The central government and Okinawa failed to reach a compromise Monday over the planned relocation of the Futenma military base within the prefecture after their monthlong “intensive consultation” to defuse tensions over the issue fell apart.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga conveyed to Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga that the government plans to resume the relocation work, which was suspended for a month through Wednesday while the consultations were going on.
At issue is the plan to move the functions of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a densely populated area in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko district of Nago. The transfer is a key part of a broader bilateral agreement to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan.
“There was a big gap on how to remove the dangers (posed by the base). We could not gain the understanding of the prefecture,” Suga told reporters after the final round of consultations in Tokyo with Onaga, who has demanded that the base be moved outside of Okinawa.
The prefectural government and many residents in Okinawa have been opposed to the planned base relocation as they are seeking to reduce the burden on their prefecture from hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.
Onaga has begun considering holding a plebiscite to ask the prefecture’s residents whether they are in favor or against the Futenma relocation, sources close to the governor said. As there is a need to create an ordinance and make necessary preparations, a referendum wouldn’t be possible until next year at the soonest.
Political observers say such a move would be designed to put further pressure on the central government.