The three participating parties at a summit to reduce the base burden agree to set new deadline for closing MCAS Futenma

The three participating parties at a summit to reduce the base burden agree to set new deadline for closing MCAS Futenma

Conference attendees Governor Denny Tamaki (center-left) Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsukawa (far left) and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (center-right)

April 11, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

Tokyo – Representatives from the Japanese government, the Okinawa prefectural government, and Ginowan City met April 10 at the prime ministers offices for a conference to further the lessening of the burden brought by MCAS Futenma.

At the conference, the conversation surrounding the deadline to “end operations [at MCAS Futenma] within five years,” which the Japanese government had previously promised Okinawa before walking it back in February, was re-opened, with the three parties agreeing to work towards a new deadline.

Meanwhile, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki requested that the Japanese government agree to a timeline for removing the dangers posed by Futenma of around 3-6 months, which was requested with the assumption that new facility construction at Henoko in Nago would be cancelled.

The Japanese government representatives did not give a definitive answer to this request, with both parties once again digging into their respective trenches.

The first meeting was held two years and nine months ago in July of 2016, making this the first meeting since the elections of both Tamaki and Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsukawa.

Okinawa’s representatives at the meeting were Governor Tamaki and Mayor Matsukawa, while the representatives from the Japanese government were Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono, Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya, and Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Mistuhiro Miyakoshi.

At the conference, Mayor Matsukawa said that the withdrawal in February of the promise of a deadline to close the base was, “truly regrettable,” and requested a new deadline be set.

To this, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita responded that the setting of a new deadline was essential, commenting, “We would like to set up a task force, and move this ahead pragmatically.” Conversely, when Governor Tamaki brought up creating a mechanism for discussing the removal of the danger caused by the presence of MCAS Futenma, the government representatives gave no response.

When the governor similarly notified the government the results of a prefectural referendum in Okinawa that resulted in a strong majority opposing new base construction before proposing setting up a conference between the U.S., Japan, and Okinawa called SACWO (SACO with Okinawa), the Chief Cabinet Secretary only commented, “the governments of both countries continue discussions,” declining the new conference.

After the summit, Governor Tamaki said regarding the reduction of burden caused by the U.S. bases, “The next step is getting an agreement from those who will actually carry out the shutdown. Go

I expect that we can work to an earnest agreement.” Mayor Matsukawa said, “Today is a new start, and I want to continue working towards lessening the burden from the bases.”

With the exception of the beginning, the meeting was held closed to the press.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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