The central government on Sept. 2 set up an exclusive headquarters at the Defense Agency to facilitate the relocation of the U.S. Marines’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, according to defense chief Fumio Kyuma.

The headquarters, headed by Kyuma and consisting of 10 officials from relevant government offices, will act as a liaison office to deal with the construction of an alternative site as well as economic promotion measures in connection with the relocation and utilization of the prospective vacant lot at Futenma. To enhance close cooperation with local governments concerned, the government will also establish a local headquarters in Okinawa Prefecture.

Stressing that the Futenma problem has been a main concern of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s administration, Kyuma said the headquarters will deal with the issue at “breakneck speed” and draw up an implementation scheme for the relocation by fall. Although the government has insisted on treating the Okinawa military base issue separately from local economic promotion, Kyuma expressed the need for the government to map out economic promotion measures to gain the understanding of the local prefectural and municipal governments, the defense chief said.

Kyuma also said the headquarters will sound out the Nago Municipal Government, the candidate site for an alternative heliport, about what economic measures are needed as compensation for the relocation of the heliport. In December, the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa agreed to relocate Futenma Air Station as part of it realignment of the U.S. bases in Okinawa.

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