US, Okinawa making progress on land return
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa --
Japan Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense, Ryota Takeda, visited the West Futenma Housing Area Nov. 22 at Camp Foster, for a ceremony to mark the new boundary between Camp Foster and Ginowan City.
The ceremony signified the progress made since an April 6 visit by Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s Minister of Defense, who called for the housing area’s return to Ginowan City be the model for base return.
The ceremony demonstrated the strengthening of the relationship between the U.S. military and the Government of Japan, and the return of the West Futenma Housing Area to their control, according to Col. William J. Truax Jr., the assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
“We’re happy to see progress and to restore this land,” said Truax. “It’s good for the people in the Okinawa community.”
Takeda addressed the audience at the beginning of the ceremony, discussing the new boundary line between Camp Foster and Ginowan, and the schedule for the full return of the housing area, which has a proposed completion date of March 2015, according to Hirofumi Takeda, the Director General of the Okinawa Defense Bureau and announcer for the ceremony.
The Ginowan City Mayor, Atsushi Sakima, the U.S. Consul General, Naha, Alfred R. Magleby, and Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, the commanding general of MCIPAC, joined Ryota Takeda following the introductory speech to install the boundary stakes.
“(The installation of the stakes) represents the collaboration between local government, land owners, the United States government, and the Government of Japan to install stakes at the boundary line between the land to be returned and the land to remain as U.S. facilities,” said Hirofumi Takeda.
The ceremony concluded with the removal of a utility pole, marking the beginning of the new fence construction.
“The Okinawa Defense Bureau will move forward with the necessary work for returning West Futenma Housing Area, Camp Foster, and make the utmost efforts so that the return will benefit (all in attendance),” said Hirofumi Takeda.
The housing area, opposite U. S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, according to Truax, includes approximately 1,046 plots of land belonging to 662 Okinawan landowners.
The land return is a result of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, which refocuses the U.S. military presence, and rebalances resources in support of U.S. allies in the Pacific, according to Col. Dwight C. Neeley, the Defense Policy Review Initiative director with MCIPAC.
“(The DPRI) seeks to reduce the impact of the Marine Corps’ population on the Okinawa community,” said Neeley. “The focus is to move approximately 9,000 Marines off Okinawa.”
The return of the housing area marks continuing progress in fulfilling our Special Action Committee on Okinawa agreement with Japan, according to Neeley.
“We look forward to the return of the West Futenma Housing Area to the local city (of Ginowan) and to the Government of Japan,” said Neeley. “It’s one of the first steps of major land returns on Okinawa.”