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Editorial: Henoko relocation will be hard without dialogue

  • October 3, 2018
  • , Nikkei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

Denny Tamaki won the Okinawa gubernatorial election on a platform of opposing the relocation of MCAS Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture. The fact that an anti-base candidate has again been elected to the governorship must not be ignored. The government should thoroughly consider why its position did not win the understanding of prefectural residents, and it should engage in earnest dialogue with the new governor.


The focal issue in the gubernatorial election was whether or not to relocate Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago City. With his pledge “to not allow a new U.S. military base to be set up in Okinawa,” Tamaki energized the “All Okinawa” alliance of progressives and conservatives, which former Governor Takeshi Onaga had created.


Former Governor Onaga, who died suddenly in August, used to belong to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and he was in favor of the Japan-U.S. security framework and the stationing of U.S. Forces in Japan. What he was striving to achieve was “the elimination of the excessive burden on Okinawa.”


Despite this, the Abe administration treated Onaga as anti-American and took a confrontational stance toward him. It even adopted “starvation tactics,” including reducing the Okinawa promotion budget. In the end, this approach became a tailwind for Tamaki, who took up Onaga’s policy.


Twenty-two years have passed since the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed on the return of MCAS Futenma. At this point, it is unrealistic to return to square one and search for another relocation site. On the other hand, a base is not something that should just be created. U.S. military officers and enlisted personnel have their lives to think about, and it would be difficult to smoothly operate a base without the cooperation of area residents.


To balance these two, the government has no choice but to pledge to dramatically reduce the burden of the bases on Okinawa and to ask the people to accept the already-underway Henoko relocation this one time.


What will ease this? [During the campaign] the LDP, which backed Atsushi Sakima, offered rosy pledges, such as making school lunches free. Moreover, the LDP did not come out against the Sakima camp’s call for the revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which is thought to put the U.S. military at an advantage.


It would be good if the Tamaki administration promoted the same policies [and were met with favor by the government]. If the people know the Abe administration has revised its position, they will change their opinion, too. The trial surrounding the approval to conduct landfill work off Henoko will start soon. “Dialogue first” will lead to a resolution more than the approach of “We can start the reclamation work if we win the legal battle.”


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