Japan vows quick implementation of plans to construct U.S. military heliport

Japan on Friday vowed a quick implementation of plans to construct a U.S. military heliport on Okinawa and allow a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be based near Tokyo, even as the agreement drew protests from local residents.

Japan and the United States reached an interim pact last month to close the U.S. Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on the southern Japanese island to move its functions to another base on the island, Camp Schwab.

They also announced plans for the U.S. Navy to station a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Japan for the first time. The U.S. Navy said it would have greater capabilities than the diesel-powered USS Kitty Hawk currently based at Yokosuka.

The Cabinet on Friday said that Tokyo will come up with measures to ensure the plans toward March, when the two countries are expected to adopt a final report on the realignment.

"Japan will begin considering necessary measures to ensure quick implementation" of the agreement, the Cabinet said in a statement.

But the plans, part of the global realignment of U.S. military forces, have set off protests by critics and local residents. Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine has told the central government that the plan is unacceptable.

Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya met U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer on Thursday and presented a petition against the U.S. plan to base a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier in the city from 2008.

But U.S. and Japanese officials have insisted they don't foresee making any changes in the plan, and are moving ahead with implementation.

"We have set up a framework so we can take necessary measures such as allocating budget," Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga said Friday.

Japan's top government spokesman said, however, that the government would continue to seek understanding of local communities, reports the AP. I.L.

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