Despite talks, government, Okinawa still far apart over Futenma base relocation


The national and Okinawa Prefectural Government failed again Saturday to narrow the gap in their positions over the planned relocation of a U.S. military base within the prefecture.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters after the fourth round of “intensive consultations” with the Okinawa government that the two sides “are in agreement on the need to remove the danger of the base, but remain considerably apart on how to realize it.”

Suga indicated it is unlikely the talks will be extended beyond Sept. 9.

But Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga told reporters that the Okinawa government will “stop the relocation by all means” unless the talks are continued, threatening to rescind his predecessor’s approval for landfill work to build a coastal replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The central government announced early this month that it will suspend work for a month as part of efforts to defuse tensions with local authorities opposed to relocating the Futenma base from a densely populated area in the city of Ginowan to the less populated Henoko district of the city of Nago, further north.

The central and local governments have been at loggerheads since Onaga became governor in December on an antibase relocation platform. He has demanded the Futenma base be moved to a outside the prefecture.

Following the central government’s offer to have intensive talks, Onaga said he would shelve a decision on revoking permission while the relocation work is suspended for the talks.

During Saturday’s talks, Suga, who doubles as minister in charge of reducing the burden on Okinawa of hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan, reiterated the starting point of their discussions should be a Japan-U.S. agreement in 1996 on the return of the Futenma site to Japanese control.

Saying the central government should show greater respect for the feelings of the Okinawan people, Onaga reiterated that the starting point should be the seizure of Okinawan land by the U.S. military for its bases when the region was under U.S. control for decades after World War II.

The two sides are to hold talks around five times through Sept. 9, and the next round is scheduled to be held in Tokyo early next month.