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Former Okinawa Gov. Nakaima criticizes Gov. Onaga

By former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima

(Interviewed by freelance journalist Akihiro Takenaka)


I don’t understand what this man is trying to do with Okinawa. He’s like an activist because all he does is voice his opposition.


He is saying that there were flaws with the procedures with which I approved [the Henoko landfill application], but the Supreme Court has ruled that there was nothing wrong. Trying to overturn legitimate procedures taken in accordance with law with the biased slogan of “construction of military base in Henoko will not be allowed” amounts to negating Japan’s legal system. This is something that government leaders must never do.


I cannot understand his behavior. A governor must adopt the stance of implementing policies through negotiations and discussions with the national government in accordance with law. What he is doing now is no different from the activists who are voicing their opposition at the tents in Henoko. Recently there was an accident where a helicopter window fell onto the playground of an elementary school near the Futenma Air Station. The point of the current Henoko relocation plan is to eliminate such dangers. I would like to ask him if he realizes that the more he opposes the plan, the longer this dangerous situation will continue.


The Onaga administration is now in its fourth year. He openly states that he “devotes 80-90% of his energy to base issues.” This is tantamount to abandoning his responsibilities as governor. There are so many issues that he needs to work on, including industry, medical services, disaster prevention, and policies for the remote islands. The Okinawa budget has been reduced in the past four years. He has completely failed to achieve any notable unique economic policy or major infrastructure project.


This will demoralize the prefectural government officials. The prefectural government is also the most important think tank in Okinawa where talented people gather. It is deplorable that they are simply made to be privy to acts of distorting the legal system.


Okinawa is now often in conflict with the Japanese government.


I am concerned that Onaga’s using emotional expressions like “hunger of the soul” and “discrimination” repeatedly to emphasize Okinawa’s identity and widen the gap between Okinawa and the mainland will create serious problems for Okinawa’s future. We, the Okinawan people, have been making efforts to narrow this gap for many years.


Although they have some unique characteristics, the Okinawans today are people of Japan. I don’t understand why he is engaging in this pointless wordplay.


I certainly don’t think the current situation of the U.S. military bases is good. Okinawans continue to be victimized in tragic crimes and accidents. While many companies are launching campaigns to eliminate accidents and offenses, the U.S. forces’ negligence is undeniable.


But in view of the present situation in East Asia, maintaining the Japan-U.S. security arrangements is essential. The Senkaku Islands, where China is applying increasingly strong pressure, are part of Okinawa. A certain level of U.S. military presence is necessary. I believe that is precisely the reason why Okinawa’s base-hosting burden should be reduced steadily in order to ensure the stable operation of the Japan-U.S. security alliance. Mere emotional opposition to the bases and demanding their immediate return will not solve the problem.

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