(Asahi: July 30, 2015 – p.37)
The following is the gist of the report by a third-party panel set up by the Okinawa prefectural government:
Necessity of reclamation work
The prefectural government office examined the necessity, timing, and location of the reclamation work and found them to be reasonable. The only reasons cited for this were “the dangerous nature of the Futenma Airfield” and “the necessity of relocating the airfield.” This constitutes a leap of logic. The prefectural government provides no explanation on whether “the Henoko region of Nago” is an appropriate place for the relocation as opposed to other places.
There are both U.S. military and Self-Defense Forces bases in Okinawa. Even if the U.S. Marine Corps units are transferred to somewhere outside the prefecture, it will not lead to a reduction in deterrence. As for geographical superiority, Kumamoto is an example of a superior location in terms of distance to the Korean Peninsula. In 2012, then-Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said, “A place other than Okinawa would function in military terms, but Okinawa is the best place in political terms.” It is difficult to justify the necessity of the reclamation work.
Appropriateness and reasonableness of using national land
The benefit of removing the danger posed by the Futenma Airfield is substantial. On the other hand, the airfield’s disadvantages, such as serious noise pollution and danger of aircraft mishaps, could all apply to Henoko as well.
If the relocation site, “Camp Schwab,” were returned to Japan, it could become a popular resort blessed with a rich natural environment. On the contrary, if the Futenma replacement facility is constructed there, the area will be used as a military base for a long time, which will make local development unlikely. Such construction will not only destroy the rich natural environment but also bring about tremendous economic disadvantages.
Based on a comprehensive judgment taking into consideration both the advantages and disadvantages, the reclamation cannot be said to be appropriate or reasonable.
Consideration for environmental protection
With many endangered and near threatened species living around the Henoko shore and waters, the Environment Ministry designates the area as one of “500 Important Wetlands in Japan.”
The project operator has not conducted a quantitative assessment of the ecosystem around the Henoko waters for the population size and the standing crop of the various species living there. As a result, the operator has only provided an abstract assessment and analysis. As for the environmental protection measures presented in the environmental impact statement by the national government, the prefectural government was unable to respond to the governor’s opinion that “protecting the natural environment is impossible.” It cannot be said that the prefectural government has fully taken environmental protection into consideration.
Compatibility between national government plan and local government plan
The examination by the prefectural government is supposed to show that the reclamation is compatible with city planning.
The Nago City opinion paper points out that the reclamation work is incompatible with the national biodiversity strategy, the Okinawa prefectural biodiversity strategy, and the Nago City landscape plan. However, the prefectural government does not mention these items at all, simply concluding: “The reclamation is not incompatible with the plan.” The prefectural government apparently made a decision without conducting a thorough examination.