Editorial: It has been one year since the start of land reclamation in Henoko. Japan should end construction Henoko and close MCAS Futenma

December 14, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

Does the Japanese government consider Okinawans as Japanese? Their extreme arrogance fill us with these doubts.

December 14 marks one year since the government started reclaiming land along the coast of Henoko, with the goal of building new base facilities in Henoko, Nago.

Only two-and-a-half months prior, Denny Tamaki defeated his opponent in the gubernatorial election by 80,000 votes as the base-opposing candidate.

To ignore the will of the people and start land reclamation is outrageously unbecoming of a democratic nation.

Even a year later, Okinawans continue to voice their opposition to base construction.

The height of this was the referendum vote in February.

After the government disregarded the will of the people in the gubernatorial election, which was seen as a majority repudiation of their policy, the referendum asked simply if people approved of or opposed land reclamation, and around 70% of voters responded in opposition.

It was a decisive resolution that came in the form of direct democracy. However, the government simply didn’t care.

After the referendum, in April there was the House of Representatives election for Okinawa’s third district, which includes Nago, and in July there was the House of Councillors election, and in both the candidate that opposed base construction won.

These results were similarly ignored. This was seen as a strange circumstance abroad, and should have been embarrassing to the government.

If Japan is truly a democratic nation, they would abandon construction based on the will of Okinawa, and immediately shutter MCAS Futenma.

However, the government don’t seem to consider their actions as out of the ordinary.

They continued with their administrative process as if they called a “take-back” on the discussions Okinawa was asking for, and forced through construction.

This led to a pair of lawsuits filed by the prefecture against the government.

In April, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation handed down a decision that nullified Okinawa’s decision to revoke approval for land reclamation.

This led Okinawa to file a lawsuit against the government asserting that the actions by the government were illegal, however the court dismissed the case.

Okinawa appealed the decision. Meanwhile, in August there was also a case arguing that Okinawa’s decision to revoke permission for land reclamation was legal, while the Minister’s decision to nullify this was illegal.

Against the adversarial backdrop between the central government of Japan and Okinawa, the resolve of Okinawans in their opposition to base construction remained firm.

The base construction in Henoko was not an alleviation of the base burden as the government claimed, but seen as a solidification of that burden with the confirmation that they would be fortifying base capabilities with a new runway, ammunition depot, and port.

There is also a plan by the U.S. to deploying intermediate-range missiles, which are capable of carrying a nuclear payload, in Japanese bases starting with Okinawa, as the U.S., China, and Russia expand their nuclear capabilities in what appears to be the start of a new cold war era.

The missiles, along with the base facilities has raised the level of danger by putting us in the crosshairs of our “enemies.”

We must spark a wide-reaching public consensus for stopping the missile deployment and ending new base construction.

The land reclamation has completely disregarded the effects of the soft foundation. Also, neglecting the danger of MCAS Futenma is inexcusable.

According to Okinawa’s calculations, the construction costs could reach as high as 2.65 trillion yen.

This will take a huge chunk out of tax payer’s money, at the expense of things such as social security.

Every aspect of this is rife with doubt. All things considered, construction has only progressed a meager 1%. We cannot give up on our efforts to end construction at Henoko.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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