Referendum indicates majority opposition, construction must stop immediately

February 25, 2019 The Ryukyu Shimpo

The voters’ disapproval was made clear in the results of the prefecture-wide referendum on the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, Nago City.

It was the first time Okinawans voiced their opinions in a democratic process over construction of a specific military base. Feb. 24 will henceforth be a noteworthy day in Okinawan history.

The referendum is not legally binding, and yet a majority of Okinawans voted.

Over 430,000 citizens delivered a resounding “no” to constructing a new base. It is utterly unacceptable for Tokyo to ignore this fact.

The central government must respect the referendum verdict and immediately cease construction of the new base.

As for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is located in the center of a crowded residential area, we’d like to see negotiations with the U.S. to close the base without relocation options.

The first step is to present the unvarnished referendum verdict to Washington, and ask for some level of understanding.

It is not the best policy for the United States to place a base where the locals oppose it.

It will be sensible to acknowledge the wishes of Okinawans.

Okinawa was cornered into holding this referendum by the Abe administration, which continues to be subservient to the U.S., and also pays no heed to the results of the Okinawan gubernatorial election.

Behind the administration are the many citizens who assume U.S. bases belong in Okinawa, or are simply uninterested.

If more people throughout Japan are now giving thought to this issue as if it were their own because of the referendum, it would add even more meaning to the polling.

What set the closure of MCAS Futenma into motion was the 1995 rape incident.

Due to high public demand to consolidate and reduce the U.S. military bases at the time, the American and Japanese governments agreed in 1996 to close MCAS Futenma within five to seven years.

Initially, the agreement included building heliports and relocating Futenma’s helicopter units to other existing U.S. bases in Okinawa, such as Kadena Air Base.

The plan has since been convoluted into a massive construction project.

The prefecture-wide referendum held 23 years ago saw strong demands to consolidate and reduce the military bases.

Nonetheless, construction work will go on today, against the will of many Okinawans, which is an alarming situation.

The central government has repeatedly stated that relocating MCAS Futenma to Henoko is “the only solution.”

This merely means that relocation is the only solution for the Abe administration.

Even if the new base is constructed, there are no assurances that Futenma will be returned to Okinawa.

Just as the promise to close the base “within five years” was broken, there is a high probability various reasons will be offered to rationalize postponement of returning Futenma.

Furthermore, feasibility of the construction itself is in question.

The soft seabed of the site necessitates installation of 77,000 piles for ground-improvement.

At 90 meters underwater, such a large-scale project has never been done anywhere else in the world; Construction costs will exceed the 2.55 trillion yen initially estimated by the prefecture.

Not only does building this base go against the will of the Okinawan people, it is an outrageous project that squanders taxpayer money.

We hope to see Gov. Denny Tamaki leverage Okinawa’s resolution to steadfastly negotiate with Tokyo.

(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

Go to Japanese


Previous Article:
Next Article:

[Similar Articles]