The government is set to alter part of the plan to build a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, to add seabed reinforcement work, government sources said Monday, possibly delaying the construction schedule.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki is likely to reject the central government’s application for the additional work, given his strong opposition to the plan.
The central and Okinawa governments have been at odds over the planned transfer of the base from a crowded residential area in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district of Nago. Under the plan, the move requires some 157 hectares of land reclamation and a V-shaped runway to be constructed.
The central government plans to complete in five years the land reclamation stage of the construction work, which started in April 2017 with the building of dikes, based on a Japan-U.S. agreement made in 2013 that stipulated that the transfer would be carried out over a period of nine years.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration claims the plan is the only solution for removing the dangers posed by the base without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. security alliance. The local government, however, believes Okinawa bears an unfair burden in hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan and wants the base moved out of the prefecture altogether.
The central government started the core part of the land reclamation work in December, dumping earth into an area surrounded by a dike.
It is now seeking to alter the construction plan for the eastern part of the landfill site. Drilling surveys are said to have shown the Defense Ministry that multiple areas of the seabed require reinforcement.
While the government intends to continue moving forward where no such additional work is necessary, the project overall will likely take longer to complete if Tamaki refuses to accept the application for the change in the construction plan.
The relocation project originated from an agreement reached between the Japanese and U.S. governments in 1996, but progress has been slower than planned due to local opposition.