U.S. envoy Kennedy to visit Okinawa in mid-February

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy plans to visit Okinawa in mid-February, her first trip to the island prefecture with a sizable U.S. military presence since she assumed the post in November, bilateral relations sources said Wednesday.

The daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy is expected to hold talks with local officials, including Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, during her visit amid controversy over a bilateral plan to move a U.S. Marine Corps base elsewhere in Okinawa.

According to the sources, Kennedy may arrive in Okinawa on Feb. 11, just weeks after the people of Nago, the coastal city that would host the new Marine base if it were built, re-elected as mayor a staunch opponent of the plan.

Nakaima has just approved landfill work in the Henoko coastal area of Nago, which is needed to build a replacement facility for the Marines' Futenma Air Station in a crowded residential area of Ginowan, also on the main Okinawa island.

In talks with the governor, Kennedy is likely to seek his continued cooperation in advancing the long-stalled relocation plan. She is also expected to visit the Futenma base to provide encouragement to U.S. service personnel and meet with local residents, according to the sources.

Kennedy, who has already visited Nagasaki, the site of a U.S. atomic bombing in 1945, and some areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan's northeast, has expressed her intention to visit Okinawa at an appropriate time.