Henoko airfield construction to begin in fall
Saying it wants to honor Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s desire to have the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station closed within five years, the government of Japan says it will begin construction of the replacement facility in northern Okinawa within a few months.
Tokyo’s announcement it was moving up the time schedule for beginning construction by a full year surprised many this week, particularly the decision to name a contractor for building the replacement airfield in Nago City’s Henoko district within the next week or two. The Defense Ministry says work will begin by autumn, just as soon as the basic design process is complete.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Tokyo last month, revealed the compressed timeline for getting the new airfield project into high gear, with the land elements on the Marines’ Camp Schwab. Earlier plans had been to begin construction sometime in Japan’s 2015 fiscal year. The landfill portion of the project, in Oura Bay adjacent to Camp Schwab, was approved by Governor Nakaima late last year. The two V-shape 2,500-meter-long runways will be constructed on stilts and the landfill.
Defense Ministry officials say the contractor to be chosen this month will be responsible for the hydrographic boring surveys on the Oura Bay sea floor. Costs for the expedited program will be charged against the government’s financial reserves. Officials say the move is necessary because the 2015 anticipated start date didn’t factor expenses in the fiscal year 2014 budget that ends next March.