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Commentary: PM Abe forced to show willingness to talk to Okinawa ahead of U.S. trip

  • 2015-04-17 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: April 17, 2015 – p. 1)

 

 By Takao Kanasugi

 

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has finally decided to meet with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga because he has decided that strong public opinion in Okinawa against the construction of a new military base in Henoko could no longer be ignored. He also wants to show the U.S. he is making efforts to solve the problem by meeting with Onaga before his trip to the U.S. from April 26.

 

 Since Onaga, who is opposed to the new base in Henoko, became governor last December, the government had ignored Onaga’s request for meetings until recently. At the same time, it has resumed a drilling survey to prepare for the start of reclamation work this summer. The entire cabinet has used all available administrative procedures to nullify Onaga’s order to stop construction work in Henoko, and the government has persisted in its policy of implementing the relocation process “in a businesslike manner.”

 

 However, pressured by ruling party members who were worried that high-handedness might impact the simultaneous local elections, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga finally met with Onaga on April 5. If conflict with Okinawa intensifies further, the U.S., which wants to maintain stability in the stationing of U.S. forces in Okinawa, may also become concerned. Abe has been forced to show that he is listening to Okinawa’s views if only to reaffirm his intent to build the new base at the Japan-U.S. summit.

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