Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Friday he plans to visit Okinawa soon to again try to gain local acceptance of a Japan-U.S. accord to relocate the U.S. Futenma base within the prefecture.
Kitazawa, who retained his post in Friday’s Cabinet reshuffle, is expected to fly to Okinawa on Wednesday and meet the following day with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who is calling for the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside of the prefecture, according to Defense Ministry sources.
“I intend to do my utmost to fully secure the understanding of the people of Okinawa,” Kitazawa told reporters. “Now that I have been reappointed, I want to visit Okinawa before the regular Diet session begins.”
The Diet session is expected to be convened Jan. 24.
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who was also reappointed in the reshuffle, told a news conference Friday night that he will visit Okinawa later this month in a bid to secure local consent for Futenma’s relocation.
Local opposition to the bilateral accord, which calls for relocating the Futenma base from a crowded residential area in Ginowan to a less densely populated coastal area in Nago — both on Okinawa’s main island — remains strong in the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan.
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