HONOLULU – U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has vowed to support Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga as he tries to stop the planned transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.
The Democratic senator made the remarks after Onaga, during talks in Honolulu on Thursday, asked for help in blocking the plan to relocate the base from a congested area in the city of Ginowan to the coastal Henoko district in Nago.
After meeting with Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense, Onaga told reporters he got “a strong statement” from the senator. Onaga quoted Schatz as saying he would do his utmost to help get the plan rejected, and also said the issue needs to be reviewed.
Onaga was elected governor in November with a pledge to block the plan, agreed to by the Japanese and U.S. governments, to build a replacement military facility in Henoko.
Onaga wants the base relocated outside the prefecture altogether, while the Japanese government insists there is no viable alternative.
Onaga met with Schatz while on a trip to Hawaii and Washington from May 27 to June 5 to draw attention to the strong opposition within Okinawa to the current base move plan, and to seek the support of U.S. politicians in stopping it.
In the meeting, Onaga explained to Schatz that Okinawa accounts for only 0.6 percent of the nation’s total land area but hosts about 74 percent of the U.S. military facilities in Japan.
Separately in a speech in Waipahu, a town in the south of Oahu Island, to emigrants from Okinawa, Onaga criticized the Japanese government for “not protecting democracy” over the Futenma base transfer plan.
Onaga was set to fly to Washington on Saturday to promote his staunch opposition to the Futenma relocation plan.