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Interview with Okinawa, Northern Territories affairs minister

(Kanagawa Shimbun: November 3, 2015 – p. 2)


 Q: The government has started substitute execution procedures for the relocation of the U.S. forces’ Futenma Air Station (in Ginowan City, Okinawa) to Henoko in Nago City.


 Minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Aiko Shimajiri: I will follow this issue closely. The worst scenario is for the Futenma base to remain where it is indefinitely. The government’s policy based on the Japan-U.S. agreement is the fastest way to remove danger.


 Q: What do you think of the intensifying conflict between Tokyo and the Okinawa Prefectural Government over the relocation issue?


 Shimajiri: We are not linking the base issues with Okinawa’s economic development. We will keep working with the prefectural and municipal governments to promote economic development.


 Q: How do you intend to promote Okinawa’s development?


 Shimajiri: We will work hard to make Okinawa a driving force for Japan’s economic revitalization, taking advantage of its strengths, such as the highest birthrate in Japan. The utilization of vacated land in the West Futenma Housing Area on Camp Zukeran will also be implemented with the vision of creating an international medical research hub to restore good health and longevity in Okinawa.


 Q: How will you deal with the Northern Territories issue?


 Shimajiri: I would like to visit the city of Nemuro close to the four northern islands as soon as possible. There is criticism that exchanges with the four islands and projects to inform the people of the territorial dispute have become stereotyped. We need to rethink these projects.


 Q: What will be your priorities in science and technology policy?


 Shimajiri: I give importance to researches in which society can actually feel the fruit of investments from the consumers’ standpoint. Kitasato University Professor Emeritus Satoshi Omura, who won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, proved that steady basic research can contribute to life over time. It is also important to support long-term studies.


 Q: Will Japan participate in the operation of the International Space Station, which the U.S. is proposing to extend until 2024?


 Shimajiri: I am following the discussions by the relevant agencies and hope that they will reach a conclusion at an early date.

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