Matsuno: Govt. working toward Futenma relocation

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu says the Japanese government will pursue plans to relocate a US military base in Okinawa Prefecture.

Matsuno, who is also the Minister in charge of Mitigating the Impact of US Forces in Okinawa, visited the southwestern prefecture on Saturday for the first time since he assumed office.

Matsuno met with the mayor of Ginowan, where the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station is currently located, and the mayor of Nago, where it will be relocated. He also exchanged views with locals living near the air station.

The residents said there are many nighttime flights and the sounds of the jets jolt the children awake.

Matsuno responded that the government will take local opinions into consideration on relocation measures.

Later in the day, Matsuno met with Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny. Tamaki said that many of Okinawa's residents are opposed to the relocation. He said the relocation does not remove the dangers posed by the air station and called for an immediate halt to construction work.

Matsuno responded that the relocation is the only solution to maintaining the deterrent capabilities of the Japan-US alliance while removing the danger of the air station from the heavily-populated Ginowan area.

They also discussed the issue of massive amounts of pumice stones that are drifting ashore from an undersea volcano in the Pacific Ocean that erupted in August. Tamaki asked for financial support in pumice removal work.

Matsuno said the government will work with relevant municipalities, listen to their requests and take all possible measures.

Matsuno told reporters after the meeting that the government will build trust with the local people by giving detailed explanations and through dialogue. He also said the government will continue talks with the US side with persistence and make the utmost effort to reduce Okinawa's burden of hosting US bases.