Governor Tamaki to make first trip to the U.S. to raise awareness about the Henoko base issue in his “father’s country”


November 6, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Shoichiro Yonamine

Just over a month since taking office, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki will set out on his first trip to the United States.

The newly elected governor will visit New York and Washington D.C. as part of a five-day trip from November 11-15.

While this part of the year is packed with duties such as year-end budget requests and prefectural assembly meetings, Governor Tamaki’s strong motivations are leading him to prioritize the trip to the U.S. The governor, whose birth is also in the spotlight as the U.S. is homeland of his father, a U.S. Marine who was stationed in Okinawa, aims to tell the international community about the Henoko base relocation issue.

In the gubernatorial election, Tamaki claimed, “My father’s country, a democracy, will not be able to reject me,” and said that he, “definitely,” intended to visit the U.S. The results of the election were widely covered by the mainstream U.S. media.

The New York Times ran the headline, “U.S. Marine’s Son Wins Okinawa Election on Promise to Oppose Military Base,” and indicated that, “His victory poses a setback to plans by the Japanese government and the United States,” to relocate MCAS Futenma.

Tamaki’s predecessor, the late Governor Takeshi Onaga, made his first visit to the United States roughly five months after taking office.

Prior to making his trip, he held a rally dubbed, “70 years after the [Pacific] war, stop new Henoko base construction! Okinawa Citizens Rally,” where the Shimagurumi Committee Leadership Council as well as other organization heads released a resolution supporting the former governor’s demands.

Governor Tamaki will be joined on his visit by six staff members.

The governor’s office released a statement indicating that the governor was hoping to visit the U.S. quickly after taking office to make use of the high amount of interest post-election, stating, “While we would still like a little more preparation time having just secured the election, the governor has an idea on timing and possible destinations.”

Meanwhile, on November 6 the U.S. will hold their midterm elections for both houses of Congress.

Since the visit will happen just after these elections, the political landscape and potential individuals to meet with is still fluid.

Governor Tamaki said, “From a schedule standpoint it is going to be tight, but I want the chance to get my message out to the media and the internet.”

For Governor Tamaki, who faces the Japanese government’s hardline stance pushing land-filling in Henoko Bay, he hopes that raising awareness in the international community will gain support for dialogue with both the Japanese and American governments.

Prior to leaving for the U.S., Governor Tamaki is scheduled to give a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, and he will make his “diplomatic debut,” with an appeal to the foreign press in Tokyo.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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