Inland area to be used for Futenma base replacement: U.S. papers

Extent of new Henoko site ‘hidden from public’


The Japanese government has “hidden from the public” that a controversial U.S. military base relocation within Okinawa is planned in an area larger than disclosed, a newly obtained U.S. briefing document shows.

The central government aims to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a residential area in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko district in Nago, both on Okinawa Island. It was recently revealed that the replacement facilities will be built not only in the coastal area as publicized, but inland as well.

This is corroborated by a document compiled by the U.S. military in February 2010 as a briefing paper for key Congress members and listing the “political challenges” involved.

The paper, disclosed Saturday, cites the planned construction of facilities in the inland area of Henoko as among the “sensitivities” for the Japanese government.

It also says development of the inland area, referred to as the “area west of Route 329,” is being kept “hidden from (the Japanese) public.”

The government’s secrecy is certain to backfire by exacerbating Okinawans’ bitterness on the relocation issue, and the heavy presence of the U.S. military in the prefecture.

A separate 2008 internal U.S. government document, a copy of which was also obtained by Kyodo News, shows more than 30 facilities, including housing and an athletic field for U.S. servicemen, will be constructed in a wooded area west of Route 329.

The wooded area is currently part of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab. The central government has only informed the public that the area, currently employed for U.S. military drills, will be used to supply soil for landfill work related to construction of the Futenma replacement facility in the coastal area.

According to a U.S. government source, the 2010 briefing document reflected that the Defense Ministry was negative about releasing the information. The source also said U.S. government officials have been “baffled” that the Defense Ministry is still denying that plans exist to build facilities in the inland area.

Observers say this is not the first time the Japanese government has tried to withhold key information regarding U.S. bases in Okinawa.

Leading up to the deployment of MV-22 Osprey aircraft at Futenma in 2012, the government denied the U.S. Marine Corps’ deployment plan for more than 10 years, fearful of fueling anger among local residents, despite Washington requesting that Tokyo make the details public.

The Osprey issue is also outlined in the 2010 briefing paper. Although the Japanese government knew about the plan, it repeatedly told the public it was not aware of the details until the U.S. Defense Department announced in June 2011 that the tilt-rotor aircraft, which have a checkered safety history abroad, would be deployed at the Futenma base in the latter half of 2012.

The briefing paper noted the Japanese government was acting like it “cannot mention” the Osprey issue.

A U.S. government source, referring to the Henoko development plan, said, “The Japanese government is repeating the same thing it did at the time of the Osprey deployment,” adding the United States is growing frustrated with Japan’s handling of the issue.

  • jwtn

    I wonder if there is anyone in America that has any intelligence, its time for the marines to cut the crap and leave.

    • Dave S

      “Marines cut the crap and leave” ? What crap are the Marines to cut? It’s the US and Japanese govts making these decisions not the Marines themselves. I suggest you that you get your facts straighter before bashing Marines.

    • We, the United States of America are the reason behind the success and prosperity of Japan. Like it or not, we are also responsible for the defense of Japan.. and seeing as they haven’t been attacked since WWII, I think we are doing a pretty good job.

      • jwtn

        I am American, the us military has too much stuff in Okinawa and the rest of japan should pick up the burden for the okinwans.

      • Okinawa is a crucial region strategically. It allows the US to respond quickly to a number of crises in the region, thus saving lives.

      • jwtn

        When is it ever acceptable to oppress and decide the rights of a minority, NEVER. We never should have handed the Ryukyuan’s back to japanese in the first place. Beside it really doesn’t matter where the marines are they do not have any detterance capabilities. If a new base is built it should be built in mainland Japan, this is where the bases should have been from the very beginning.

  • GBR48

    Having gone unpunished for two of the great war crimes of WWII, Japan being the victim of both (and more were planned) you might wonder why the US supported Japanese reconstruction. The only obvious answer is as part of a deal that would give them a secure military base in the area, with nuclear strike capability very close to China and North Korea. Ironically, after killing a quarter of the local civilian population during the Battle of Okinawa, most of them ended up there.

    With China only going to become better armed, more aggressive and more powerful, Japan needs the US as much as the US needs Japan. The political right in Tokyo almost certainly don’t like that, hence the creeping movement to rearmament. In truth, little short of nuclear strike capability would be enough, should the Americans leave, to ensure safety from any future Chinese threat. That would probably be part of any golden handshake.

    The Americans could leave if a new generation of political thought in Washington decided to abandon the area to China as part of a gentleman’s agreement between superpowers. Just as Tokyo made an agreement with Washington over the heads of the Okinawans, Washington may one day make an agreement with Beijing without consulting Japan.

    Mutually assured destruction tends to keep the peace, but the Japanese government is only ever a reshuffle away from power landing in the hands of barking-mad ultranationalists, whilst the Chinese have always been a law unto themselves, and will probably remain that way. Peace can be a fragile thing.

    Abe appears to be cuddling up to the Russians. Although looking like bare-face opportunism post-MH17, this does make economic sense, as the BRIC block would seem to be the rising economic entity. In terms of national defence however, I doubt the Russians would lift a finger to aid Japan. History has shown that there is no quid pro quo to be had with Moscow.

    In terms of geopolitical power, the unknown quantity is Australia. Generally assumed to be too far away to be relevant, they have been increasing their military strike capability. Given that Australia has no apparent enemies, you have to wonder what part they intend to play in the future of the region with their shiny new collection of 58 US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft (costing $12.4bn). That’s an awful lot of expensive firepower to purchase just to wow the punters at airshows.

    Whilst Tokyo likes to keep as many of the Americans as far away from the mainland as possible (pollution, foreign manners, mixed marriages, military hardware falling from the skies and raped schoolgirls), jwtn is right: the Okinawans don’t deserve to have all of this dumped on them.

    You get the feeling that the Japanese government (and most mainland Japanese people) don’t really care too much about what happens on a tiny clump of islands a long way away, whose population is regarded as culturally and racially distinct from the citizens of mainland Japan.

    As Washington, Tokyo and the overwhelming majority of the population of mainland Japan are happy to dump on their territory, and as these are the Okinawans only real sources of revenue, their future appears to be a bleak one. Okinawa prefecture certainly looks like the abused step-child of the Japanese family.

  • guest

    Feel sorry for the Okinawans who have opposed the unfair heavy burden of the US bases for decades in a peaceful manner and endured patiently the secondary treatment by the mainland. All the more reason for them to be heard seriously. Shame on you USA and mainland Japan who boast about democracy around the world!