NAHA, OKINAWA PREFECTURE – Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima said Friday he plans to decide by the end of December whether to approve the start of work to fill in areas off the Henoko coast in the city of Nago for building an airstrip to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
His approval is necessary for the central government to go ahead with an agreement between Tokyo and Washington to build the replacement base for Futenma amid strong public opposition to either keeping it in place or building a substitute for it in Okinawa.
“I would like to make a decision on whether to accept it or not before the end of the year,” Nakaima said during a meeting in Naha with senior Okinawa Prefectural Assembly Members of New Komeito, the coalition partner of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.
Nakaima made the remarks after the assembly members requested that the Futenma operations be moved outside the prefecture. “I will consider the proposal in making my decision,” the Okinawa governor said.
Under the bilateral agreement, the Futenma base in Ginowan will be closed once its replacement airstrip is operational in Nago farther north on Okinawa Island. Nakaima has the authority to approve or reject the central government’s application for the fill work.
The governor has said he wanted the base out of the prefecture, home to more than 70 percent of U.S. military bases in Japan, and will make a decision after examining whether the current plan is feasible.