NAHA (Kyodo) — Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Saturday the Japanese government will not change its plan to relocate a key U.S. military base within the southern island prefecture of Okinawa.
During their meeting in the prefectural capital Naha, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki reiterated the local government’s opposition to the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko coastal area of Nago from a densely populated area in Ginowan.
Kato, whose portfolio includes mitigating the impact of U.S. forces in Okinawa, told Tamaki, “We believe the only solution is transferring (the base) to Henoko.”
Kato was visiting the prefecture for the first time since assuming the posts last month.
The central and Okinawa governments have long been at odds over the planned relocation of the base that Tokyo and Washington agreed on in 1996.
Tamaki also requested Kato to hold a meeting involving the central, Okinawa and Ginowan governments, aimed at reducing the danger posed by the Futenma base, as early as possible.
In response, Kato said, “Utilizing such a framework, we would like to promote measures to reduce the burdens.”
Prior to the talks at the prefectural government’s main office building, Kato met separately with Naha Mayor Taketoyo Toguchi and Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsugawa.
He also inspected the Futenma base from the top of Ginowan’s city hall and other major U.S. military facilities from a helicopter.