Editorial: Claim at U.S.-Japan summit meeting that “Henoko is the only solution” is unacceptable

February 12, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

At the summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump, the two confirmed that they will proceed with the construction of a new base in conjunction with the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago on the grounds that it is “the only solution”. Opinion polls show that 70% to 80% of Okinawans oppose the Henoko base construction. It is unacceptable that the U.S. and Japanese heads of state go over Okinawa’s head to decide that Henoko is the “only option.”

During his campaign, Trump hinted that he might withdraw U.S. troops from Japan and called for Japan to increase its cost burden for hosting U.S. troops. The Japanese government was steeling itself for whatever demands Trump might make.

But at the recent summit, the United States made no reference to issues such as hosting costs. Rather, the United States confirmed that the Senkaku Islands, over which China claims territorial rights, and on which Japan places great emphasis, fall under application of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which sets forth the United States’ duty to defend Japan.

This was the first time a joint statement prepared at a summit meeting explicitly stated that building a new base in Henoko is “the only solution that avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.”

Meanwhile, Japan failed to request that operations at Futenma cease by February 2019 (within five years from when that declaration was made), despite it being a pressing issue; the topic of reducing Okinawa’s base burden also did not arise. This shows that Prime Minister Abe does not view reduction of Okinawa’s base burden as an issue that must be addressed.

The two sides also agreed to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the United States appears to have accepted all of Japan’s requests when it comes to defense.

The United States got significant results when it came to the economy. That the two sides confirmed that they will engage in talks toward forming a bilateral framework to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is symbolic of this. The joint statement reads, “noting that the United States has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the leaders pledged to explore how best to accomplish [their] shared objectives. This will include discussions between the United States and Japan on a bilateral framework”.

In the Diet, Prime Minister Abe repeatedly stated he would encourage the United States to rethink its abandonment of the TPP, but he did not follow through on this. Now there is no choice but to proceed with Trump’s demand for talks aimed toward a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).

In terms of defense, the United States capitulated to Japan, and when it came to economics, it ensured it got its way. Perhaps this is businessman Trump’s style of “deal” diplomacy.

However, there is no way we can accept the policy of the U.S. and Japan to simply force yet another base on Okinawa, which already suffers under a disproportionate burden of U.S. bases, in connection with U.S. economic policy. Henoko’s ocean is not a form of tribute for the U.S. and Japanese governments.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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