Okinawa Governor tells the U.S. government: “We have suffered in our relationship with the U.S. military.”

Okinawa Governor tells the U.S. government:

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima

October 24, 2012 Hideki Matsudo of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

In the afternoon of October 22, at the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C., Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima met with Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Mark Lippert, the assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs. At the meeting, with regard to the U.S. Navy sailors being accused of raping an Okinawan woman, the Governor said, “Even if the Okinawan people have not necessarily agreed with the U.S. military presence, to date they have never done anything like throwing stones at American soldiers. We have been the victims of one-side suffering in the relationship with the U.S. military.” He urged high-ranking U.S. government officials to enforce the law more effectively and to prevent the occurrence of incidents.

The Assistant Secretary of State apologized to the Governor, saying that on behalf of the U.S. government he wants to convey feelings of apology, sorrow and deep concern. The Assistant Secretary of Defense mentioned the idea of implementing restrictions on the family members of U.S. military personnel. Nakaima requested the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station outside of Okinawa, including a review of the deployment of the Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft.

In the morning of October 23, the Okinawa Prefectural Government held a symposium in Washington D.C. to discuss the Futenma relocation issue. In his opening speech, the governor stated, “Moving Futenma out of Okinawa will help bring about an early resolution.”

After his meeting with high-ranking U.S. government officials, Nakaima said to reporters, “I told them that the Okinawan people are very angry, and that this rape incident will have a serious effect on the U.S. military presence.” He indicated that the upswell in feelings about incidents such as this case of rape could lead to a popular movement demanding the removal of U.S. bases.

According to Susumu Matayoshi, the head of the Executive Office of the Governor, who also attended the meeting, Campbell told the Governor that he had received instructions from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to report what had been discussed at the meeting, and he promised to do everything he can to prevent recurrence of incidents. The Assistant Secretary of Defense also said that they were working to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and want to deal fairly with Okinawa. In addition, he said that they were considering new measures to prevent recurrence of crimes.

Nakaima requested a statement in writing on five issues, including the relocation of Futenma Air Station outside the prefecture, a review of the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft, the reduction of noise pollution from Kadena Air Base, the revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement and substantial progress in reducing U.S. military facilities south of Kadena. These are included in what the Okinawa Municipal Council for Military Land Conversion and Base Problems has requested to the governments.
Campbell promised to hand over the request to Secretary Clinton, but he did not give any further details. After the meeting, the governor said he asked the U.S. government for specific answers.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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