Foreign, defense ministers to visit Okinawa

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will visit Okinawa Prefecture next week to brief Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on measures to ease the island prefecture's burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan, government sources said Friday.

Kishida and Onodera are expected to seek Nakaima's approval for a plan to relocate the Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to the Henoko district in Nago, both Okinawa.

The planned visit next Tuesday comes after the two ministers discussed the measures with their U.S. counterparts in Tokyo earlier this week during a "two-plus-two" security meeting.

The governor's approval is required to reclaim the land off Nago and build the new base there.

Onodera told a news conference Friday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has instructed ministers in charge of Okinawa affairs to visit Okinawa Prefecture as frequently as possible to win local understanding over the U.S. military base-related issue.

Kishida, Onodera, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel agreed to conduct some training flights of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft outside Okinawa.

They also agreed that the transfer of some of the U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam will begin in the first half of the 2020s as a way to ease Okinawa's base hosting burden.