National / Politics

Plan to build base off Nago in 1960s got OK by U.S. top brass, document reveals

Kyodo

A plan in the mid-1960s to build a large base off the coast of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, was approved by a top U.S. military official, according to a declassified U.S. document obtained by Kyodo News.

The document suggests that half a century ago, the U.S. military had already set its eyes on constructing a base in Henoko’s coastal area, which is now at the center of the standoff between the central government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government over the relocation of the Futenma base.

The current effort to build the replacement facility in line with an agreement with the United States has been stalled due to opposition from Okinawa residents and officials.

Tokyo and Washington, which struck an accord in 1996 to return the Futenma site to Japanese control, say the existing relocation plan is the “only solution” for removing the dangers posed by the air station, which is currently located in a crowded residential area.

The newly obtained 40-page document contains a memorandum approving the plan sent by Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara on July 20, 1967, before the reversion of Okinawa to Japan from U.S. control.

A separate military document previously obtained revealed the outline of a master plan for U.S. Navy facilities that was submitted by a U.S. construction firm in 1966.

The plan suggested building an offshore facility with two 3,000-meter-long runways. It never got off the ground partly because of tight budget conditions in the wake of the Vietnam War.

The document said the U.S. government “should continue to emphasize to the government of Japan that Japan’s security is in large part dependent on the maintenance of a substantial U.S. military posture” in Okinawa.