National

Ginowan mayor pushes for base closure by 2008

Kyodo

The mayor of Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, said Friday he has asked the United States to implement the agreed closure of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station and the return of the land by 2008.

At a news conference in Washington following a series of talks with State Department and Pentagon officials earlier this week, Yoichi Iha said the current plan to relocate the helicopter operations of the Futenma base in Ginowan to another site in the prefecture is “the worst option.”

The functions of the Futenma base should be moved outside of Okinawa, given that the prefecture hosts the bulk of the U.S. military presence in Japan, he said.

Iha said the Defense Department expressed strong frustration with the delay in the relocation project.

A 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement called for returning the Futenma base site within five to seven years, after “adequate replacement facilities are completed and operational” within the prefecture.

Japan decided in 2002 to build a military-civilian airport off northern Okinawa to relocate the heliport function of the Futenma base.

But its construction, which is to take more than 10 years, has not started eight years after the accord.

Realignment talks

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Japan and the United States continued working-level talks Friday in San Francisco on a realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, Japanese government sources said.

Yasumasa Nagamine, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, and Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia and the Pacific, participated in the meeting.

It was possible they would another session Saturday, the sources said.

Although the sources did not reveal the details of the meeting, the two countries are believed to have discussed various realignment proposals at the talks that began Thursday.

The U.S. is reportedly considering moving some of the marines in Okinawa Prefecture to two sites in Honshu.

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