Abe and Okinawa’s Denny Tamaki fail to find common ground on U.S. base transfer

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday failed to find common ground on a controversial plan to relocate a key U.S. military base within the island prefecture.

During talks in Tokyo, Tamaki said he reiterated Okinawa’s opposition to the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.

But according to the governor, Abe adhered to the government’s position on transferring the base from the crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago in line with an agreement with the United States.

As a result, Okinawa is expected to file a complaint by the end of this month with a committee tasked with resolving conflicts between the central and local governments.

“We want to proceed with the current relocation work as planned. I ask for your understanding,” Tamaki quoted Abe as saying when the governor met with the press after the meeting.

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

Tamaki said he had urged the central government to halt the construction, “seriously taking into account the public opinion manifested in the result of the Okinawa gubernatorial election.”

Tamaki won the election on Sept. 30 on an anti-base platform, beating his main rival candidate who was backed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Despite the expected submission of the complaint by Okinawa Prefectural Government to the dispute settlement panel, the central government is preparing to start full-fledged landfill construction by the end of the year.

Prior to the talks between Abe and Tamaki, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita and Deputy Okinawa Gov. Kiichiro Jahana had held a meeting in Tokyo as part of an agreement between both sides to engage in intensive negotiations through the end of November.