US against Japan base relocation plan

The US has reacted negatively to Japan`s draft proposal for the relocation of US Marine base in Okinawa.

Updated: May 13, 2010, 14:30 PM IST

Washington: The United States has reacted negatively to Japan`s draft proposal for the relocation of a US Marine base in Okinawa, citing environmental concerns as well as the risk of terrorist attack, sources close to bilateral relations said.

Japan is exploring the possibility of building a replacement facility by creating a pile-supported runway in shallow waters off the coast of Nago in the prefecture as a relocation site for the US Marine Corps` Futemma Air Station.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has told local leaders in Okinawa that the government aims to settle the base relocation row in a manner that "will not contaminate the sea”, apparently referring to the fact that the replacement facility will be built using a pile-supported structure instead of reclaiming the sea as the two countries previously agreed.
But US opposition to the draft plan will likely put Hatoyama politically into a corner.

According to the sources, the US side on Wednesday told Japan through unofficial contacts that a pile-supported runway would have as much of a negative environmental impact on the sea as the reclamation plan because it would prevent sunlight from reaching the seabed and result in destruction of seaweed beds.

The United States told Tokyo that the environmental impact of creating 140 hectares of dark sea surface under the runway is unpredictable, the sources said.

The United States has already shown reluctance to accept the draft plan, citing the risk of a terrorist attack being launched from beneath the runway.

Japan and the United States held working-level talks yesterday at the Pentagon in the suburbs of Washington to discuss Tokyo`s draft proposal on the relocation of the Futemma base.

The US delegates are believed to have conveyed their concern to the Japanese side during the talks.