The government will abandon its controversial plan to build a sea-based heliport off the northern Okinawa city of Nago and instead seek a solution based on the policy platform of Okinawa’s newly elected governor, Keiichi Inamine, a government spokesman said Monday.
Inamine, backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, defeated incumbent Masahide Ota in Sunday’s Okinawa gubernatorial election and will succeed Ota on Dec. 10. “I would like to welcome Mr. Inamine’s victory from the bottom of my heart,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said, adding that Inamine has been calling for a realistic solution to various problems in Okinawa, especially those related to U.S. bases, and he has been stressing the importance of cooperation between Okinawa and the central government.
A focal point of the election campaign was how the candidates would deal with the issue of relocating the U.S. Marines Corps’ Futenma Air Station in southern Okinawa.
Although both Ota and Inamine rejected the government-proposed plan to build a heliport off Nago’s coast during their campaign, Inamine has said he is ready to discuss building a new airfield for both military and commercial use in northern Okinawa to take over Futenma’s functions.
Nonaka expressed the government’s readiness to hold talks with Inamine and study the governor-elect’s proposal for the new airport, which would be jointly used by U.S. military and Japanese civilian aircraft for up to 15 years. “Mr. Inamine has been elected after he made it clear that he opposes the sea-based heliport plan and that he hopes to move the functions of the Futenma Air Station elsewhere in Okinawa,” the government’s top spokesman said.
However, Nonaka said it would be difficult to limit the period of joint use of the proposed airport to 15 years.
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