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Editorial: It is wrong to resort to court battle on Futenma relocation issue

  • 2015-03-31 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: March 31, 2015 – p. 2)


 The dispute between the national government and Okinawa over the relocation of the U.S. forces’ Futenma Air Station is now likely to be taken to court. It is disquieting that two administrative bodies will be clashing in court. Is there no room for compromise? We hope that they will hold dialogue at an early date.


 The directive issued by Governor Takeshi Onaga to halt construction work in Henoko is based on a law on the conservation of fishery resources, which is not directly related to the relocation process. The governor has been saying that he will “use all possible means to stop the relocation” since he was elected last year. Such a strategy is unreasonable.


 Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi is right in suspending temporarily the validity of Onaga’s directive while the validity of this order is being determined.


 However, it is also necessary to think about whether it is acceptable to take a tough stance just because the government’s position is legally valid. Both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have not met with Onaga since his election last year. Such an approach may hurt the feelings of even the supporters of Futenma relocation in Okinawa.


 In reaction to Hayashi’s action, Onaga said, “My mind is made up.” A court battle is now highly probable if the Okinawa government cancels the reef destruction permit required for the reclamation work and the government takes the case to court to demand the annulment of this decision.


 A similar case occurred in 1995. Although the national government finally won the case in the Supreme Court, the gap between the Tokyo government and the Okinawan people resulting from this has lingered and become an underlying cause behind the Futenma issue.


 It is not enough to just build a military base. Smooth operation of the base will be difficult without the understanding of the local residents. Since Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga has admitted that “the beginning of the Henoko relocation problem was that an insufficient explanation was given to the Japanese and Okinawan people,” it is the government’s responsibility to provide an adequate explanation. Efforts should first be made to avoid a court battle. (Slightly abridged)

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