Local Okinawan leaders petition US government to remove Henoko reference from FY2016NDAA

July 20, 2015 Sakae Toiyama of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

On July 19, twenty-three Okinawan mayors, prefectural assembly members, national Diet representatives, and business leaders sent a document to United States Congress members asking that they remove from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016 NDAA) the statement that the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (MCAS Futenma) to Henoko is “the only option.” The NDAA provides an outline for US defense spending in the 2016 fiscal year.

The goal of the document was to prevent the NDAA, a final version of which is now being deliberated over by a conference committee made up of members from the armed services committees of both houses of Congress, from endorsing the Henoko relocation, which faces deeply rooted opposition from the Okinawan people.

The document explains how Governor Takeshi Onaga, Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, and other Okinawan delegates traveled to Washington to express strong opposition to the Henoko relocation to U.S. Congress members and government officials.

It also explains that public opposition within Okinawa to the relocation plan is high, referencing the election of candidates who strongly opposed the Henoko relocation in last year’s gubernatorial election, national Diet lower house election, and Nago mayoral election, as well as the fact that some opinion polls show that more than 80 percent of the public opposes the Henoko plan.

The document was signed by twenty-three people including lower house member Kantoku Teruya; upper house member Keiko Itokazu; Nago mayor Susumu Inamine; prefectural assembly member Osamu Toguchi, leader of last month’s delegation to the U.S.; Kanehide Group chairman Morimasa Goya; and Rengo Okinawa leader Norio Oshiro.

On July 13, members of the think tank “New Diplomacy Initiative (ND)” met with staff working for US House of Representative members Hank Johnson (D) and Joe Courtney (D) and submitted the document to them. The staff said they would pass the information on to the Congress members.

The document was also submitted to all members of the conference committee made up of members of both houses of Congress.

In June, the group of Okinawan delegates who accompanied Governor Takeshi Onaga on his visit to the United States, made up of prefectural assembly members, national Diet members, business leaders and others, requested to members of U.S. Congress that they reconsider the language in the House of Representatives version of the FY2016 NDAA defining the Henoko relocation as “the only option.”

(Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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