Skip to comments.US Moves Okinawa Air Base To Heal Rift
Posted on 10/26/2005 5:52:09 PM PDT by blam
US moves Okinawa air base to heal rift
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
The United States agreed yesterday to move an air base into another military site on the Japanese island of Okinawa in a climbdown aimed at reducing friction between the US military and locals.
Okinawans, whose small, southern island houses more than half the 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan, have long protested about the disruption to daily life caused by the heavy military presence.
The Futenma air base will now be relocated to Camp Schwab
Washington and Tokyo agreed to move the Futenma air base a decade ago after massive anti-US demonstrations were triggered by the rape of a schoolgirl by three servicemen from the base.
However, no firm plans had been agreed by a 2003 deadline, and the standoff strained bilateral relations. Washington had wanted to build an offshore facility on a coral reef, but Tokyo rejected this on environmental grounds.
The US has now accepted Tokyo's proposal to move the air station from a heavily populated area to an existing base, Camp Schwab, in a less-crowded spot. Pressure has been building to resolve the dispute before President George W Bush visits Tokyo next month.
The deal paves the way for the redeployment of US forces throughout Japan.
Japan's foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, said the agreement had averted what might have been an "irreparable schism" in ties. It would cut the number of American marines in Okinawa by several thousand.
"I want to show the people in Okinawa what kind of burden-reduction there will be," he said.
The agreement fell short of the hopes of the local authority which had wanted the base moved off the island.
The Americans see their presence on Okinawa as central to the security of the Asia-Pacific region.
What is the downside to the USA, aside from the cost of the move?
I wonder if the town near the base became populous because the base was there? Like people who move near an airport and then complain about airport noise.
Okinawa was a $hithole anyhow. Been there done that.
Move it, let the ingrates starve.
Move out of S. Korea and let the NK's take over and turn the place into a ****hole too and see how they like that.
More from the Stars & Stripes (http://stripes.com/article.asp?article=32554)
U.S. accepts Japanese plan to scrap airport at Henoko
Replacement for Futenma to be built at Camp Schwab
By David Allen and Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, October 28, 2005
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa The United States has accepted Japans proposal to build a facility on Camp Schwab to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The agreement came after three days of negotiations in Tokyo and is to be made formal over the weekend at the two-plus-two ministerial-level security meeting in Washington, U.S. and Japanese officials said.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday, Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless said Japans government has emphasized to the U.S. that the plan we have accepted provides a comprehensive, capable and executable solution for replacing Futenma in an expeditious and complete manner.
Our intention is to formally accept this specific proposal later this week by including it as one of several realignment actions to be jointly recommended in our bilateral report on the progress of Alliance Transformation and Realignment.
Lawless did not go into details about the plan. But in a statement the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo released later, he was quoted as saying that it represents the best solution available this plan can and will be fully executable in a comprehensive and timely manner, thereby allowing us to return Futenma Air Station to the people of Okinawa and Japan.
In 1996, the United States and Japan agreed to move MCAS Futenma from Okinawas urban center to a more remote location on the island. After years of negotiations, a site on reclaimed land and a reef some two miles off Okinawas northeast shore was selected for a $2.87 billion airport with a 1.5-mile runway, connected to the Marine base by a causeway. But environmental and anti-base opponents have delayed the project. Japan has offered to scrap it in return for its plan to build an airport on Camp Schwab on the northern part of the island, extending onto reclaimed land in Oura Wan Bay. As a compromise, the 1,500-meter runway suggested by the Japanese plan was extended to 1,800 meters (about 1.1 miles), according to Yoshinori Ohno, director general of Japans Self-Defense Agency.
U.S. officials had favored a reduced runway near the original replacement site, stressing that the facility would be further from residential areas.
Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine is expected to oppose the new plan. He supported the original Futenma replacement facility on the condition civilian aircraft also could use it. Prefectural officials declined to comment on Wednesdays announcement.
Ohno told reporters that U.S. and Japanese governments reached agreement on all the issues on the realignment including relocation of Futenma air station operations.
A runway will be built on Camp Schwab, using about 20 percent of the area where barracks are presently located, with a slight extension to the south in Oura Wan Bay, he said.
Japan will shoulder the cost as much as possible, Ohno said, adding that he would send the head of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency to Okinawa to discuss the agreement with local officials before the bilateral talks in Washington.
He did not elaborate on when the construction might start or how long it might take.
He also did not go into any details on the realignment agreement.
The Futenma relocation issue was seen as a stumbling block to other realignment considerations, including proposals to close the Naha Military Port and Camp Kinser, moving their functions to Marine bases in northern Okinawa; reduce the size of Camp Foster; and move the command element of the III Marine Expeditionary Force to Guam, shifting some 3,000 to 5,000 Marines to that U.S. territory.
Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told reporters in Tokyo that the discussions had an atmosphere of urgency, that not reaching an agreement on the security issue, a central part of the U.S.-Japan relationship, would seriously damage relations.
Okinawa is host to slightly more than half of the U.S. troops in Japan, with U.S. bases covering one-fifth of the island. Of land in Japan used solely by the U.S. military, 75 percent is on Okinawa.
This is Okinawa's biggest beef, it's with their federal government and about Japan placing so much of the US presnce on Okinawa.
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