US congressman suggests Henoko relocation can be changed

US congressman suggests Henoko relocation can be changed

Governor Onaga (third from right) met with Tom Emmer (R-MN) (second from right), member of House of Representatives, on May 16. (Photograph provided by Okinawa Prefectural Government)

May 28, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Hisao Tome in Washington D.C.

On May 16, in Washington D.C, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga met with four members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

According to Governor Onaga, Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said that if the Japanese government offered an alternative to the Henoko relocation, the current plan could be changed. Cole said that if the Japanese government offered a solution, he would work with the U.S. government to respect it. He added that he wants a fair solution for Okinawa to be provided.

This is the first time a U.S. congress member has told Governor Onaga that the Henoko relocation is not the only option.

Governor Onaga revealed the news at a press conference held on the evening of May 16.

He visited the United States previously in May and June 2015 after he took office as governor. He met with government officials, congress members, and scholars of leading think tanks. However, on that trip, the only response he heard was, “Henoko is the only solution.”

Onaga said, “I have discussed the issue with only four congress members. But, I feel a level of information [about the Henoko issue] has reached them and been understood correctly.”

Cole and Tom Emmer (R-MN), members of the House of Representatives, gave their consent for the governor to make public their comments.

According to Onaga, Cole said he would like to help find a better solution for Okinawa. Emmer said he would investigate the background outlined by the governor, and that he understood this issue as an important one for the people of Okinawa and the environment.

Congressperson Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)’s comments were not made public.
On the morning of May 16, Governor Onaga held a meeting with eight key figures to explore a solution for the Futenma and Henoko issues. The meeting was held behind closed doors, except at the outset when reporters were allowed to attend.

The governor met with eight congress members on May 17.

On May 18, Onaga will visit Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet with former Vice President Walter Mondale, who served as Ambassador to Japan. Then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and then U.S. Ambassador Mondale announced in 1996 that the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma would be closed and its land returned to owners.

(English translation by T&CT)

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