Japan pushes base plans forward

Oct. 17, 2011 at 11:27 AM

TOKYO, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Japan's defense minister says it remains committed to relocating U.S. Marines to a controversial site north of the current base on Okinawa.

The plan to move Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is opposed by residents of Okinawa who fear a replacement runway on reclaimed land off Camp Schwab will damage coral reefs and the endangered dugong, which is a relative to the manatee, Stars and Stripes reported Monday.

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa told Okinawa officials the government will complete an environmental study by the end of the year.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima said local opposition could hold up the project indefinitely and derail efforts to keep the air station on Okinawa, the newspaper said.

The relocation is part of a larger plan to shift the location of U.S. military forces in Japan and move about 8,600 Marines to Guam.

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