WASHINGTON – Japan and the United States made no progress during talks here Friday on Okinawa’s demand for a 15-year limit on the U.S. military’s use of a planned airport in the prefecture, Japanese officials said.
The first meeting for three years of the countries’ joint group on the relocation of the Futenma Air Station was staged in line with an agreement made at bilateral security talks involving defense and foreign ministers in New York in September.
At the Washington meeting, Japan outlined Okinawa’s time limit demands but no specific response was issued by the U.S., the officials said.
This deadlock makes it virtually impossible for a settlement to be made before a new U.S. president takes office in January.
At the end of 1999, the Japanese government decided to build an airport for both commercial and military use in Nago, northern Okinawa, to take over the heliport functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, central Okinawa.
In exchange for accepting the base relocation, the local governments of Okinawa and Nago demanded that a 15-year time limit be set on the U.S. military’s use of the facility.
The joint Futenma Implementation Group was established in January 1997, but the group suspended its gatherings following the fourth meeting in October 1997. The group is supposed to discuss details of the proposed heliport facility.
During Friday’s meeting, the U.S. made no proposals on the size of the facility or on any other details, the officials said. The two countries did not schedule the next meeting of the joint group.
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