The United States previously agreed to return the land occupied by the US military’s Futenma base in Japan to Japan, and the return date was set to “2022 fiscal year or later.” However, people familiar with the matter disclosed on the 13th that due to the slower-than-expected construction progress of the new site, the US military base was difficult to move to the new site on time, and the US may delay the return of the land to Japan.
[The construction is too slow]
Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 to replace the US-based Futenma Base in Okinawa Prefecture with a new site, and move from Ginowan City to the border town of Nago, the so-called county relocation plan.
The Japanese and US governments further agreed in April 2013 that the US side will fully return the land occupied by the Futenma base to the Japanese side in the fiscal year of 2022 or later.
A person familiar with the matter told the Japanese Kyodo News Agency on the 13th that to relocate the Futenma base to the border town, it is necessary to do seabed reinforcement and reclamation in this area, and the construction progress is now slower than expected, meaning that The process of relocation and return of land may be delayed.
The source said that according to estimates by the Japanese Defense Ministry, it would take three years and eight months to reinforce the seabed in the ancient area of the border, and that it would be impossible to complete the relocation of the base in the 2022 fiscal year.
The construction schedule estimated by the Okinawa prefectural government takes longer: the seabed reinforcement takes 5 years, the land reclamation takes 5 years, and the new base is built, which takes 13 years.
The source predicted that the US’s full return to the Futenma base may be postponed until “the mid-1920s or later.”
The relocation of the US military Futenma base in Okinawa Prefecture faces many uncertainties. The Okinawa prefectural government has repeatedly sued the Japanese central government for asking to stop the relocation within the prefecture and drive the base out of Okinawa Prefecture.
People in Okinawa complain that the county covers only 0.6% of Japan’s territory, but it bears more than 70% of the US military bases stationed in Japan. Over the years, it has been plagued by US military crimes, crashes, falling objects and noise.
The Japanese Defense Ministry estimates that the total cost of the Futenma base relocation is at least 350 billion yen (about 21.1 billion yuan). The estimate by the Okinawa prefectural government is even more alarming, reaching 2.65 trillion yen (156.5 billion yuan), of which only 150 billion yen (9 billion yuan) will be spent on hardening the seabed.
Okinawa Prefecture held a referendum on February 24, and more than 70% of Okinawa voters voted against the county relocation plan. Although the results of the referendum are not legally binding, observers believe that the referendum “clearly conveys the voice of the people of Okinawa County” will put pressure on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A poll by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun at the end of February showed that 80% of respondents believe that Abe’s cabinet should respect the results of the Okinawa referendum.
On September 30, 2018, the successor of the anti-US military base movement, Yucheng Danny, won a full victory in the governor’s election in Okinawa Prefecture, defeating competitors in favor of the county’s relocation plan. After taking office, Yucheng actively promoted the referendum and hoped to show the clear position of the local people to the central government and the people of the whole country. The preparations for the referendum were full of twists and turns, and it was finally held as scheduled