Tokyo pushing ahead with U.S. base relocation plan despite election loss

TOKYO Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:55pm EST

Military aircraft are seen at the U.S. Futenma air base in Ginowan on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa February 12, 2007. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Military aircraft are seen at the U.S. Futenma air base in Ginowan on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa February 12, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

Related Topics

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo is pushing ahead with plans to relocate a controversial U.S. base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, despite the weekend re-election of a mayor strongly opposed to the move, and on Tuesday invited tenders for the first stage of work.

Delays in relocating the U.S. Marines' Futenma air base, a move first agreed between Tokyo and Washington in 1996, have long been an irritant in U.S.-Japan ties.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to make progress on the project as he seeks tighter ties with the United States in the face of an assertive China.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Tuesday that bids for the first phase of construction, a landfill project, were now open.

"We are thinking that we want to proceed with the relocation as smoothly as possible," he added.

Susumu Inamine, a staunch opponent of the relocation, was re-elected mayor of the Okinawa city of Nago, defeating an opponent who backed the project and ran with the strong support of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). His win is a potential headache for Abe and may cause friction with Washington.

"The plan must go back to square one," Inamine told reporters on Sunday. "I will reject all procedures that are premised on the landfill project."

Last month, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved a plan to move Futenma's functions from a populous part of central Okinawa to Nago's coastal Henoko area.

Preparations for any relocation, such as surveying, could take a year, with the first relocation work starting after that. Japanese media says the government hopes to begin this in 2015, but Inamine's election could cause delays.

Seeking to soothe discontent, Abe's government earmarked 348 billion yen ($3.34 billion) for Okinawa's economic development in the draft budget for the year from April and pledged about 300 billion yen per year through 2021/22.

Abe also promised to study whether the relocation plan could be speeded up and said the government would start talks with the United States on a deal that could allow for more oversight of environmental issues at U.S. bases.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies, Editing by Michael Perry)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (4)
WhyMeLord wrote:
The GOP/NRA/TEA party hawks want to know why the deficit is so high and our strategy so flawed. It’s because the US refuses to end any military operation we get tangled up in. Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., we started these wars, couldn’t win them, but couldn’t bring ourselves to admit defeat and leave them alone.
Old soldiers never die; neither do the wars they start and never finish. When will we ever learn that we’re our own worst enemy?

Jan 21, 2014 12:53am EST  --  Report as abuse
axelray wrote:
Okinawa’s Henoko Bay is the home of sea grass and dugong, not war machines.
Tokyo is 2000km away, so when China or North Korea want to destroy 40% of US forces stationed in the region, Okinawa and the dugong will be sacrificed.

Jan 21, 2014 2:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
Litchima wrote:
Okinawa has been Japanese colony before WWII. US took the jurisdiction of Okinawa since the Allied occupation and handed it over secretly to Japan in the late 1970s. If US no longer want to set military bases in Japan then it should leave the job to other Ally members such as China.

Jan 21, 2014 11:55am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.