Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga began a series of meetings Tuesday in Washington to press his case for stopping construction of a new airfield and eventually getting many of the Marines and their MV-22 Ospreys off the island.
Onaga met first with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was due for talks with State and Defense Department officials.
In a statement later, McCain called his session with Onaga “friendly and respectful” while saying that he also looked forward to strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance through working with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has rejected Onaga’s push to bar the new airfield.
Onaga was also scheduled to meet Wednesday with Cara Abercrombie, the acting deputy assistant Defense secretary for East Asia, and with Joseph Young, the State Department’s director of the Office of Japanese Affairs.
Last week, Onaga was in Hawaii where he met with Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, to argue for the shutdown of the Futenma Marine Air Station and also against the relocation of Futenma to the north in Henoko. Onaga is also against the presence of the Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which he argues are unsafe.
In Hawaii, Onaga said he was not for the closure of all U.S. bases on Okinawa, but said an airfield at coastal Henoko would threaten the environment.
The U.S. has said that it was working to address the environmental concerns at Henoko while negotiating with Japan on planning for the eventual move off Okinawa of several thousand Marines to Guam and Hawaii.
Last week, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said “Our position on U.S. forces in Okinawa and the way forward that we have worked out with the Japanese government remains our policy.”
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com