National / Politics

Abe to meet Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday over U.S. base transfer

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet with Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday to discuss a controversial plan to relocate a key U.S. military base within the prefecture’s main island, the top government spokesman said Tuesday.

The meeting will take place before the deadline on Friday for the Okinawa government to file a complaint with a government committee tasked with resolving conflicts between the central and local governments.

The central and Okinawa governments have sought to find common ground in an intensive dialogue set up earlier this month over the planned transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, but so far failed to do so.

The anti-base governor, who was elected in late September following the death of his predecessor Takeshi Onaga, a staunch opponent of the base relocation, has said Okinawa plans to bring its case to the committee if the state forces through construction work to build a replacement facility for Futenma.

The central government aims to begin full-fledged landfill work for the base transfer by year-end. Abe and Tamaki last met on Oct. 12.

The central and Okinawa governments have been at odds over the planned relocation of the Futenma base from the crowded city of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago. Tokyo and Washington agreed on the transfer in 1996.

Many residents in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, have long hoped that the Futenma base will be moved out of the prefecture altogether.

Prior to the talks between Abe and Tamaki, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita and Deputy Okinawa Gov. Kiichiro Jahana are also expected to meet, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. Although Sugita and Jahana have held three rounds of talks, they remain apart on the relocation issue.

Both sides originally sought to hold the intensive dialogue until Friday, but they earlier agreed to continue talks beyond that date if necessary.

Meanwhile in Naha, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday urging the Japanese and U.S. governments to suspend flights of U.S. fighter jets following the crash of a warplane earlier this month.

A Carrier Air Wing 5 FA-18 belonging to the carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed about 300 kilometers off Okinawa on Nov. 12, but its two crew members were rescued without sustaining any life-threatening injuries. The assembly called for grounding the fighter jets until the cause of the accident is ascertained.