Northern Okinawan City Agrees to Plan for US Marine Corps Heliport

A major obstacle to a sweeping realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan seems to be in the process of being resolved. An agreement has been reached between the Japanese Government and a city in northern Okinawa to allow the relocation of a controversial U.S. Marine Corps air station.

Japan's central government and the Okinawan city of Nago have struck a deal to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma heliport from the congested city of Ginowan to a remote facility on the northern tip of the island.

The agreement, signed late Friday, resolves a dispute between the city and the central government that has stood in the way of completion of a broad realignment plan for U.S. forces in Japan. That plan was supposed to have been completed by March 31.

An earlier plan to build the heliport on an offshore reef was stalled for a decade - in part because protesters disrupted construction.

Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro says the new location at Cape Henoko, at the Marines' existing Camp Schwab, will be less disruptive to his city's residents.

The Nago mayor says he is happy that his counter-proposal was accepted by the Japanese government, and he will explain it to his constituents in hopes of gaining their understanding.

The agreement calls for two runways to be built, one for takeoffs and the other for landings. The new design would lessen air traffic over populated areas - the major concern that had held up the overall realignment agreement.

The Japanese Defense Agency's secretary-general, Fukushiro Nukaga, met Saturday with Okinawa governor Keiichi Inamine to ask for his understanding. Inamine has called for the heliport to be built either offshore or out of Okinawa.

A joint news conference had been planned to announce an agreement between Okinawa and the central government, but Inamine emerged from the two-and-a-half-hour meeting to speak to reporters by himself.

The Okinawa governor says that while he respects the decision by the mayor of Nago, he is still opposed to the agreement, but is willing to continue meeting with officials from Tokyo.

The governor has the power to block the relocation plan because the prefectural government has authority over the use of the ocean where the heliport would be located.

However, Nukaga appeared upbeat after Saturday's meeting, saying negotiations are in the final stretch.

The defense agency boss says he understands that the governor is trying to look out for the overall interests of Okinawa.

The tentative runway agreement came two days after Japan-U.S. talks in Washington on the overall realignment plan ended without agreement. The remaining major dispute is over how to divide the cost of relocating eight thousand Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.

Sources involved in the negotiations say Washington wants Tokyo to bear 75 percent of the Guam relocation costs, which could total $10 billion. The Japanese have balked at paying that amount, and have offered instead to loan the U.S. $3 billion towards the cost of off-base housing on Guam.

Another round of meetings between U.S. and Japanese officials is scheduled to begin here Thursday.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs