It was learned on Oct. 19 that Komeito’s working team on U.S. bases in Okinawa consisting of officials from the party’s headquarters and its Okinawa chapter is studying as an option the relocation of the Futenma Air Station not by building runways on reclaimed land in waters off Henoko, Nago City, but by the construction of helipads on land in Camp Schwab or Camp Hansen. This has been presented to the Okinawa government as an unofficial proposal. The working team is also considering the Okinawa chapter’s proposal for relocation out of Okinawa. The above was revealed by several informed sources.
The Komeito Okinawa chapter’s project team on base issues had recommended Futenma’s relocation out of Okinawa in a report in December 2013. If the working team comes to favor relocation within the prefecture, this will constitute a shift in the Okinawa chapter’s policy on the Futenma relocation issue, which is bound to be criticized.
The working team plans to compile recommendations for reducing Okinawa’s base-hosting burden before the end of this year for submission to the Japanese and U.S. governments. The recommendations are yet to be finalized.
Komeito Diet members plan to hold a meeting in Tokyo on Oct. 28 to exchange views with military analyst Kazuhisa Ogawa, who favors temporary relocation to Camp Hansen as a solution to the Futenma relocation issue.
Since Komeito is a ruling party that accepts the government’s Henoko relocation plan, the party headquarters takes a different position from its Okinawa chapter, which is opposed to Henoko relocation and favors relocation out of Okinawa.
Although relocation within Okinawa will contradict the Okinawa chapter’s previous position favoring relocation outside the prefecture, the possibility remains that the new proposal might be adopted as a realistic solution, since the national government – claiming Henoko relocation is the only option – and the Okinawa government – which opposes Henoko relocation – are unable to find a meeting point and are engaged in a court battle.
The working team consisting of Komeito Diet members and prefectural assembly members was launched last June with the purpose of compiling burden-reduction measures after the rape and murder of a local woman by a U.S. base employee who is a former Marine. The group has met seven times in Okinawa and Tokyo. It has made inspection tours of the Futenma base and exchanged views with experts, the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and others.