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Analysis: Gov’t becoming increasingly anxious about base issue

  • 2015-11-02 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: October 31, 2015 – p. 3)

 

 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has been working vigorously to smooth out issue of relocating the U.S. Marines Corps air station in Futenma. His painstaking efforts are a testament to the concern that is building within the government that it will be driven into a corner if it handles the issue wrongly.

 

 On one hand, the government is confident about a possible legal battle involving “administrative subrogation,” but on the other end, it is having a hard time dealing with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who has been using every possible tactic to win support from local residents. Since the cabinet endorsed administrative subrogation on October 27, Onaga has been ramping up his criticism toward the government. “The government has gone overboard in its forcefulness,” he has said repeatedly at press conferences and other occasions.

 

 When the Ministry of Defense started carrying out landfill work at the coast off Henoko on October 29, opponents to the relocation plan staged a protest. It turned so fierce that one protestor was arrested. Anxiety is building up within the government that if the protests result in casualties, the tide will quickly shift against the government.

 

 To prevent public opposition from spreading beyond Okinawa, the government and the ruling parties maintain the stance that they will work hard to reduce the base-hosting burden on the prefecture and revitalize the local economy. But it is not easy to find alternative sites to share the burden.

 

 Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told Saga Prefecture on October 29 that the government will retract its request for partially transferring training by Futenma-based MV-22 Ospreys to the Saga airport. The government had identified the relocation of training to Saga as a signature policy to reduce the base-hosting burden on Okinawa, but it had to reconsider this plan.

 

 If the relocation work remains at an impasse, the U.S. Congress may freeze the budget needed to relocate the Marines to Guam again. “This could undermine the Japan-U.S. alliance that has been reinforced with the enactment of security legislation,” said a senior official with the Ministry of Defense.

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