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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Japanese PM halt construction work at US Okinawa base relocation

Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan, agreed to halt construction work on the relocation of the U.S. Futenma airbase away from its densely populated site to a more remote area of the island.

The controversy has been ongoing for some time. Japan has agreed to the relocation of the Futenma base to an area in Henoko, south of Nago city, at U.S. Camp Schwab. However, local authorities are concerned about the impact of the move on coral reefs in the area. The local authorities want the U.S. base at Futenma removed from the island entirely. The disagreement ended up in the courts with each side filing suits against the other. Abe decided to accept a court-mediated settlement. The settlement will lead to further talks between the two sides.
Japan had already begun land reclamation just offshore from Camp Schwab. Abe said his plan was still to relocate the Futenma base to Camp Schwab. U.S. bases occupy large sections of Okinawa as shown on the map here. U.S. bases occupy about 18 percent of Okinawa. Altogether, the U.S. has approximately 26,000 troops on Okinawa as part of a security arrangement following the second world war. Japan heavily subsidizes the bases and also is paying for the relocation of Futenma.
John Kirby, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department claimed that both the U.S. and the Japanese government remained committed to the plan to construct the replacement for Futenma. At a briefing, Kirby said:"It is the only solution that addresses operational, political, financial and strategic concerns; that permits the operational readiness of our forward-positioned Marine forces and avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma."However, The Okinawa Governor, Takeshi Onaga, said: "I was elected governor on the platform of not allowing a new base in Henoko. ... I will keep pursuing this policy with confidence."


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