U.S. officials in Washington told the visiting governor of Okinawa that there is no alternative but to build an airfield for the Marines on his southern Japanese island.

Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who was elected last November on a platform of opposing the airfield, is in Washington this week to plead his case.

State and Defense department officials told him on Wednesday that the plan to construct the airfield "is the only solution that addresses operational, political, financial and strategic concerns," according to a State Department news release.

The airfield would replace the existing Marine Corps Futenma air station that all sides want closed because it is in a populated area of Okinawa in southern Japan. The new airfield would be built largely on reclaimed land as an extension of the U.S. military's existing Camp Schwab.

The plan has drawn growing protests in recent weeks from residents and other opponents who think that Okinawa bears too much of the burden of the U.S. military presence in Japan, and want the operations moved off the island completely.