Okinawa to accept relocation of U.S. military port to Urasoe

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A map of Okinawa

The Okinawa prefectural government is expected to approve a plan to relocate the U.S. forces’ Naha Port Facility to an area off Urasoe in the prefecture, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed that the about 56-hectare site will be returned to Japan on the condition that the port’s functions are relocated. The Defense Ministry has already presented a relocation plan and it is believed that the Naha and Urasoe municipal governments will agree to it.

In March, the Defense Ministry presented a plan to reclaim about 49 hectares of a sea area north of Urasoe Pier and to build a hammer-shaped facility where the functions of the Naha military port facility will be relocated.

After confirming the environmental impact of the plan, the prefectural government is expected to announce its approval by Tuesday at the earliest at a council meeting comprising the central, prefectural and municipal governments.

Once the plan has received approval in Okinawa, Japanese and U.S. authorities in charge of foreign and defense affairs will agree on a draft plan so work ###on the relocation can move forward.

In 1974, the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed on the return of the port site on the condition that its functions are relocated. The port’s proximity to Naha Airport and the city center make it an attractive site for redevelopment.

The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed in 2013 on the return of the site by fiscal 2028 at the earliest. At the time, construction of the new facility was estimated to take nine years.

However, some members of the Okinawa prefectural assembly who back Gov. Denny Tamaki have called for the unconditional return of the site, with no relocation.

“I have confirmed that [the relocation] will not obstruct operations in parts of the pier used by the public,” Tamaki said at a press conference Friday. “I shall carefully explain this to assembly members.”