Prime Minister does not accept Okinawa Governor’s request for withdrawal of Osprey aircraft

Prime Minister does not accept Okinawa Governor’s request for withdrawal of Osprey aircraft

In the morning of September 10, at the Prime Minister's official residence, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima (second from left) and Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima asked Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (third from left) and Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura (extreme right) to reconsider the deployment of the Osprey.

October 10, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 9, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima met with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura at the Prime Minister’s Office. During their meeting, the governor and mayor handed over a written statement to the ministers requesting that the central government review the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey to Okinawa.

Noda indicated that the government does not intend to withdraw the MV-22s, but said that they will push for the transfer of some of the Osprey training to locations outside of Okinawa, and requested the understanding of the people of Okinawa. This was the first time that the prime minister has met with the
Okinawa governor to discuss the deployment of the Osprey.

In addition, the governor asked the prime minister to ensure that the safety measures set up in the agreement decided upon by the governments of Japan and the United States are strictly adhered to, including the Osprey being limited to flying in the helicopter-mode only above the bases. Nakaima also requested the redistribution of the aircraft outside of Okinawa to bases across the country and demanded the relocation and early return of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

After meeting with Prime Minister Noda, the governor and mayor met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Minister Shinji Tarutoko. In their meeting with Tarutoko at the Cabinet Office, Governor Nakaima asked him to secure the development budget for Okinawa at the end of the year.

In the meeting with the Okinawan governor Prime Minister Noda said, “The government takes the request of the Okinawan people and the citizens of Ginowan seriously.” He also said, “I will request that the U.S. government adheres to the safety measures that have been decided upon and I will follow up on this. In addition, I will strengthen efforts to reduce the burden on the Okinawan people and carry out measures to promote the development of Okinawa, including the early relocation of the facilities at Futenma and the return of land currently used by the bases. I would like to ask that the Okinawan people show understanding towards government policies.”

Nakaima said, “The Okinawan people’s opposition to the deployment of the Osprey has increased to a level greater than before the aircraft was deployed.” He requested that the Prime Minister continue to remind U.S. forces to comply with the bilateral agreement. When he read the statement, Sakima called for the swift withdrawal of the Osprey as well as for the urgent closure of Futenma Air Station and the return of the land that it occupies.

After the meeting, the governor told reporters, “I strongly urged the government to review the deployment of the Osprey. I want them to consider deploying the Osprey in locations throughout the country.” In the meeting with the ministers, the governor said, “The national budget will be set in difficult times. However, I asked them to commit to securing budget for the development of Okinawa next year.”

The mayor told reporters, “It was a valuable opportunity to state our views to Prime Minister Noda. However, he did not say that the government would reconsider the deployment of the Osprey.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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