The United States is likely to pursue a controversial military base relocation within Okinawa Island in an area larger than that publicly disclosed, according to an internal U.S. government document and a source familiar with the matter.
The 2008 document, a copy of which has been obtained by Kyodo News, shows a blueprint for building inland facilities in addition to the offshore airstrip specified under a Japan-U.S. accord for the relocation within the prefecture, which is opposed by local residents.
The revelation is expected to complicate the long-stalled issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area in the city of Ginowan to the less populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago.
“I have never heard” of such a plan, Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine said when contacted by Kyodo News.
The Pentagon source, who has been involved in Japan-U.S. negotiations and saw the blueprint, said the plan, drafted six years ago, is likely to be implemented.
The blueprint shows that more than 30 facilities, including housing and an athletic field for U.S. servicemen, would be constructed in a wooded area near the Henoko dam reservoir, which is part of the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab.
The Japanese government has only informed the public that the area, currently used for U.S. military drills, will be used to supply soil for landfill work for the offshore airstrip.
Reflecting local concern about an expanded U.S. military presence at Henoko, Masaaki Gabe, professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, said the document points to the emergence of a “large base with broader functions.”
The Pentagon source said Washington has been urging the Defense Ministry and Okinawa Defense Bureau to explain the entire plan to the local community, but the ministry and bureau have yet to do so, prompting concern among some U.S. authorities.
The ministry told Kyodo News on Friday evening that it was “not aware” of the undisclosed information.
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