The government will draw up a concrete plan on relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture “in a prompt manner,” according to the final draft of an upcoming Cabinet decision.
While the draft stipulates that the plan will be based on the May 1 agreement with Washington, it has no reference to the agreed construction of a V-shaped airfield in Nago to replace the Futenma base or a deadline for drawing up the plan in view of the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s skepticism.
The lack of a specific time frame is a compromise with the Okinawa government amid the Cabinet’s failure for more than three weeks to come up with a decision on putting the realignment of U.S. troops into effect since the two countries struck the realignment deal in early May.
The government plans to explain a set of measures to implement the package to Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine, who is to visit Tokyo early this week, and then hopes to get Cabinet approval Tuesday government sources said.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s trip to the U.S. for a summit June 29 with President George W. Bush is creating added pressure to conclude the matter quickly.
The measures also suggest that the defense budget may be slashed, saying “drastic rationalization and promotion of efficiency of defense-related costs” should be put into effect to free up the fiscal resources for the costly realignment.
The government’s midterm defense buildup program that requires 24.24 trillion yen over five years to fiscal 2009 will be “reviewed” after the realignment’s total cost estimate is clarified, the draft says.
To persuade reluctant local governments to accept the package, the government will set up a council to consult on specific realignment projects, safety and environmental measures and regional development aid, according to the draft.
The government will “implement regional development measures based on requests from communities that would bear new burdens,” it says.
On the Futenma relocation, which has been stalled for a decade, the government will take heed of such matters as removing the danger at the air base located in downtown Ginowan and ensuring the safety of residents near the new airfield to be built at Cape Henoko in Nago, the draft says.
The new Cabinet decision would scrap the 1999 decision to relocate Futenma’s heliport functions to an installation to be built off Henoko but maintain part of the conventional regional development measures covered by the fiscal 2006 budget.
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