Relocation of Okinawa US base delayed by 2 years

US Pacific Command chief says completion of new base in southern Japanese prefecture pushed back to 2025 amid protests, Okinawa-Tokyo feud

Relocation of Okinawa US base delayed by 2 years

World Bulletin / News Desk

A plan to relocate a United States Marine Corps base within a southern Japanese island prefecture has been pushed back two years amid protests and a long-running feud between Okinawa and Tokyo.

Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Wednesday that chief of the U.S. Pacific Command said that the completion of a new base was now expected in 2025.

"It's slowed. It's... a little over two years late," Adm. Harry Harris told a U.S. Congress hearing Tuesday.

Thousands of people have gathered in Japan for protests -- the latest held outside the parliament Sunday -- against plans to move the base from densely populated Ginowan city to reclaimed land on the less populated shore of Henoko.

Okinawa and Tokyo have been trying to undermine each other’s efforts over the Futenma Air Station since early 2015 when Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga -- who wants the base moved out of the prefecture -- revoked a landfill approval by his predecessor.

The land minister responded by overruling the move in October, prompting the government of Okinawa -- which has the highest poverty rate among Japan’s prefectures -- to submit a complaint to the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council the following month.

Additional suits have been filed since. The U.S. Pacific Command chief underlined Tuesday that the building of a relocation facility is "Japan's responsibility”.

“That's their obligation to us," Kyodo quoted him saying.

The people of Okinawa have long felt oppressed by hosting around two-thirds of the entire U.S. military establishment in Japan since the end of World War II, and Onaga won the gubernatorial election in November last year with a pledge to oppose the base relocation.

In addition to complaints about the number of U.S. troops, residents are concerned that the relocation could have a negative impact on the environment of Henoko -- including the coral reefs in the area -- and result in noise pollution.

For its part, the central government argues that U.S. bases, including the new one at Henoko, are necessary for maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance.

It also says the new base is necessary for the safety of the people of densely populated Ginowan.

In December, Japan’s cabinet a record defense budget of around $42 billion for the 2016 fiscal year, under which nearly $495 million was set aside for the relocation of the Okinawa base.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Şubat 2016, 10:13