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TV PROGRAMS > Close-up Gendai

DM Iwaya, other GOJ officials react to results of Henoko relocation referendum

  • February 25, 2019
  • , NHK
  • JMH Translation

NHK’s “Close-up Gendai+” reported on Monday evening on the Okinawa referendum on Henoko relocation held on the previous day. NHK noted that the number of “no” votes was unexpectedly high at 434,273 and the voter turnout of 52.48% was also surprisingly high because the LDP and Komeito had adopted a strategy of not campaigning in an effort to minimize voter turnout. Governor Tamaki reportedly said that these figures are of “great significance” in demonstrating the popular will in Okinawa. An NHK reporter in Okinawa explained that the results of its exit poll during the referendum showed that 48% of those who voted “no” did so because they were opposed to any further base-hosting burden and 58% of those who voted “yes” did so because they want the danger posed by MCAS Futenma to be removed. The reporter pointed out that both groups share a desire for Okinawa’s base-hosting burden to be reduced.

 

During the program, NHK broadcast an interview with Defense Minister Iwaya in which he was asked whether the referendum results put democracy to the test. He started by saying that the government takes the referendum results seriously and shares the Okinawan people’s desire to remove the danger posed by the Futenma base and achieve its complete return. However, he also said that security is a major responsibility of the democratically-elected government, so it intends to reduce the base-hosting burden concentrated in Okinawa as much as possible while maintaining strong deterrence.

 

The program reported that despite the government’s position that there will be no change in the Henoko relocation plan, the Defense Ministry is actually rattled by the referendum results. One senior ministry official expressed surprise at the unexpectedly large number of “no” votes, voicing concern that a rise in anti-relocation public opinion may affect the construction process. A ruling party official also predicted that the opposition parties will step up their criticism of the government for “ignoring” the popular will in Okinawa in the upcoming simultaneous local elections and the Upper House election this summer. However, the general sense in political circles is that the referendum results will have limited impact on public opinion at the national level and will not result in any serious damage to the administration.

 

NHK also reported on the discovery of soft seabed in certain parts of the Henoko reclamation area. While Okinawa claims that solidifying the foundation will delay construction work substantially and involve enormous additional costs, Iwaya asserted that although it will indeed cause “some” delay and additional costs, fortifying the soft seabed is technically feasible and Okinawa’s cost estimates are exaggerated. The government plans to apply for design changes in the reclamation process with the Okinawa government by the end of this year, even if it has to take the case to court. A government source was quoted as saying that amid intense opposition to Henoko relocation, the only option is to “steadily make the reclamation a fait accompli,” remarking that as progress is made in returning the Futenma base, the economic benefits will become evident to the local people.

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