[Editorial] Japanese government submits application to reclaim land for relocation of U.S. base Crude move that negates democracy in Japan

March 23, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration submitted an application to the Okinawa Prefectural Government for approval to reclaim land for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko coastal area in Nago. This is nothing less than a denial of democracy in Japan.

Since 1996, when the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to relocate Futenma Air Station, the people of Okinawa have actively discussed the issue of base relocation with the prefectural authorities through gubernatorial elections, prefectural diet member elections and prefectural assembly elections, and through mayoral elections in Nago and Ginowan.

Okinawan Governor Hirokazu Nakaima wants the facilities relocated outside of the prefecture, and after considerable discussion, all 41 heads of the municipalities and assembly members in Okinawa oppose relocation within Okinawa. Nakaima has even said, “Relocation within the prefecture is impossible.” Four members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who were elected from Okinawa have publicly promised to oppose relocation within the prefecture.

There is no way that we can tolerate the central government’s discriminatory treatment of the Okinawan people by letting them ignore what is clearly a consensus of opinion in the prefecture.

The mayors of the municipalities and chairmen of the various assemblies in Okinawa visited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence this January to give him a petition requesting that the U.S. and Japanese governments abandon the idea of relocating the facilities at Futenma Air Station somewhere within the prefecture, and instead demanding the closure and removal of the base. Abe should respect the will of the Okinawan people, which is greatest common measure for them.

Former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said that an alternative facility for the relocation of Futenma Air Station being constructed in Okinawa was not a decision made from a military standpoint but from a political one. From a military perspective, no reasonable grounds for relocation of the base within Okinawa exist.

Pro-Japanese intellectuals in the United States, including political scientist Joseph Nye have proposed that the U.S. government moves the Marines from Okinawa to bases in Australia or back to the United States. Top bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defense have said that attempting to justify stationing the Marines in Okinawa as a deterrent force, which is major premise for the deployment of the Osprey to Okinawa, lacks persuasion from a military perspective. Others have pointed out that advancements in military technology mean that there is now no particular military advantage to be had by stationing Marines in Okinawa.

Bureaucrats in the ministries of defense and foreign affairs continue to be fixated by the idea of relocating the base to the Henoko district of Nago despite the changing environment surrounding Futenma Air Station and the U.S. Marines presence in Okinawa.

Abe and President Barack Obama should allow civilian control to function properly. Action is needed in order to drastically change the U.S.-Japan relationship and to regain the trust of the nation with regard to diplomacy and security policy. They should make high level political judgments and seriously consider closing and removing Futenma Air Station and moving the Marines off Okinawa to somewhere outside the prefecture or outside Japan.

It is ridiculous for both governments to waste time and effort in clinging onto the relocation of the base within Okinawa. This is simply a forlorn hope. The U.S. and Japanese governments should not allow the facilities at Futenma Air Station to stay where they are and should remove the danger posed by the base as soon as possible, but both governments should follow democratic procedures. If the United States and Japan are truly democratic countries, they will respect the content of the petition submitted by Okinawan leaders.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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