Minister To Seek Understanding On Okinawa Base

Minister to seek understanding on Okinawa base

Japan's new defense minister has pledged efforts to seek local understanding on plans to move a US military base in Okinawa and deploy a new ground-based Aegis missile defense system.

Takeshi Iwaya was speaking to reporters on Thursday. He said the government remains committed to moving the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City in Okinawa to the Henoko district of Nago City, also in the prefecture, at an early date.

Iwaya indicated that he will visit Okinawa at an appropriate time to offer a thorough explanation.

New Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki took office on the same day. He says he will block the move, following the will of his predecessor, the late Takeshi Onaga.

Iwaya emphasized that the government and Okinawa think the dangers posed by Futenma should be removed. The base is in a densely populated residential area.

Iwaya also referred to a plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore anti-missile system in the northeastern city of Akita and the western city of Hagi. The plan has aroused concerns of local residents.

He said the system is needed to protect Japan from missile threats, and that he will offer a detailed explanation to eliminate the concerns.

Iwaya also spoke about continued intrusion by Chinese patrol boats into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

He said China has been trying to change the status quo by force. He added that Japan should respond calmly and firmly and must make confidence-building efforts to promote mutual understanding.

Japan controls the Senkaku Islands. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. China and Taiwan claim them.