Former House of Representatives member Denny Tamaki, the candidate of the All Okinawa Council consisting of the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, labor unions, and other groups opposing the relocation of the Futenma Air Station to Henoko, defeated former Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who was backed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Komeito, and others, in the Okinawa gubernatorial election.
Former Governor Takeshi Onaga, who passed away in August, had clashed fiercely with the national government over Henoko relocation. After he died, the Okinawa Prefectural Government revoked the landfill permit for Henoko, resulting in the suspension of reclamation work.
Governor-elect Tamaki has stated that he will carry on the policies of the Onaga administration. However, it is undesirable for him to rekindle conflict with the Tokyo government.
He should change Okinawa’s current policy, which has obstructed Futenma relocation, normalize relations with the national government, and adopt a realistic stance on promoting the reduction of Okinawa’s base-hosting burden.
Henoko relocation is an important agreement reached between the Japanese and U.S. governments. From the standpoint of maintaining deterrence as well this can’t be changed.
Decisions on where to move a U.S. military base within Japan come under security policy, which is the national government’s prerogative. The constitution does not give a local government leader the power to overturn security policy or a diplomatic commitment.
Tamaki must understand this basic tenet of democracy. It is essentially wrong to think that the gubernatorial election played the role of determining the right or wrong of Futenma relocation.
Tamaki should rescind the Okinawa government’s revocation of the landfill permit. In the first place, the national government has not done anything wrong to merit the revocation.
If he refuses to rescind the revocation, the national government should file for a court injunction to prevent its implementation. Once the court grants an injunction, the reclamation work can resume.
Henoko relocation is an urgent matter in order to remove the danger posed by the Futenma base, which is located in the middle of an urban district in Ginowan. At the same time, the U.S. Marines in Okinawa constitute the backbone of the Japan-U.S. alliance’s deterrence against North Korea, China, and others.
Henoko relocation is the only realistic solution in order to strike a balance between maintaining deterrence and ensuring safety on military bases. If relocation is delayed due to the resumption of conflict between Tokyo and Okinawa, this might be seen by the neighboring countries as a sign of the instability of the bilateral security alliance. A decline in deterrence and the permanent presence of the Futenma base would be undesirable.
Tamaki has said that “the building of military bases will not contribute to peace.” The negation of deterrence is unrealistic and may rather lead to the deterioration of the security environment. The Senkaku Islands coveted by China belong to Okinawa. We hope that he will be conscious of the fact that he is the governor of Okinawa, the front line of national defense.