Mikio Shimoji, policy chief of Initiatives from Osaka [Osaka Ishin no Kai], visited Vice Governor Mitsuo Ageda at the prefectural government office and Mayor Atsushi Sakima at the Ginowan city office on May 12 to explain the party’s proposal for transferring exercises of Futenma-based aircraft to Mageshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture, in relation to the government’s plan to terminate operations at the Futenma airfield in five years (by February 2019). He asked the Okinawan leaders to join him in making this request to the national government.
Ageda’s reply was: “The prefectural government is demanding the relocation of the Futenma base out of Okinawa. We will welcome a reduction in the base-hosting burden.” However, he refrained from commenting on Mageshima per se, since the Okinawa government’s policy is not to cite any specific possible relocation site.
Sakima told reporters after his meeting with Shimoji: “I would like to consider whether the national government will be responsible for taking action, whether such action is feasible, and other related issues.” He indicated that he will wait to see what steps the government will take.
Isao Tateishi, owner of most of the land on Mageshima, accompanied Shimoji on this trip. He was present at the meeting with Sakima.
After his meetings, Shimoji held a news conference at the Okinawa Prefectural Government building, where he stated: “The construction of a military base in Henoko will take over 10 years. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should first make good on his promise to terminate operations on the Futenma base within five years. If he still wishes to go ahead with the Henoko project after that, he can do so.” He stressed that operations at the Futenma base should be terminated as a separate issue from Henoko relocation.
Shimoji explained that Osaka Ishin’s proposal is to transfer exercises by the Ospreys on the Futenma base and the jet planes on Kadena Air Base to Mageshima. He said that as a result, 23,000-24,000 takeoffs and landings that take place annually on the Futenma base can be reduced to less than 5,000, which is “as good as termination of operations.”
He also explained that the use of Mageshima is a provisional step to prioritize the termination of operations on the Futenma base. He said that his party will come up with a separate policy on the relocation of the Futenma base, which is the Japanese and U.S. governments’ condition for returning the base.