(Sankei: April 21, 2015 – p. 3)
Mayor Tetsuji Matsumoto of Urasoe City in Okinawa held a news conference on April 20 to announce his acceptance of the plan to relocate the U.S. Army’s Naha port facility (Naha military port in Naha City, with an area of 56 hectares) to the Urasoe port area as part of the program to consolidate and return U.S. military facilities south of Kadena Air Base (straddling Kadena-cho, Okinawa City, and Chatan-cho).
Matsumoto got elected in February 2013 on a platform of opposing the relocation. The panel on the relocation project consisting of representatives of the Tokyo, Okinawa, Naha City, and so forth had been in an impasse. With Matsumoto accepting the relocation plan, the project will move forward significantly.
Matsumoto indicated that “promoting (the relocation of the military port) will contribute to the consolidation and reduction of U.S. bases in Okinawa as a whole.” He will send the vice mayor to attend the relocation panel’s meeting on April 28.
The Naha military port is located in the center of Naha City and the local residents have high hopes for the development of the vacated land. Progress made in this relocation plan that came right after the return of the West Futenma Housing Area on Camp Zukeran in March will come as a boost to the government’s efforts to reduce Okinawa’s base-hosting burden.
The relocation of the Naha facility to the Urasoe port area will also involve reclamation of the sea, similar to the Henoko relocation plan. The reaction of Governor Takeshi Onaga, who is opposed to Henoko relocation, to the Naha port’s relocation is now a focus of great attention.
The port relocation project was included in the final report of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) of 1996. Under the Japan-U.S. agreement reached in April 2013 on the consolidation and return of U.S. military facilities, the relocation and return of the port will be completed in FY2028. (Slightly abridged)