Most papers reported on Ambassador Hagerty’s first meeting with Okinawa Governor Onaga at the governor’s office on Monday. Asahi wrote that the governor expressed opposition to the plan to relocate the functions of MCAS Futenma to Henoko and called for reducing the base-hosting burden on Okinawa. The 40-minute meeting was open to the press. While saying that he understands the importance of the U.S.-Japan security arrangements, Onaga expressed his firm intention to continue to oppose the Henoko plan by saying: “Why are you going to carry out land reclamation in the beautiful sea where indigenous species live to build another new base in order to relocate the air base? The people of Okinawa are united in their determination never to allow the construction.” In addition, the governor lodged a protest against the incident last year in which an Osprey made a crash landing in waters off Nago and the incident last month in which a U.S. military helicopter made a crash landing and burst into flames in Higashi Village. The paper wrote that while not directly referring to Futenma relocation, the Ambassador stated that given the threats posed by North Korea, he appreciates the Okinawan people’s support for the U.S. military. He also said that the U.S. will reduce the impact of its military presence on the people of Okinawa while maintaining its deterrence.
Mainichi quoted the governor as saying: “Why are you going to build another base by carrying out land reclamation in the beautiful sea even though Okinawa has hosted many U.S. military bases over the past 72 years since the end of World War II? This is discrimination.” The paper quoted the Ambassador as telling the governor that he will make efforts to reduce the impact of the U.S. military presence on Okinawa. Yomiuri wrote that Governor Onaga expressed opposition to the Henoko plan, which has been implemented based on an agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments as the only option for Futenma relocation. Nikkei wrote that by referring to North Korea, Ambassador Hagerty called for Okinawa’s understanding by explaining that the purpose of the relocation is to maintain readiness to respond to threats in the region. Tokyo Shimbun quoted the Ambassador as saying that hosting U.S. bases supports not only Japan but also the entire region.
TV Tokyo aired a similar report last night, noting that in reply to Onaga’s remarks that U.S. military installations constitute the “largest hurdle” to Okinawa’s economic development, the Ambassador pledged his utmost efforts to mitigate the impact caused by the presence of the U.S. military.
The Washington Post also reported on the Ambassador’s meeting with the Okinawa governor, saying the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, William Hagerty, embarked on a careful visit to Okinawa Monday, meeting with the governor who wants the American military presence on the southern island prefecture sharply reduced. Onaga took the opportunity to make his case to Ambassador Hagerty, complaining about the environmental impact of the construction at Henoko, particularly on sea life, and asking why Okinawa had to have the new base. “This is discrimination against Okinawa,” Onaga told the ambassador. In response, the Ambassador said that the United States had an agreement to reduce the military burden on Okinawa and alleviate some of the impact of hosting the bases.