Okinawa Governor urges Defense Minister to respect right to self-determination regarding new US base

Okinawa Governor urges Defense Minister to respect right to self-determination regarding new US base

Governor Takeshi Onaga (right) and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani (left) had their first meeting on May 9 at the prefectural government office.


May 10, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani had their first meeting on May 9 at the prefectural government office in Naha. Onaga asked Nakatani to cancel the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corp Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago. The governor said, “It is impossible to build a new U.S. base in Henoko. I would absolutely oppose it.”

Onaga criticized the central government for its stance that ‘Henoko is the only solution.’ “Okinawa is gasping and suffering. This is why Okinawa has strongly claimed the right to self-determination in this case,” the governor said. He asked the defense minister to respect the wishes of the Okinawan people.

The meeting lasted about 40 minutes. The first part of it, for about 20 minutes, was opened to media.

Onaga said, “The government should be free from stubbornness and ideas about stereotypes. I would like the government to stop construction work in the sea off Henoko and continue the dialogue with us.”

The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) has asked for permission to enter a restricted area of water off Henoko but the U.S. military and the central government have refused. The OPG plans to carry out a survey there to investigate how corals have been damaged by concrete blocks installed by the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

The governor again urged the defense minister to respond to the request from the OPG.

Referring to incidents and accidents caused by the U.S. military, the governor said, “I would like the director or officials of the Okinawa Defense Bureau to call at the prefectural government office, city, town and village offices and listen to our requests and opinions, when incidents involving the U.S. military take place.”
Onaga also criticized remarks the defense minister made at a press conference in March. Nakatani said that if meeting with the governor deepened the conflict between the prefectural and national authorities, it would be meaningless. The defense minister also has said that the governor should think more about Okinawa’s and Japan’s security.

Onaga said, “That sounds like a high-handed remark. It is far from the government policy that they will stand by the Okinawan people, or that they will strive to gain understanding from the local community. There has not been a meeting between us. That has dug a deeper trench between us.”

Onaga quoted a remark made by an LDP lawmaker, a then-member of the House of Councillors Budget Committee, who visited Okinawa in 2013. The lawmaker said “It is natural that the Okinawan people host U.S. military bases, because the people in mainland of Japan hate them.” Onaga said, “I felt a sense of hopelessness when I heard that remark.” The governor pointed out that a lack of understanding by people from outside the prefecture had led to an excessive burden on Okinawans.

The government has made a commitment to the former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima that ‘U.S. military operations at the Futenma base will stop within five years’. Nakaima approved the landfill application from the central government in 2013, based on such a verbal promise from the prime minister.

Nakatani has described the government’s commitment as meaning ‘a state whereby no aircraft fly.’ However, he later withdrew this definition, saying that he should not say things that may mislead people. Onaga asked the defense minister to keep the promise to the former governor.

(English translation by T&CT)

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