Govt not to fund study to move US forces drills to Tokunoshima

The Japanese government plans to give up earmarking spending on research in fiscal 2011 on a possible transfer of some US military drills.

Updated: Jul 20, 2010, 15:09 PM IST

Tokyo: The Japanese government plans to
give up earmarking spending on research in fiscal 2011 on a
possible transfer of some US military drills being conducted
in Okinawa Prefecture to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima
Prefecture, government sources said Tuesday.

A new Japan-US agreement on the relocation of a US
Marine base in Okinawa, reached in May, said more drills by US
forces will be transferred out of the prefecture, naming
Tokunoshima, Self-Defense Force bases in mainland Japan and
the US territory of Guam as possible hosts.

With the latest development, however, the government
is now more likely to abandon the option of moving the drills
to Tokunoshima from the main island of Okinawa, which lies
about 200 kilometers southeast and hosts the controversial
US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

But "that isn`t something definitively decided," Chief
Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a news conference
today.

Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told a
separate news conference that the government is not yet at a
stage where it can decide "whether or not we should give up"
moving the drills to Tokunoshima.

Postponing earmarking funds from the fiscal year
starting next April reflects concerns over the considerable
costs likely to arise in building supply and maintenance
facilities and barracks needed to move the drills onto
Tokunoshima, and the islanders` strong opposition to the
relocation, the sources said.

Kitazawa has said a concrete drill transfer plan would
be compiled by the end of next month. For now, the Defense
Ministry will consider moving the drills to SDF facilities at
which the US military has already conducted them, they said.

To reduce base-hosting burdens on Okinawa, Yukio
Hatoyama, then prime minister, spent months trying to find an
alternative relocation site for Futenma outside the
prefecture. Tokunoshima emerged as one of such sites, but the
plan went nowhere as the US side expressed reservations about
it and locals vehemently opposed the potential relocation to
their island.

The fresh bilateral accord, which was issued on May
28, basically endorsed a 2006 pact to move Futenma from a
crowded city to another location on the same Okinawa Island.

It said "utilization" of Tokunoshima will be
considered "subject to development of appropriate facilities"
in expanding the relocation of US military training from
Okinawa.

PTI