• Kyodo News


The administration probably won’t allocate any funds in fiscal 2011 to study the possible transfer of some U.S. military drills from Okinawa to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, government sources said Tuesday.

A new Japan-U.S. agreement on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, reached in May, states that more drills will be transferred out of the prefecture, naming Tokunoshima, Self-Defense Forces bases in mainland Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam as possible host sites.

With the latest development, however, the government is now more likely to drop any plan to move drills to Tokunoshima, about 200 km from Okinawa.

But “that isn’t something definitively decided,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told reporters.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said the government is not yet at the stage where it can decide “whether we should give up” moving the drills to Tokunoshima.

Postponing funds from the fiscal year starting next April reflects concerns over the considerable costs likely to arise in building supply and maintenance facilities and barracks on Tokunoshima, and the islanders’ strong opposition to any drills, the sources said.

Kitazawa has said detailed plans on transferring drills would be compiled by the end of next month. For now, the Defense Ministry will consider moving the drills to SDF facilities where U.S. forces have already carried out exercises, they said.

Before Yukio Hatoyama stepped down last month as prime minister, he had spent months trying to find an alternative relocation site for Futenma outside Okinawa.

Tokunoshima emerged as a possible site, but the plan went nowhere as the U.S. expressed reservations and locals vehemently opposed the potential relocation to their island.

The fresh bilateral accord, issued May 28, basically endorsed a 2006 pact to move Futenma from the crowded city of Ginowan to the Henoko coast of Camp Schwab farther north on Okinawa Island.

It states that “utilization” of Tokunoshima will be considered “subject to development of appropriate facilities” in expanding the relocation of U.S. military training from Okinawa.

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