WASHINGTON — Senior defense officials from the United States and Japan agreed on Sept. 15 that the relocation of a Marine Corps base within Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture is “a crucial step” in the realignment of American military forces there, the U.S. government said.
The Pentagon said Bob Work, deputy U.S. defense secretary, and Masanori Nishi, Japanese vice defense minister, shared the view on the planned base transfer on Okinawa during talks at the U.S. Defense Department.
Work and Nishi met as political tension continued to mount between local authorities in Okinawa, who oppose the relocation within the island, and Japan’s central government, which is seeking to push forward with the project.
The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to relocate the Futenma base from a densely populated area in Ginowan to a new airfield to be built in a coastal area north, in Nago, saying the move would reduce the burden on Okinawa, which already hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.
But a day earlier, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said he would revoke approval for landfill work to build the new base. Onaga’s predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, granted the approval last year. Onaga defeated Nakaima in last year’s gubernatorial election. Onaga is asking the central government to move the Marine Corps base outside of the island prefecture.
According to the Pentagon, Work and Nishi also agreed that their governments would step up efforts to enhance the security alliance between the U.S. military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces under the new guidelines for defense cooperation, which were updated in April.