Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday he is willing to meet Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine, who remains opposed to a plan to relocate a U.S. air station within the prefecture, following a deal struck Friday on the plan with local governments.
“I hope to have heart-to-heart talks with the governor at some stage about reducing the burden on Okinawa, the development of Okinawa and the significance of the Japan-U.S. alliance,” Koizumi told reporters at his official residence.
Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga will continue to press the governor to accept the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station from central Ginowan to Nago, Koizumi said after meeting with Nukaga at his office earlier Monday.
On Friday, Nukaga reached an agreement with Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro and the mayors of four towns and villages in the area to build two runways on Nago’s Cape Henoko, where the U.S. Marines Corps’ Camp Schwab is located, instead of a single runway as called for under an accord reached between Washington and Tokyo last October.
Inamine has long insisted that either a military-civilian airfield be built offshore from Henoko as agreed to in the initial relocation plan that has been stalled for 10 years, or that the base be relocated outside Okinawa.
Koizumi, meanwhile, welcomed Friday’s deal as “a big step forward” for Japan and the United States toward completing realignment talks.