The Defense Ministry has chosen an uninhabited island off Kagoshima Prefecture as the future site for aircraft carrier landing practice in a belated decision it was obligated to make under the realignment plan for U.S. forces signed in 2006, government sources said Sunday.
Mage Island would replace Iwo Jima (now called Iwoto), under the jurisdiction of Tokyo, where so-called field carrier landing practice is provisionally conducted under the bilateral realignment road map, which says that a permanent location would be picked by 2009. But local opposition could block the idea, as it did in 2007 when the island once surfaced as a candidate site for relocating the training.
The relocation is associated with the transfer of aircraft from U.S. Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo to Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan by 2014.
Washington has agreed to a plan to build a Self-Defense Forces facility on Mage Island for joint use with the U.S. military, and the two countries hope to confirm the plan at a “two-plus-two” ministerial security meeting to be held as early as in late June, the sources said.
Located about 12 km west of Tanegashima Island, the 8 sq.-km island is now uninhabited and owned mostly by a single individual. It was selected as a candidate site for the envisaged training facility in 2007 but was abandoned due to opposition from Nishinoomote city.