LDP heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba says Henoko relocation is “not the only solution”

LDP heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba says Henoko relocation is “not the only solution”

Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba indicates his willingness to reconsider the Henoko base construction plan. At Kyodo News Headquarters in Tokyo, on July 2.

July 2, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Tokyo—Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party spoke before a group of editorial writers from Kyodo News member newspapers on July 2. Ishiba commented on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago City and said, “I don’t believe that ‘this is it,’ I don’t think pushing [the plan] through is the only solution.” He indicated his intention to revisit the current relocation plan, which will entail examining the deterrence effect maintained by moving the U.S. Marines Corps to the new Henoko base and securing high-speed transports. Ishiba effectively cast doubt on the Abe administration’s persistent stance that “Henoko is the only solution,” and indicated he is willing to revisit the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.

Polls show Ishiba is highly favored by the public to replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose term ends September 2021.

Given Tokyo’s recent decision to cancel the deployment of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems due to unreasonable time, cost, and technical obstacles, Ishiba was asked whether the Futenma relocation plan will also be revisited. He responded, “I would agree that the time, cost and technical issues raised are all valid. However, I am not a marine engineer, so [I] really need to spend time verifying those points.”

Regarding the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, which Okinawa Prefecture and the Association of Prefectural Governors have sought to amend, Ishiba said: “I don’t think we can further improve the operation of SOFA, but I’m convinced that needs to change. That’s how I felt when the helicopter crashed at Okinawa International University when I was Director General [of the Defense Agency].”

(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

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