Prefectural government establishes a new division to conduct independent research on the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and to build a Japan – U.S. professional network

January 31, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

On January 30, the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) revealed an outline of a new division designed to gather information and carry out research on security issues from April. The OPG is planning to commission specialists in Japan and the United States to gather information and offer opinion on topics such as security issues, and based on the advice and opinion received, the OPG will then conduct its own research from the Okinawan perspective. It is unusual for a regional government to establish a domestic and international professional network for the purpose of researching security issues, something that the central government has exclusive jurisdiction over. The new division will comprise one researcher from outside of Okinawa, and about five OPG staff members.

The OPG will ask five or six specialists in Japan and the United States to gather information and offer opinion. Intellectuals from the Okinawa Question U.S.-Japan Action Committee, which conducted debates on U.S. military issues and security policies, will be the central U.S. specialist members.

Five or six specialists will make up the core of the group, but, depending on the topic, the OPG will also request opinion from other relevant experts. The number of specialists to be called upon is yet to be determined.

Last year during his visit to the United States, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima attended the international symposium entitled the “Okinawa Question” and for the first time made a direct appeal in the United States for Futenma Air Station to be relocated outside of Okinawa Prefecture. The head of the Executive Office of the Governor, Susumu Matayoshi, also visited the United States on a fact-finding mission indicating that the OPG is taking steps to utilize the network it has created in the United States.

Governor Nakaima has alluded to the concept of establishing a research institution to look at general security issues, starting this off from the new division’s activities within the Prefectural Government. According to the OPG, this division could eventually develop into an independent research institution.

Issues of the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement, the reality behind the presence of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, which the Japanese and U.S. governments both describe as “deterrence,” and China’s maritime expansion will be the main research themes.

An executive member of the OPG explained the role of the new department, stating, “The prefecture is influenced by a range of security related issues. We, as a prefectural government will consider the impact on Okinawa of the current security situation.” In addition, with regard to the request to relocate the facilities at U.S. Futenma Air Station out of Okinawa, the OPG emphasized, “To avoid the situation in which we are obliged to accept that the U.S. military will always be in Okinawa, we need to gather more information and arm ourselves with all the knowledge we can.”

The OPG had planned to set up a base for information gathering in the United States in April, but it was postponed within the 2012 fiscal year. With the establishment of the new division, the OPG is also considering combining and abolishing other divisions in its Executive Office.

(English translation by T&CT, Megumi Chibana and Mark Ealey)

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