Editorial: Statement by ambassador for Okinawa sparks desire for cancellation of his post

April 1, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

One cannot infer if Kawada is aware of his own duties. It is incomprehensible that he would act and speak toward an Okinawa Prefectural Assembly representative in a narrow-minded and self-righteous manner.

In response to an Okinawa Prefectural Assembly representative’s request for the five-year-period closure of Futenma Air Station operations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Okinawa Liaison Office’s Ambassador in charge of Okinawan Affairs Tsukasa Kawada made a statement on government subsidies to Okinawa, speaking as though the subsidies are compensation for the base burden. This statement makes one question if Kawada adequately considers Okinawans.

On top of this, despite the Abe administration continually breaking the promise for five-year-period closure of Futenma Air Station operations, Kawada showed his perception justifying that relocation to Henoko is “for the sake of Okinawans.”

In regards to Okinawa’s base burden, Ambassador Kawada dared to say that out of Okinawa’s 4-trillion-yen economy, 2 trillion yen are subsidies from the mainland.

A written opinion unanimously approved in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly in hand, the assembly representative pressed for the Futenma closure promise to be fulfilled, and showed astonishment at Kawada’s audacity for not hesitating to draw a link between the base burden and the budget. Kawada’s cunning attempt to propagate the impression that Okinawa is receiving favorable economic treatment is conspicuous.

As for the 2-trillion-yen sum, Okinawa development and finance experts indicate that the sum is erroneous by more than 5 hundred billion yen. In terms of the nationwide average, Okinawa’s dependence on the national treasury is not high. Japan provides a meager sum and insists on Okinawans’ gratitude. Since this ambassador has newly taken his post on an island with military bases, it is curious what he may be observing, and to whom he may be listening.

When asked his point of view on Futenma closure of base operations, Kawada said, “That is not my business; my duty is to convey everyone’s requests to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.” Facing criticism for this remark, he became defiant and asked, “Why is [my duty] for you to decide?” He also said, “There is no use in having that discussion.”

Kawada has essentially taken on the pessimistic public opinion of an Okinawa that suffers under an utterly unimproved base burden at face value, and has abdicated even the minimum role of expressing an opinion in his own words. Is the Ambassador for Okinawa the same as a fax machine that just transmits requests to Kasumigaseki? (Translator’s note: Kasumigaseki is an area of Chiyoda, Tokyo where many ministry offices are located.)

Okinawans can no longer see the significance of having an extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Okinawa. It is time to request cancellation of his post. The problem is not limited to Kawada, because his statements reflect the Abe administration’s attitude of making light of Okinawan popular will.

U.S. military incidents, accidents, aircraft noise and such base-related suffering that threatens human rights will definitely not abate. Since 2009 the ambassador for Okinawa has stopped periodic interviews. The ambassador for Okinawa secludes himself in his parlor, and we cannot recall any achievements that he has made. Is it not a waste of our tax money to maintain this office?

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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