National / Politics

Onaga indignant over 'politically motivated' early return of small land strips in Okinawa

Kyodo

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Friday expressed “strong indignation” over a Japan-U.S. accord announced earlier in the day over returning some land at a key U.S. base in Okinawa ahead of schedule in fiscal 2017.

The move is part of efforts to ease the prefecture’s burden of hosting U.S. military installations.

Dubbing the partial land return “politically” motivated, Onaga told reporters in Naha, “With the return of just a modest portion of land, this will not directly lead to eliminating the risks posed by the Futenma base.”

Through the move, the central government apparently hopes to gain local consent for a controversial plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The accelerated schedule for returning land or facilities in Okinawa used by the U.S. military follows requests by local governments and communities for their early return.

The Futenma relocation plan remains stalled, however, due to strong local opposition. The relocation plan is now the subject of a court battle after the central government filed a lawsuit seeking to overrule Onaga’s move to block landfill work for the relocation.