(Tokyo Shimbun: November 18, 2015 – p. 5)
The government has been moving ahead with the procedures for building a new U.S. military base, while disregarding the sentiments of Okinawa residents. Using state power to bring the residents into submission is not the correct way to practice democracy and violates the equality under the law guaranteed by the Constitution as well as the true aim of municipal administration.
The government filed a lawsuit yesterday against Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court over its plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station (in Ginowan City) to the Henoko area of Nago City.
The first oral proceedings will be held on Dec. 2. Reportedly, if the government side wins in the suit, it will advance land reclamation work.
It is the first time for the government to file a lawsuit against an Okinawa governor since Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama sued Gov. Masahide Ota over his refusal to renew leases for U.S. base land in 1995. We are greatly concerned about this highly irregular court battle between the state and prefecture.
Eliminating the danger of the Futenma Air Station is a pressing issue. At the same time, we must not forget that the root of the problem lies in the fact that about 74% of all the U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated in the small island prefecture of Okinawa, and the people of Okinawa are being forced to bear excessive base-hosting burden.
If the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which requires Japan to provide bases to U.S. forces, is indispensable for the peace and security of Japan and the Far East, the people of Japan should equally shoulder the base-hosting burden as much as possible.
However, we wonder whether the government has done everything it can to reduce Okinawa’s burden to the same level as the people of other prefectures.
Relocating the base within Okinawa by citing the deterrence provided by the U.S. Marines is no more than political negligence.
Gov. Onaga revoked the landfill work approval based on the opinion expressed by the Okinawan people in the most recent national and local elections that they are opposed to the relocation of the base within the prefecture.
Although security is the responsibility of the state, the government is arrogantly ignoring democratic procedures by using its power to force one region to bear the excessive burden of the U.S. military bases. Such a government act violates equality under the law guaranteed by the Constitution.
If the government fails to obtain the understanding of local residents and municipalities, it will not be able to effectively fulfill its obligation to provide bases to U.S. forces.
At a press conference on Nov. 17, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga justified the lawsuit by saying, “Our country is ruled by law.” It is precisely because our country is ruled by law that we cannot overlook the Abe cabinet’s act of disregarding of the Constitution, which is the nation’s supreme law. (Slightly abridged)