Futenma settlement talks to kick off next week


As part of a court-mediated settlement process, the central and Okinawa prefectural governments will kick off talks March 23 over the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma, Gov. Takeshi Onaga said Monday.

Earlier this month, the two sides accepted the settlement proposed by a Fukuoka High Court branch to halt work related to the transfer to the Henoko coastal district of Nago under a central government plan that led to the legal battle.

It is unclear, however, if the new round of talks will enable the two sides to bridge their differences. Okinawa has demanded the base be moved outside the prefecture while the central government views the existing plan as the only realistic option.

The central government is hoping to relocate the Futenma base from the densely populated residential area of Ginowan to the less populated Henoko district of Nago, also on Okinawa Island, as a key part of a broader bilateral agreement to realign U.S. military forces in Japan.

Onaga and many residents in Okinawa are opposed to the relocation plan and want the base moved outside the prefecture, home to the largest concentration of U.S. military facilities and personnel in Japan.

Despite their agreement to enter settlement talks, the governments are already at odds over details of the court proposal.

As part of it, the land minister on March 7 ordered the Okinawa government to dismiss Onaga’s revocation of the permission given by his predecessor for landfill work in Henoko for the new facility.

But Onaga on Monday filed a complaint with a third-party panel under the internal affairs ministry over the order.

If the panel, the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council, decides that the central government order is appropriate and does not need to be retracted, the Okinawa government plans to sue the state.