Okinawa governor questions Suga on the logic of base expansion

Okinawa governor questions Suga on the logic of base expansion

Governor Takeshi Onaga (right) and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga shake hands before their meeting at the Okinawa Prefectural Building at 4:30 p.m. on August 12.

August 13, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

On August 12, officials from the Japanese government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government met at the Okinawa Prefectural Building to conduct the first in a series of intensive discussions to be held during a one-month period in which construction related to the relocation of United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko has been suspended. Governor Takeshi Onaga and three prefectural officials represented the Okinawan side, while Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga represented the Japanese government. The two sides clashed over the origin of the “Futenma issue,” with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stating that the issue started with the 1996 agreement between former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale to close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and relocate it within Okinawa. Governor Onaga disagreed, arguing that the issue went back much further, originating with the forced seizure of Okinawan land during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Governor Onaga also made reference to the current deliberations in the Japanese Diet over new national security legislation, stating, “From my perspective, the Cold War era was a much harsher time than today. It makes no sense to start expanding military bases in this day and age. If the justification for the US bases in Okinawa extends as far as the Straits of Hormuz in the Middle East, that is just too far out of touch with the sentiment of the Okinawan people. Such estrangement from popular sentiment is intolerable.”

After the meeting, Governor Onaga was asked by reporters if he would consider, during the course of deliberations, accepting relocation of the Futenma base within Okinawa at a location other than Henoko. He responded that he intends to stand firm on insisting that Futenma be relocated outside of Okinawa, and rejected the possibility of accepting relocation to any alternative location within Okinawa.

Governor Onaga told reporters that during the meeting he raised specific doubts as to the deterrence effect of the US military and the role of the U.S. Marine Corps. He stated, “If all the U.S. bases are forced onto the single prefecture of Okinawa, other countries will not feel that the entire nation of Japan is prepared to protect its own national security.” Furthermore, he pointed out, “The Ministry of Defense claims that the reason for basing the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa is because of their mobility, their rapid responsiveness, and their cohesiveness. However, the Marine Corps in Okinawa don’t have a landing ship, so they aren’t able to achieve any of these functions.”

(Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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