NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-hand man is pledging to provide economic support to Nago, the city expected to take over as host of an unpopular U.S. base situated further south in Okinawa.
“The government will see that the residents’ living environment is protected and that measures are taken to promote the regional economy,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday in a meeting with residents near the relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Nago’s coastline.
The government is building more seawalls to prepare for the transfer of Futenma airfield’s functions to the Nago site, which is adjacent to the marines’ Camp Schwab, but the plan has been fiercely opposed for decades by residents in the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.
Suga also held talks with a candidate being backed by the ruling coalition for Nago’s mayoral election in February, and the mayor of a village where a U.S. CH-53 chopper from the Futenma base crash-landed in October.
After his talks with mayoral candidate Taketoyo Toguchi, who backs the base relocation plan, Suga said the central government will continue to explain in a sincere and honest manner its aim of eliminating safety concerns for residents near the Futenma base, currently in a crowded residential area of Ginowan, with the replacement facility in Nago.
In his meeting with Seikyu Iju, mayor of the village of Higashi, Suga again conveyed the central government’s plan to take preventive measures.
While the accident did not cause any injuries, the site where the helicopter landed and burst into flames was close to a residential area.
Okinawa has continued to see a steady stream of U.S. military accidents, the latest involving a helicopter window that detached and nearly hit some children at a nearby school earlier this month.
On Friday, hundreds gathered near Ginowan City Hall to demand that the U.S. military ban aircraft flights over schools in Okinawa.