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U.S. from beginning wanted a state-of-the-art base in Okinawa: Former official discloses

A former Japanese prime ministerfs aide has quoted a U.S. Forces commander as testifying that the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawafs Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago was motivated by the U.S. wish to construct a new gstate-of-the-arth base.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he also said that the initial relocation plan had been drawn up during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and that the aim was not to reduce Okinawansf burdens associated with the presence of the U.S. base.

The former government official was directly involved with the Okinawa issue in the 1970s. In the 1990s, as an aide to a prime minister he played a role in formulating the 1996 agreement of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) to return the U.S. Futenma Air Station to Japan.

He said that he heard a Futenma base commander explain that they keenly wanted to give up the Futenma base, which has an outdated radar system, and move to a new one with state-of-the-art technology.

He also said, gThe U.S. Forces put emphasis on the need to modernize the radar system and other equipment. They said they only needed a runway for helicopters. However, Japan proposed constructing a joint civil-military base with a 1,300 meter runway for fixed-wing aircraft, enabling commercial flights to use it in response to the local businesses demanding measures to help the local economy prosper.h

The former government official also recalled that he was shown a plan of a U.S. Marine Corps base to be constructed near U.S. Camp Schwab in Nago when he was at the prime ministerfs official residence.

It was a gblueprinth for the construction of a major U.S. military facility in Oura Bay off the Henoko district of Nago where U.S. Camp Schwab is located. The plan had been prepared by the major U.S. engineering and construction giant Bechtel.

This shows that the prototype of the new base plan with V-shaped runways in Nago can be traced back to the Vietnam War era, he pointed out.

The original plan made in the 1960s by Bechtel included two parallel runways instead of the V-shaped ones under the current plan.

Bechtelfs promotion of a new major base, however, failed after facing opposition from local fishermen who were operating in and around Oura Bay and confronted with shortage of funds due to the escalating costs of the Vietnam War.

This plan that was previously rejected, however, reappeared again in the course of bilateral negotiations following the 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement on Okinawa, known as the SACO agreement.

The present base construction plan is a product of negotiations between Japan and the United States and reflects Japanfs commitment to pay the cost for the base construction.

The former high official said in conclusion, gThere are no longer military threats that justify the present strength of U.S. forces in Asia. The United States and China maintain friendly relations. The 21st century must become a century in which the world will enjoy peace and culture.h

- Akahata, October 29, 2009


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