NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine indicated Tuesday he will deal flexibly with the new bilateral accord to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan.
“We will take coherent measures, considering the circumstances we have had and new situations” resulting from the final accord, Inamine said.
Mayors in the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military installations in Japan, expressed opposition to the accord.
Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, the mayor of Nago, which has already agreed to accept the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station to the city, was angered by the agreement that two runways to be built in the replacement facility are to be 1,800 meters long instead of the 1,500 meters the city had anticipated.
“We cannot understand (the change). It’s quite deplorable,” he told a news conference.
He said he will urge the central government to ask the United States to build shorter runways due to noise and safety concerns.
“We only agreed with the government on the site” on which the relocation facilities are to be constructed, he said.
Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha also opposed the plan.
“The noise (of U.S. military aircraft and their crash danger) were left untouched (in the accord),” Iha said. “The time frame for the return (of the land) was presented only as a target.”
Inamine indicated he will formally comment on the accord Thursday during a meeting with Defense Facilities Administration Agency chief Iwao Kitahara.
He has generally backed measures aimed at reducing Okinawa’s base burden, and thus opposes the plan to relocate the Futenma base to a new airstrip to be built using part of the coastal area of the U.S. Marines Corps Camp Schwab in Nago.
The U.S. will return the land currently being used by the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan after a relocation facility is completed in Nago, which is less densely populated but still in the prefecture, by 2014.
The agreement includes a plan to relocate carrier aircraft from Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, to the U.S. base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Yamaguchi Gov. Sekinari Nii was critical of the central government, telling reporters it “put priority on talks with the United States” and didn’t heed the requests of communities.
DPJ seeks oversight
The Democratic Party of Japan said Tuesday the Diet must conduct a strict examination and approve of the agreement to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan.
DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Takeaki Matsumoto issued a statement accusing the government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of accepting U.S. demands to share a heavy financial burden in relocating marines in Okinawa to Guam.
“No essential discussions have been conducted on whether Japan should share the financial burden despite the fact that the realignment of U.S. forces stems from Washington’s global strategy,” the statement said.