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US Officials: 2019 Closure of Futenma Air Station in Japan 'Fanciful Speculation'

  • VOA News

FILE - Marines board a KC-130J Hercules aircraft at the U.S. Futenma airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

FILE - Marines board a KC-130J Hercules aircraft at the U.S. Futenma airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The U.S. government has raised objections to Japan’s insistence that it close a key U.S. military base in Okinawa by 2019.

Those with knowledge of talks in Tokyo on October 2 say U.S. officials made clear to their Japanese counterparts that a deadline to close the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station before 2022 was "fanciful speculation."

A congressional report says a U.S.-Japan joint planning document indicated in 2013 that a replacement base in Henoko would not be completed before 2022.

The U.S. and Japan agreed in 2006 to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less-congested area on Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military installations in Japan.

The report says the arrangement was designed to reduce the local community’s burden of hosting a loud air base and, eventually, to return control of the Futenma land to local authorities for economic development.

In late 2013, the governor of Okinawa approved construction of an offshore landfill necessary to build the replacement facility for Futenma. However, most Okinawans oppose the construction of a new U.S. base for a mix of political, environmental, and quality-of-life reasons.

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