The United States wants its military aircraft to be able to land at or take off from both ends of the two runways to be constructed near Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, with the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, but Tokyo has rejected the request, according to sources.
The U.S. asked last month to install approach lights at both ends of the proposed runways, which will intersect at one end to form a V. The airfield will extend on landfill offshore from Camp Schwab. Allowing takeoffs and landings in both directions of the two runways would negate the Japanese government’s effort to keep U.S. aircraft from flying near residential areas.
The proposed airfield, straddling the tip of Cape Henoko, will assume the flight operations now at the Futenma base in densely populated Ginowan.
In April, the Defense Agency struck a deal with Nago and four towns and villages in the vicinity to build two runways in a V shape, with the open ends extending approximately northeast and east-northeast into Oura Bay so planes can approach and depart over water and avoid residential areas.
Under the agreement, the southern-most runway would be used for takeoffs and the northern runway for landings in the event of northerly winds, and their reciprocal headings would be during southerly winds.
However, the final U.S. military realignment plan reached in May and endorsed by Tokyo late that month failed to stipulate flight routes for the new airfield.
The United States respects the Japanese government’s agreement with local authorities to keep the flight paths offshore, but Washington apparently wants to keep its route options flexible for emergencies and various wind conditions, the sources said.
In the October talks, the U.S. side noted that approach lights are installed at both ends of runways at all airfields in the United States, with one official saying the approach light issue would not be affected by local politics.
The Nago airfield is to be built by 2014. It will have two 1,800-meter runways and not be used by fighter planes.
The relocation of Futenma and U.S. Marines in Okinawa are key elements of a comprehensive package of measures to step up integration of Japan and U.S. forces and part of Washington’s reorganization of its armed forces.
The dispute between Okinawa and the central government over the Futenma move, however, has dragged on for a decade as it involves a complex mixture of noise and safety issues, local sentiment and environmental concerns.
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