WASHINGTON – Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine on Tuesday rejected a proposal made by a Pentagon-sponsored think tank that the U.S. Air Force use one or more of the southern Ryukyu Islands in return for reducing or eliminating the presence of marines in the prefecture.
Speaking in Washington, Inamine told reporters the proposal put forward by the Rand think tank contains problems and these are “unacceptable.”
The report says the U.S. administration should consider persuading Japan to grant use of airfields and other facilities in the southern Ryukyu Islands by the U.S. Air Force in the event of armed conflict between Taiwan and mainland China.
Inamine said the proposed consolidation of U.S. bases in Okinawa should involve not only reducing their size but their total military capability.
The governor is in Washington on the first leg of a two-week U.S. tour.
The Rand proposal is expected to have a significant impact on the Asian policy of the administration of President George W. Bush, as the report’s principal author, Zalmay Khalilzad, joined the White House on Monday as senior director at the National Security Council.
Meanwhile, during a meeting with Inamine the same day, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage was noncommittal toward Okinawa’s demand that a time limit be imposed on the U.S. military’s use of a new airport to be built in the prefecture.
Inamine handed a paper containing a set of requests by Okinawa — including the airport time limit — to Armitage during their meeting, prefectural officials said.
Okinawa has proposed that Japan set a 15-year limit on the military-civilian airport to be built in Nago, northern Okinawa, to take over the helicopter operations of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan.
Inamine told Armitage that Okinawa wants the U.S. to accept the time limit.
But Armitage did not respond to the request and only touched on the importance of reducing the burden the Okinawa people have shouldered because of the concentration of U.S. bases in the prefecture, they said.
Okinawa is home to about 75 percent of land occupied by U.S. military facilities in Japan.
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