Futenma plan firm, Kan tells Nakaima


Prime Minister Naoto Kan reiterated Tuesday his intention to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, telling Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima that the agreement reached by the Hatoyama administration with the U.S. will stand despite the change of Cabinet.

Nakaima said he was told by Kan, who met with him for the first time after becoming prime minister on June 8, that his administration will do all it can to alleviate the burden on Okinawa.

“But the prime minister also said he will stick to the guidelines decided between Tokyo and Washington,” Nakaima said after the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

The Democratic Party of Japan had originally promised to move the Futenma base “at least outside of Okinawa,” with Yukio Hatoyama vowing to seal the deal before June. But the pledge was not met and Hatoyama stepped down after inking a compromise agreement with the U.S.

“Our hopes were high when we were promised that the air station will be relocated outside of Okinawa, so the disappointment was huge as well,” Nakaima said, adding that he warned Kan the relocation within his prefecture remains “extremely difficult.”

On concerns that prolonged negotiations with the central government will in essence keep Futenma at its current location, Nakaima said both sides need to work out a deal.

“At this point we are still exchanging opinions, but we do need to find a resolution. I would like to ask the government what they are considering as their next step,” he said.

The 30-minute meeting, proposed by Kan, also touched on his planned visit to Okinawa on June 23 to attend a ceremony for the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

No Okinawa candidate

NAHA Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) The Democratic Party of Japan doesn’t plan to field a candidate in Okinawa in the upcoming Upper House election as persistent local criticism of its decision to relocate the Futenma military base within the prefecture points to a certain loss, party officials said.

Upper House lawmaker Shokichi Kina, head of the local DPJ chapter, said at a hastily called news conference Sunday evening that the party’s central office in Tokyo had made the decision even though the local chapter was preparing to field a Naha city assembly member.

While the DPJ enjoys high public support elsewhere in Japan after Naoto Kan became the new prime minister, his policy of maintaining the relocation plan as decided by predecessor Yukio Hatoyama suggests the government will continue to face difficulties over the relocation issue.

Prior to the decision, the DPJ had been holding talks with the local chapter of the Social Democratic Party and another local party in the prefecture on fielding a single candidate together.

The talks broke down in May over different views on the Futenma relocation, leading the SDP to decide to field an activist against the relocation plan as its candidate.