Editorial: Prime Minister Suga’s first policy speech reveals incongruity between words and actions that needs rectification

October 27, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga gave his first policy speech at the Diet since taking office. Regarding Okinawa, he stated that he will “endeavor to reduce the base burden” and “steadfastly proceed with the construction for the Henoko relocation in order to remove the dangers posed by MCAS Futenma as quickly as possible.” He then stated, “I will continue to be sympathetic to the sentiments of people in Okinawa.”

In Okinawa, strong popular opposition to the Henoko construction has been demonstrated in the prefectural referendum in which roughly 70% of voters opposed the Henoko land reclamation, and in major elections including gubernatorial elections. The speech shows tremendous incongruity between words and actions. If Suga is to hold responsibility for his words, he must display the sympathy for Okinawa that he claims have.

In light of the discovery of the weak sea floor at Henoko, construction is expected to take at least twelve years, with a budget of 930 billion yen estimated by the national government. It is insincere to make light of this reality and use the words “as quickly as possible.” The government should revoke the present plan immediately and quickly return MCAS Futenma without the condition of relocation within Okinawa.

Prime Minister Suga made reference to the 2016 return of the northern part of the Northern Training Area and praised himself, saying it was “the largest return [of land] since the reversion of Okinawa to Japan.” The return, however, was conditioned on the construction of helipads, and depended on the construction of six helipads designed for Osprey use around the village of Takae. This clearly constituted a buildup of military functions. Local residents where the construction proceeded suffer from the resulting noise.

The part that was returned was land deemed by the U.S. military to be “unusable.” Nonetheless, the military did not return the land immediately, instead requiring twenty years from the return agreement made between Japan and the U.S. in 1996. That was because the return was conditioned on relocation within Okinawa. The same is true with respect to MCAS Futenma and the Naha Military Port, the return of which is taking a great deal of time. Burden reduction conditioned on relocation within the prefecture is a far cry from the wishes of Okinawans.

If Prime Minister Suga intends to sincerely grapple with true burden reduction, he should immediately abandon the plan for new base construction in Henoko and move forward with a return not conditioned on relocation within the prefecture. That he made no mention in his policy speech of revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, something desired by Okinawa and other members of the National Governors’ Association, is more evidence that he has no sympathy for Okinawa.

Prime Minister Suga’s insincere attitude is not limited to Okinawa-related issues. He also made no mention of his refusal to appoint certain members to the Science Council of Japan. His refusal to provide an explanation to the people contradicts the “Cabinet that works for the people” that he described in his speech.

Suga expressed his intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Japan to substantially zero in 2050. He says that in addition to switching coal-based energy production to renewable energy resources, he will also advance a nuclear energy policy “that puts safety first.” Moving away from nuclear energy is the best way to ensure the safety of the people. Advancing a nuclear energy policy even after the accident at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident can only be seen as disdain for the lives of the people.

For the past 30 years, except for when there was a change of administration, the prime minister’s first policy speech was always held immediately after he was appointed. Suga’s speech was unusually late, not occurring until 40 days after his appointment. This policy speech cast a harsh light on his lack of respect for the Diet and his negligence towards the people. His lack of regard for accountability is one example. If he does not disclose public documents that were continuously kept secret concerning the numerous suspicions that arose during the Abe administration and otherwise respond to the public’s doubts, he will never be able to gain the people’s trust.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

Go to Japanese


Previous Article:
Next Article:

[Similar Articles]