in a visible manner.

During the ceremony, Suga and Onaga exchanged words briefly but did not discuss the Futenma base relocation.

Onaga last month ordered a halt to offshore work related to the relocation plan, but the fisheries minister suspended the order.