Report: US Marines' Futenma base to undergo major renovation
TOKYO — The Japanese government intends to embark on major maintenance and repair work at the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. About 20 repair projects have been listed, including renovation of its aging hangar.
Since Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 that the base would be returned in the future, renovations have been kept to a minimum. However, the government has deemed a major refurbishment of the base necessary for safe flying and to maintain the U.S. forces' capability as implementation of Futenma's relocation plan has stagnated.
The U.S. side has asked Japan to refurbish the base as its facilities are getting older, with problems such as broken walls in its barracks.
The government will begin checking the facilities soon and decide what should be repaired by the end of this year. Renovation work will begin as early as this fiscal year.
Repair expenses will be paid for from Japan's budgetary allocation, the so-called sympathy budget, as host nation support to U.S. forces stationed in Japan. It may reach several tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions in U.S. dollars).
Japan and the United States confirmed it was necessary to carry out a renovation of the base in April 2012 when they agreed on the readjustment of the U.S. forces' reorganization plan due to the fact that the relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture had been delayed.
The Defense Ministry has already carried out a total of five repair projects including renovation of drainage and waste water facilities, and emergency generators between fiscal 2013 and 2017. The repairs cost ¥5.6 billion ($56 million U.S.) in total on a contract basis. However, the government has decided to expand repair works in an expected further delay of the relocation due to the Okinawa prefectural government's opposition.
The prefectural government is expected to oppose the major maintenance and repairs at the Futenma base, as it sees it as contributing to keeping the base in its current location. Therefore, the central government will seek the understanding of the prefectural government by excluding the repair of welfare facilities such as an entertainment center on the base.