(Mainichi: March 24, 2016 – p. 2)
By Kota Takamoto
The government and Okinawa Prefecture met for the first time after both sides accepted a court-mediated settlement in the lawsuit on execution by proxy in the process of relocating the Futenma Air Station (in Ginowan City) to Henoko, Nago City. The meeting was held at the Kantei (Prime Minister’s Official Residence) on Mar. 23. While they agreed to set up a working group of bureaucrats to facilitate “discussions toward a satisfactory solution,” they remained wide apart on Henoko relocation and their differences stood out.
The meeting was held in accordance with the terms of settlement suggested by the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court, which both sides accepted on Mar. 4.
Governor Takeshi Onaga demanded “early termination of operations at the Futenma base within five years,” counting from February 2014, “regardless of progress made in the Henoko relocation process.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga asked for Okinawa’s cooperation in the process in return. The two sides failed to reach any agreement.
Regarding the partial return of the U.S. forces’ Northern Training Area (in Higashi-son and Kunigami-son), the government asked for Okinawa’s cooperation in the relocation of a helipad required for the return. Onaga did not agree on grounds that Ospreys will be deployed there.
The two sides’ conflicting interpretation of the court settlement resurfaced. The government’s understanding is that if Okinawa loses the new court case based on the settlement, it will cooperate with the relocation plan. However, Okinawa maintains that the governor will not be restricted in exercising his powers to stop the relocation process.
Onaga indicated after the meeting that interpretation of this point will also be discussed at the working group. On the other hand, Suga indicated that there is no room for any other interpretation, since “the term of settlement is very clear on this.” (Slightly abridged)