National Government, Nago City Government Dialogue on Relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi answers questions from reporters at the Okinawa prefectural government office on Sunday.

The government has begun coordinating to establish a framework of direct dialogue with the city government of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, over the city’s hosting of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, with an aim to accelerate its relocation from Ginowan in the prefecture.

The governments will discuss the work’s progress, minimization of noise and traffic congestion, and the implementation of measures to revitalize local communities so that more residents will be accepting of the relocation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, who is also in charge of mitigating the impact of U.S. bases, visited Okinawa Prefecture on Sunday for the first time since taking the post.

He met with Taketoyo Toguchi, the mayor of Nago. Toguchi demanded that the central government clear away concerns among residents about the air station’s relocation to a coastal area of the Henoko district in the city.

The mayor said to Hayashi, “Local residents have voiced concerns the about impact on their daily life, such as traffic congestion and noise pollution caused by the construction work.”

Hayashi replied, “We wish to respond appropriately to the situation.”

The dialogue will be led by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shunichi Kuryu on the central government’s side and Toguchi on the Nago city side.

The government is also considering including ministerial-level officials in the dialogue.

By deepening communication with Toguchi, who has not clarified whether he approves of or opposes the relocation to the Henoko district, the central government aims to improve local residents’ acceptance of the relocation plan.

On Sunday, Hayashi also met with Governor Denny Tamaki of Okinawa at the prefectural government office. The governor opposes the relocation of the air station.

After the meeting, Hayashi told reporters that the central government, the Okinawa prefectural government and the Ginowan city government will soon hold a meeting of their working team composed of representatives from the three sides to mitigate the relocation’s impact. If the meeting is held, it will be the first time since February last year.

A court battle between the central government and the Okinawa prefectural government over the plan to relocate the air station to the Henoko district was effectively settled in September last year. In the ruling, the central government’s claim was approved.

On Jan. 10, the Defense Ministry resume work to reclaim the coastal area of the Henoko district.