• Kyodo

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Japanese experts proposed Thursday that plans to move the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa be pushed forward without setting a time limit on the military use of a replacement facility.

Experts at a George Washington University symposium voiced support for the government’s plan to relocate the helicopter operations of the base in Ginowan, central Okinawa, to an offshore airport to be built off Camp Schwab in the city of Nago.

These experts included Akikazu Hashimoto, professor at National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, and Kurayoshi Takara, professor of history at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa and a former member of the advisory board to Okinawa Gov. Kenichi Inamine.

The Okinawa government has demanded a 15-year limit on the military’s use of the new facility as a condition for its acceptance, though the U.S. has rejected the demand.

The experts added that if this plan does not get the go-ahead as a result of ongoing environmental impact assessments, the two governments might consider another option, proposed by military analyst Kazuhisa Ogawa.

Ogawa advocates relocation to a land site within Camp Hansen, south of Camp Schwab.

Hashimoto and Takara did not call for the aforesaid 15-year limit. They instead said the purpose and terms of use of the new facility should be reviewed every five years, once its construction begins.

Construction is expected to take more than 13 years.

If the base is no longer necessary at the new facility after its completion — or relocation to another area becomes possible — the planned facility would become a civilian airport that the military could use in the event of an emergency, they said.

In this case, a time limit would become irrelevant, and it is theoretically possible that the actual period of use could be zero years, they said.

The Japanese and U.S. governments reached an agreement in 1996 on the relocation of the Futenma base. Since then, however, the relocation issue has seen little progress, due partly to the 15-year limit demanded by Okinawa.

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