MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan is nearing an agreement to purchase a privately owned island for use as a training ground for U.S. military aircraft based in Japan, potentially ending a sometimes torturous process that began nearly a decade ago.
Quoting “several government sources” as well as those from the company that owns the island of Mageshima, the Asahi Shimbun reported Nov. 30 that an agreement for the sale was “close to completion.”
The price for ownership of the uninhabited island, which measures roughly 3 square miles, was reported to be $146 million.
Japan moved to purchase the island following an agreement reached in 2011 with the U.S. military to provide a training site for Japan-based U.S. Navy carrier-based aircraft to conduct landing training operations.
Previously, such training operations were conducted at Iwo-to, more commonly known as Iwo Jima, in the Bonin group of islands, located in the Pacific Ocean and more than 700 miles from the U.S. Navy’s Japanese bases at Atsugi and Iwakuni.
Japan’s Defense Ministry also reportedly plans to build facilities for its forces on the island, which will make it easier to defend its southern islands that also include Okinawa and the disputed Senkaku islands, which are claimed by China.
The latest report comes after an earlier agreement for the sale of the island reached in January was scuppered when a new president took over the helm of Taston Airport, the Tokyo-based development company that owns 99 percent of Mageshima.
The Japanese government valued the island at $60 million, 10 percent of Taston Airport’s valuation. Negotiations were broken off in May and only restarted in November as the island’s owners faced financial difficulties, according to Asahi Shimbun.
The Japanese newspaper also reported that the new purchase price was reached after taking into account money spent by the company to improve the island, which is part of the Osumi group of islands and is located 18 miles from the southern tip of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands.
According to satellite images, Mageshima currently has two dirt runways measuring 2.6-by-1.4 miles. These will, however, require resurfacing, and other supporting infrastructure must be built on the island before it could be used for its intended purpose.
The Asahi Shimbun also reported that the local government of Nishinoomote city, which owns the remaining 1 percent of the island and has jurisdiction over Mageshima, previously “expressed a cautious stance toward such military training.”