NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – An Okinawa Prefectural Government panel has concluded it would be impossible to conserve the living and natural environment if an airfield is constructed on the Henoko coast of Nago for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, sources said Tuesday.
The panel, which examined an environmental impact assessment by the central government for the relocation of the base, which is now in crowded Ginowan, within the prefecture, was scheduled to present its findings to the prefectural government Wednesday afternoon. The presence of the base and plans to move it elsewhere in the prefecture have been the source of years of local ire.
Based on the panel’s report, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is expected to relay his opinion to the central government, saying the relocation of the Futenma base to Henoko would be extremely difficult, the sources said. The central government may subsequently be required to substantially revise the assessment.
The panel report says the central government’s surveys covering 25 areas, including the impact on the habitat of the dugong, an endangered marine mammal, are insufficient and underestimate the environmental impact, the sources said.
A Japan-U.S. accord calls for moving the base to the coastal area in Nago.
The central government submitted the environmental impact assessment report in December, amid strong local protests. Nakaima is required to present his opinion to Tokyo regarding the construction of the replacement facility by mid-February and on the reclamation project for the relocation by late March.
No ‘additional burden’
Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine has reiterated his opposition to a plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to his city, saying local people “cannot put up with an additional burden.”
“The relocation plan is going to be implemented by ignoring the people of Okinawa Prefecture,” Inamine said Tuesday in a speech at a Washington-based think tank.
“We are not requesting these existing bases be moved out and we do not reject the Japan-U.S. security alliance,” he said, noting that 11 percent of his municipality’s total land is occupied by U.S. military facilities.
“But we cannot put up with an additional burden stemming from the construction of a new military base,” Inamine said.
The mayor pointed out that 74 percent of U.S. military facilities are located in Okinawa, even though the prefecture only accounts for 0.6 percent of Japan’s territory and 1 percent of its population, and said, “This is unfair and discrimination.”
The mayor, who is scheduled to meet with U.S. officials, members of Congress and academics during his visit to Washington, also said the issue should not be treated merely as a domestic issue in Japan but rather “as an issue of democracy and human rights.”
Inamine also said the current plan to relocate the Futenma base to the Henoko district in Nago can be changed, as Japan and the United States have already confirmed they will revise the plan to transfer some 8,000 marines in Okinawa to Guam.
“The Japanese government had said the road map for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan could not be changed,” he told reporters.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.