The Daily Manila Shimbun


Japan Aiming to Buy Island for U.S. Military Practice by March

January 9, 2019

Tokyo, Jan. 9 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese government is planning to buy a southwestern island, regarded as a candidate U.S. military training site, from the landowner's side by the March end of this fiscal year, government sources said Wednesday.

According to the sources, the government is expected to acquire the island of Mageshima in Kagoshima Prefecture for some 16 billion yen. The island is a candidate site for relocating the field carrier landing practice, or FCLP, operations of U.S. carrier-borne aircraft, which will be implemented as part of a realignment plan for the U.S. military in Japan.

A senior official of the Japanese Defense Ministry said that the government "will need to be able to offer an explanation on the purchase price during parliamentary deliberations."

With a total area of around 8 square kilometers, the uninhabited island is located some 12 kilometers west of Tanegashima Island.

In 2011, the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed to consider moving the site for FCLP operations from Iwojima, formally Iwoto, a Pacific island belonging to Tokyo, to Mageshima. The agreement is in line with a decision to transfer U.S. carrier-based aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps' Iwakuni base in the western Japan prefecture of Yamaguchi from the Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.

Following the agreement, the Japanese government started negotiations with the island's owner, a Tokyo-based land developer. The discussions, however, ran into trouble as there was a 10-fold difference between the price suggested by the government and the amount requested by the firm.

The ministry plans to immediately start working on building facilities for Japan's Self-Defense Forces, which will also be accessible to the U.S. forces, on the island after the government concludes a sales contract.

It has already set aside 596 million yen in expenditures related to the island, including those for environmental impact assessments, under the government's draft budget for fiscal 2019.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told a press conference on Tuesday that the facilities for FCLP operations "are needed as soon as possible."

"We'll continue to work steadily on preparing permanent facilities," he added. Jiji Press