WASHINGTON – Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga was unable to gain the support of U.S. Sen. John McCain in talks over a vexed military question in the prefecture, but both said they would continue to discuss the issue.
On a visit to Washington, Onaga hopes to win over U.S. lawmakers, officials and think tank analysts by arguing it is better to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of the prefecture than to relocate it from one site to a new one within Okinawa.
“It was meaningful that we confirmed we will continue dialogue,” Onaga told reporters after the meeting at Congress on Tuesday.
“I expressed my appreciation for the people of Okinawa and my continued willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with the governor,” McCain, chairman of the upper house’s Committee on Armed Services, said in a statement.
But McCain said he supported the relocation plan agreed to by the U.S. and Japanese governments to transfer the functions of the Futenma base from the crowded district of Ginowan to a newly built coastal facility in the Henoko area in Nago, which would use part of the land of the existing U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Abe and his government on future issues related to U.S. forces in Japan,” the veteran Republican said.
Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat in the committee, also took part in the meeting.
The Okinawa governor plans to meet with U.S. government officials before he leaves Washington on Thursday.
Tokyo and Washington both argue the planned relocation will help reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan while maintaining U.S. military deterrence in the region.
Onaga, who was elected in November on a platform of opposing the base’s relocation to Henoko, says the plan will not reduce the risk of accidents, nor will it lessen the burden on the people of Okinawa.