Governor Onaga asks Prime Minister to cancel construction of new US base at their first meeting

Governor Onaga asks Prime Minister to cancel construction of new US base at their first meeting

Governor Takeshi Onaga met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and asked for cancellation of building a new U.S. base in Henoko at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on April 17.

April 18, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa Governor Onaga met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 17 at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo. Onaga asked Abe to cancel the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to Henoko, Nago. He showed his strong opposition to the construction of the new base in Henoko. He said to the prime minister, “I will absolutely not allow the building of a new base,” and asked the prime minister to convey his message to President Barack Obama in the Japan-U.S. Summit meeting to be held on April 28 in Washington DC.

The prime minister said, “Relocating the Futemma base to Henoko is the only solution.” Abe indicated he would carry out the plan to relocate the Futenma base to Henoko. This was the first meeting between them since Onaga took office in December last year.

The meeting was held for about 30 minutes. Only six minutes after the beginning it was opened to the press. In the middle of the governor’s speech to the prime minister, the government officials closed doors to exclude the press. However, the Okinawa Prefectural Government has published an outline of what the governor said to the prime minister. According to it, the governor stated that if the government forces through the reclamation work without obtaining an understanding from residents, he would absolutely not allow the new base to be built at Henoko.

At the beginning of the meeting, the governor stated that an overwhelming majority of public opinion opposed the new Henoko base. This was demonstrated by candidates who oppose the Henoko relocation winning elections last year, including the Nago mayoral election, the gubernatorial election and the House of Representatives election.

“While the government took over land for military use from local people, it demands the Okinawan people host a new U.S. base to replace the aging Futenma base, which is the most dangerous base in the world, or else they have to offer an alternative plan. It is an unreasonable demand,” the governor said, criticizing the prime minister for his hard-line policy on Henoko.

The government has claimed that it obtained consent from local authorities to reclaim the sea off Henoko based on a 1999 cabinet decision. At the time, then Governor Keiichi Inamine and then Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto accepted the Henoko relocation plan with conditions such as a new airfield for joint military-civilian use for 15 years.

Onaga said the government’s claim was wrong because the 1999 cabinet decision lapsed in 2006, and conditions since then have changed.

At the start of the meeting, the prime minister said, “We agree on the idea that the Futenma base should be removed to reduce the risk as soon as possible.” He said he would continue his efforts to gain an understanding from Okinawa. After the meeting, the governor commented to reporters, “Our ideas are different from each other. However, it was meaningful to have discussed the issue.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Deputy Governor Mitsuo Ageda attended the meeting.

(English translation by T&CT)

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