The U.S. has openly shown its frustration and concern about a delay in the process of implementing the final report of the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), specifying an intergovernmental agreement to return the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma airfield to Japan on condition that an alternative facility is constructed at Henoko in Nago City.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held in March, President Obama expressed concern about the delay in Futenma relocation to Henoko as a result of reconciliation between the central government and the Okinawa prefectural government in a government-initiated lawsuit over Futenma relocation. In November, the Heritage Foundation, a U.S. conservative think tank involved in president-elect Donald Trump’s policy making, released the “2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength,” in which the foundation cited Okinawa people’s protest against the U.S. military’s “footprint.” Specifically, it noted that Japan, a U.S. ally, does not help the U.S. with its policymaking and enjoys a “free ride” on the security treaty, saying this has caused a further frustration among the American people.
Both U.S. Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry Harris and Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller pointed out the delay in the Henoko relocation at the U.S. Congress’ hearings this year. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (Republican) openly expressed his displeasure at a hearing, saying, “Political issues in Okinawa Prefecture have become a source of frustration to me and other committee members.”