Okinawa Governor Approves Plan to Relocate U.S. Marine Base

The governor of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa has approved the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps air station to reclaimed land along the coast, but said he will continue pressing to have the base moved completely off the island.

An Okinawan official confirmed reports Friday that Governor Hirokazu Nakaima had approved the Japanese Defense Ministry's application to reclaim land for a new military base on Okinawa's coast. It would replace the U.S. Marine Corps base in Futenma, a more congested part of Okinawa's main island.

U.S military airplanes and helicopters sit on the airstrip at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station surrounded by houses in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan. /AP U.S military airplanes and helicopters sit on the airstrip at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station surrounded by houses in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan. /AP

However, the governor told a news conference later in the day that he still believes the quickest way to move Futenma troops would be to locate the base to some existing facility with runways outside Okinawa. Nakaima vowed during his campaign for office to have the U.S. base removed from the island.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe persuaded Nakaima to approve the move in a meeting Wednesday. As part of the agreement, the central government will provide increased financial assistance to the island.

Futenma is located in a heavily populated area of Ginowan; residents complain of the noise made by jets and express worries about the safety of people living around the facility. Tokyo has insisted on the move, as called for in an agreement reached with the United States in 2006.

Okinawa residents have steadfastly opposed the agreement.

VOA News / Dec. 28, 2013 08:51 KST