Ex-Japan foreign minister urges "Plan B" for Marine base plan

A former Japanese foreign minister called Wednesday for a secret backup plan in preparation for a possible failure to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps base within Okinawa due to massive protests by residents of the southern island prefecture.

Seiji Maehara said in a lecture in Washington both governments should make a "Plan B" in case the current relocation plan bogs down in the face of protests, and anti-military sentiment affects the operation of other U.S. bases in Okinawa.

Such a situation could threaten the effectiveness of the security alliance as Okinawa Prefecture hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, said Maehara, a lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

"We cannot be too optimistic about future progress" since there remains deep-rooted opposition in Okinawa to the plan to move the Marines' Futenma Air Station within the southern Japan island, Maehara said.

"There have been reports that anti-security alliance activists are gathering in Okinawa," said Maehara who served as foreign minister in 2010 and 2011.

Maehara said he believes Japan and the United States should stick to the current plan to move the base from densely populated Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, but brace for a situation in which the plan is stymied by "human resistance."

"It is unpredictable what could happen" to workers or protesters when the construction actually begins, Maehara told reporters after his lecture.

"That's why leaders of both countries have to start thinking about Plan B" in a secret manner, he said.

Maehara declined to comment, however, exactly what he had in mind when he spoke of a Plan B.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in the DPJ-led government promised to move the Futenma base outside Okinawa but resigned from the post after failing to follow up on the pledge. Maehara was foreign minister in the Cabinet of Hatoyama's successor Naoto Kan.