Regarding the higher concentration of U.S. bases in Okinawa, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba explained in his official website that “Japan and the U.S. moved most U.S. Marine Corps units to Okinawa out of concern for anti-base campaigns (on Japan’s mainland).” The government has long stressed Okinawa’s geographical advantage for hosting the U.S. bases, but the comment suggests that the ex-defense minister acknowledged a political factor in the U.S. base concentration in Okinawa for the first time.
Ishiba would seem to be the first ex-cabinet minister to say the government concentrated U.S. bases in Okinawa out of concern for opposition in the mainland.
Ishiba created a special website dedicated to the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party when he declared his candidacy for the race. He posted video messages addressed to each of 47 prefectures.
In his message to Okinawa, he discussed the concentration of U.S. bases in Okinawa by saying: “In the 1950s, Japan and the U.S. moved many U.S. Marines units to U.S.-administered Okinawa because they feared that anti-base campaigns would intensify. That is what I heard.”
“Marines’ command centers were located across Japan, in such as Yamanashi and Gifu,” he continued. “We should never forget that these were relocated to Okinawa, which resulted in what Okinawa is today.” He suggested that the mainland needs to understand the Okinawa situation.
He also noted: “Why do we need these bases in this particular location? Japan should have every right to raise objections to things for which it can find substitutes and that have a smaller footprint.”
On the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, he tacitly criticized the Abe government for a high-handed approach. “The government should not steadily advance the relocation, but make sincere efforts to win the understating of the Okinawa people,” he said.