Onaga asks US Senate chairperson to listen to Okinawan residents

May 19, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who is currently visiting the U.S. held a meeting with Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Thad Cochran on May 17. Onaga requested that the U.S. government listen directly to Okinawan residents in order to resolve the issue of relocating the US Futenma airbase.

Cochran asked Onaga whether there were any envoys who could listen to the governor or Okinawan residents and discuss possible solutions. Onaga told him, “both the US and Japanese governments only repeat that Henoko is the only option.” He further stressed, “I would be grateful if the US made an effort to listen to Okinawan residents.”

Onaga met with a total of eight members including seven assembly members from both the upper and lower houses as well as one aide including Senate committee chairperson Cochran. This meeting ended Onaga’s lobbying activities in Washington.

Also on his trip, Onaga was asked by a member of the United States House Committee on Armed Services, Scott Rigell, where Futenma airbase should be relocated and whether it would be more acceptable if the facility were smaller.

Senate member Shelley Moore Capito said it was helpful to learn from the governor and gain understanding about Okinawa through discussing the dilemma of the military base. A congressman in the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness who visited Okinawa in February, Robert Wittman, remarked that he would be closely watching how Okinawa Prefecture and the Japanese government handle the Henoko issue.

After the meeting, Onaga spoke to the media, reflecting on his exchange with US politicians.

“The majority of members saw Henoko as the only option last year, but this year, no one said that directly. I think an understanding has been established.” The Governor attributed the increased level of understanding to the suspension of construction due to an out-of-court settlement on the lawsuits between the prefecture and national government, remarking that the settlement had had a “big impact.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma) 

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