Okinawa Times reported on remarks made during a symposium sponsored by Kyodo News Agency on Thursday by Col. Neil Owens, the head of Government and External Affairs at Marine Corps Installations Pacific. He allegedly made it clear that the U.S. military will continue to use MCAS Futenma until the replacement facility is made available for use. “The operation of the installation will not be halted until all the agreed-upon conditions are met,” the officer was quoted as saying. “Until then, it must be maintained as an airfield because the United States has to fulfill its obligations for the defense of Japan as set forth in the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” According to the article, Lt. Col. Beard, the executive officer at MCAS Futenma, underscored at the same event the importance of Okinawa for the defense of Japan and the region due to its proximity to the Korean Peninsula and China. He also reportedly said the U.S. military and the SDF have repeatedly conducted defense drills in the southernmost prefecture.