Gov, Okinawa Agree To Resume Talks Over U.s. Base Relocation Plan

Gov, Okinawa agree to resume talks over U.S. base relocation planJapan's central and Okinawa prefectural governments agreed Thursday to resume talks later this month -- as part of a court-meditated settlement last week -- over the planned relocation of a key U.S. military base within the southern island prefecture, Okinawa's deputy governor said.

However, with Okinawa demanding the base be relocated outside of the prefecture and Tokyo viewing the existing plan as the only realistic option, it is unclear if the new round of talks will enable the two sides to bridge their differences.

The agreement was reached between Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Deputy Gov. Mitsuo Ageda at a meeting in Tokyo.

Last Friday's settlement stipulates that both sides will hold talks toward an "amicable settlement" of issues involving the planned transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated Henoko district of Nago.

The central and prefectural governments had held a series of talks over the issues last summer, which broke down without an agreement.

On Monday the central government, acting on the basis of the settlement, ordered the prefectural government to correct Gov. Takeshi Onaga's revocation of the permission given by his predecessor for landfill work in the Henoko coastal area for the new facility.

In response, the governor is expected to file a complaint with a third-party panel by next Tuesday to have the body examine the central government's order, a move highly likely to lead to another court battle.

"We would like to discuss (the matter) in line with the provisions of the settlement," Suga said during the meeting, according to Ageda.

Ageda said he voiced Okinawa's dissatisfaction as Tokyo issued the order before the talks are held.

In announcing his readiness to accept the settlement proposed by the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday the state would suspend reclamation work in the Henoko district. But he maintained that the existing relocation plan remains unchanged.