Okinawa, Japan – Relocating the US airbase in the city of Ginowan in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture to the less crowded Henoko Bay will have to be extended from the initially planned five years to about 12 years, the Japanese Kyodo news agency reported, citing the defense ministry.
The cost of moving the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is also likely to increase from 350 billion yen ($3.2 billion) to at least 930 billion yen, the Japanese news agency reported. The delay is reportedly due to the fact that the soft seafloor needs to be reinforced as part of the reclamation.
At the beginning of this year, more than 72 percent of Okinawa residents voted in a referendum against the base relocation plan. In April, the United States and Japan reconfirmed their plans to move the base despite objections from the public.
Futenma was named to be “the world’s most dangerous base in the world” by then-US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, who flew over the base and observed that it was right in the middle of an urban settlement surrounded by schools and houses.
This is in direct violation of the US Department of the Navy’s safety standards, which requires that any airbase runway must be clear of all construction other than airport lighting at each of its ends. The relocation of the base was first agreed upon by Japan and the United States in 1996 after a 12-year-old Okinawan girl was abducted and sexually assaulted by US servicemen.
However, the plan stalled, partly due to concerns of the local population that the project would disrupt the ecology of the region, and was reactivated in 2013 when then-Okinawan Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved runway construction plans for the base in Henoko.
Okinawa, which accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan’s territory, hosts over 30 US military installations — more than 70 percent of their total number in Japan — and nearly half of the around 50,000 US forces deployed in the country.