(Adds Panetta comment in fourth paragraph.)
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Okinawa’s prefecture council presented a request to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda calling for a U.S. Marine base to be moved off the island ahead of an assessment report regarding a possible relocation.
“It’s practically impossible to realize a relocation plan that doesn’t have the understanding of local residents,” the document said. The council is headed by Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa told visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta this week that Japan will issue an environmental impact report on moving the Futenma Air Base to a new facility at Camp Schwab, near the area of Henoko, by the end of the year. While the U.S. and Japan agreed in 1996 to move the base, Okinawans oppose the deal and construction has yet to begin.
Building the new facility “is a critical initiative in our effort to maintain a strong forward-deployed presence in the Pacific region,” Panetta said at a Oct. 25 joint press conference with Ichikawa in Tokyo. “It’s also important to reducing the impact of our bases in Japan.”
Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned in June 2010 after submitting to U.S. pressure to confirm the agreement, reneging on a campaign pledge. Okinawa houses 75 percent of the American bases and more than half of the 45,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan to provide for the country’s defense under a 50-year-old security treaty.
--Editors: John Brinsley, Paul Tighe
To contact the reporter on this story: Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at Ssakamaki1@bloomberg.net;
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org