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News photo
Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga –
heads for a
meeting with Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro in Tokyo
on Sunday.

News photo

According to the mayor, the city called on the central government to ensure that U.S. military planes would not fly over four districts of the city, including Henoko and Toyohara.

After his meeting with Shimabukuro, Nukaga told reporters, “We agreed to draw a conclusion as soon as possible. This is some progress.”

He said he will hold another round of talks with the mayor in Tokyo later this week.

At issue is a Japanese-U.S. plan, worked out last October, to build a 1,800-meter runway straddling the tip of a peninsula in Nago where the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab is situated in order to move the U.S. Marines’ Futenma Air Station from Ginowan.

Nukaga, who met Shimabukuro on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday to discuss the matter, has agreed with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to make minor changes to the plan in response to local demands, so long as they are realistic.

The Nago city government wants the planned U.S. military runway moved at least 400 meters offshore due to the noise and concern for the safety of residents living under the flight path. But Shimabukuro has shown signs of making concessions to the state government in a bid to find common ground.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine also met with Nukaga earlier in the day.

Japan and the United States agreed last October on the new relocation plan for Futenma as part of an interim report on the overall realignment package for the U.S. military presence in Japan.

The plan consists of building an L-shaped airfield straddling the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab and coastal waters at the tip of Nago’s Cape Henoko to facilitate Futenma’s relocation.

Under the October accord, Japan and the U.S. are working to finalize the package by the end of this month, but Tokyo has made little headway in gaining local consensus.

Japan offers half

Japan would be able to shoulder 50 percent of the U.S. government’s projected $10 billion price tag for relocating the U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, but not the 75 percent Washington wants Tokyo to pay, a key member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Sunday.

Taku Yamasaki, well-versed in defense issues, said in an appearance on a Fuji TV news show that the U.S. demand “would force us to bear a heavy burden” and that the consensus view in the LDP is that Japan should pay half the cost.

But he also said he wants to see the relocation plan, which would move about 8,000 U.S. Marines out of Okinawa, handled in line with an earlier bilateral agreement. Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. troops based in Japan.

The relocation is part of an overall plan by the U.S. to realign its global military presence while reducing the strain on base-hosting areas in Japan.