• Kyodo

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The U.S. consul general in Okinawa indicated that F-22A stealth fighters could be redeployed to the island prefecture in the future after the current contentious deployment ends this month.

Kevin Maher also urged the government to execute the plan for relocating the U.S. Futenma air base within Okinawa.

The squadron of state-of-the-art F-22A Raptors has been deployed since February on a temporary basis at the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, drawing protests from some residents. It is the first time the plane has been deployed outside U.S. territory.

“There is no specific plan for the deployment, but it would not be surprising to see them come by rotation,” Maher said Tuesday in an interview conducted in Japanese.

“Being next-generation fighters, the F-22As drew attention, but various fighters have come to Kadena base by rotation,” he said. “We will use our best capabilities to fulfill our commitment under the U.S.-Japan security treaty.”

Turning to local demand that new runways for relocating the Futenma base be built slightly more offshore than currently planned, Maher said, “The Japanese and U.S. governments had negotiated the plan in detail, including the location of runways. . . . It is not the time to negotiate but to implement it.”

Tokyo and Washington agreed 12 months ago to build two runways in a V-shaped pattern on the coast and new landfill at the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab.

Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, however, has hinted at possible slight changes to the plan after an environmental assessment is carried out.

Maher said it “makes no sense” to change the plan before the assessment and added he sees “no need to change much” of it even after, as the environmental impact has been taken into account.

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