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Friday, March 26, 2010

History of the Development of "Futenma Replacement Facility" Plans

This is the history of the development of "Futenma Replacement Facility" plans, compiled from the information gathered from the following sources:
*** The illustrations are from Ryukyu Shimpo's website.


The Japan-US agreement on the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) called for Futenma Air Station to be shut down and returned to Okinawa by the end of 2003. This agreement was made on condition that an alternative facility ("Sea Based Facility") would be constructed within Okinawa. However, it was impossible to find a construction site that the US Military, Japanese Government, Okinawa Prefecture, the municipal office and residents of the local area would agree on.
The following locations were proposed: 1) The northwest forest area within the Kadena Ammunition Storage (cancelled due to local opposition); 2) The Kadena Air Force Base, within which the Futenma Air Station facility might have been integrated (stalled due to opposition from the US Air Force and from the three municipalities where Kadena base is located); 3) Reclaimed land on a coastal area adjacent to Camp Schwab (proposed by the US side but opposed by the Japanese government because of anticipated local resistance). In September 2006, then Prime Minister Hashimoto proposed construction of a removable "marine heliport" on Henoko Bay instead; 4) The White Beach coastal area (cancelled due to opposition from the Prefecture and local municipal bodies).
(The blue dots on the diagram above shows the locations of this initial discussion for SACO. The red dots shows the locations that were reconsidered for the US realignment in 2005 and after.)
In the end, the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed in the SACO final report on a site: the coastal area adjacent to Camp Schwab, without specifying an exact location. Naturally, Nago citizens were alarmed.
SACO called for Futenma's return largely in response to huge anti-US base rallies the year before in 1995, held in the rising sentiment after three US Marines raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl. A total of 100,000 people participated in the rallies.
The initial plans for the replacement base called for a small, temporary facility, for helicopter use only, that could be removed easily when it became unnecessary.


On December 21, Nago Plebiscite was held. The majority of the citizens were against a new base. On December 24, Higa Tetsuya, then Nago Mayor, expressed his support for the base with Prime Minister Hashimoto and announced his resignation right at the Prime Minister's residence in Tokyo.


On February 6, two days prior to the Mayoral Election, Ota Masahide, then Okinawa Governor expressed his opposition against the replacement facility plan. In the following Mayoral election, Tamaki Yoshikzau, whom the base opponents supported, was defeated by pro-base Kishimoto Tateo by a narrow margin (Tamaki 15,103 votes; Kishimoto 16,253). The conflicting results of the 1997 plebiscite and the 1998 mayoral election have been referred to as the "public opinion paradox." While Okinawan voters opposed new military base construction in opinion polls, when it came to election times, they placed greater importance on economic rejuvenation brought by government subsidies provided to host communities of military bases.
The temporary heliport plan changed drastically when Inamine Keiichi became governor in 1998.


Governor Inamine announced plans for a large-scale offshore airport. The airport would be for dual military-civilian use for 15 years, after which it would become entirely civilian. Part of the problem was that the U.S. government never gave serious consideration to the 15-year military use cap. The estimated construction time itself would have been 15 years. Such a base would destroy the coral reef, and the massive land reclamation would kill off the area's dugongs (endangered Asian manatees).

Upon Governor's request, Nago Mayor Kishimoto Tateo also accepted this conditional plan. This plan with the above conditions by Okinawa was approved in a Cabinet meeting as well.


The Japanese Government, Okinawa Prefecture and Nago City agreed on the construction of an airport (both for military and civilian use) with a 2,000 meter runway by reclamation, about 2 kilometer off the coast of Henoko. (The diagram above shows different location ideas on and off Camp Schwab discussed between 1996 and 2005.)

In April, the Japanese government finally began an environmental assessment, and got ready to bore into the sea bed surrounding the proposed site. These moves were interpreted as the beginning of construction, and opposition movements organized a heroic sit-in campaign to prevent it. This nonviolent civil disobedience was hugely successful. Henoko has come to be a symbol of the peace and environmental movements.


Rather than directly face off against the protesters as the Japanese government did, the U.S. military had a different idea: Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), or global military transformation. Instead of letting Futenma and Henoko be political issues within Okinawa, QDR transformed these issues into part of a global military realignment.

On October 29, 2005, Japan and the U.S. agreed on a new plan to build a 1,800 meter-long runway inshore from Henoko, partially on the peninsula, instead of entirely offshore. This facility would have a military port function (the "L-shape" plan - see the upper part of the diagram below).
This way, Governor Inamine's idea of an offshore dual-use airport was abandoned without even nominal consultation.

The new base would be fundamentally different from Futenma in its capabilities . This is not a replacement of Futenma, whose main function is training. This is a new, different, upgraded facility that U.S. Marines will receive for free and will use as a forward base capable of attacking foreign territories, not just for training.


In April, Nukaga Fukushiro, Japan’s Defense Agency chief at the time, told Nago mayor Shimabukuro Yoshikazu about yet another new plan, this time to build a V-shaped runway. Shimabukuro and Ginoza Mayor agreed. (Then Okinawa Governor Inamine did not agree, but later new Okinawa Governor Nakaima supported Nago Mayor.) In May, the Cabinet passed a resolution to build these runways, with an even larger port facility -- perfect for Marines (the "V-shape" plan - see the lower part of the diagram)
May 2006 "Roadmap for Realignment Implementation"

"The United States and Japan will locate the FRF (Futenma Replacement Facility) in a configuration that combines the Henoko-saki and adjacent water areas of Oura and Henoko Bays, including two runways aligned in a "V"-shape, each runway having a length of 1,600 meters plus two 100-meter overruns. The length of each runway portion of the facility is 1,800 meters, exclusive of seawalls (see attached concept plan dated April 28, 2006). This facility ensures agreed operational capabilities while addressing issues of safety, noise, and environmental impacts."


In September, a new coalition government of DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan), PNP (People's New Party), and SDP (Social Democratic Party of Japan) is formed. The new government starts to review the whole FRF plan.


On January 25, Inamine Susumu, the anti-base candidate wins the Nago Mayoral Election. This election was viewed by many that for the first time in thirteen years since the 1997 plebiscite, the "public opinion paradox" - the incongruence between the public opinion and election results was resolved.

Miyagi Yasuhiro concludes, "At the time of the Nago referendum in 1997, the new base was going to take the form of a removable marine heliport. In 1999, that was changed to a joint military-civilian "airport." In 2006 the new base was further widened to require coastal landfill. In the 10 years of delay, the two governments have exponentially increased the capacity of the substitute air base. "

Back to 1966...

Miyagi also refers to the two plans that were drawn up by the US Navy and the Marine Corps in 1966 for an airport in Henoko, very much like the plan in the 2006 agreement. (See Makishi Yoshikazu's article for details.) "It is no longer a substitute for Futenma Air Station, but it now appears that Japan is constructing what the US military has wanted to build since the 1960s."

And now...
For the current plans considered by the Hatoyama Government, see the recent posts below.

No Longer "Relocation" - An Idea of a Massive Artificial Island with Three Runways over 3,000 metres

Airbases, a Military Port, and a Casino

Listen to the Unequivocal Voice of Okinawa - Once and for All

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