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SECURITY > Okinawa

Okinawa gov. poised to bring more global attention to Henoko

  • March 15, 2019
  • , Okinawa Times , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki told Kyodo News in an interview at the Okinawa prefectural government office on March 14 that he will make a stronger appeal to the international community on the issue of relocating the U.S. military’s Futenma airfield to the Henoko district of Nago. Tamaki criticized the central government, which is pushing ahead with relocation work, for failing to show a positive attitude for dialogue. “We’ll send out our opinion to the world and seek understanding,” he said.


Tamaki said it would be “impossible” to improve the soft seabed in the area where the landfill work is planned. The central government will change its reclamation plan and ask the prefectural government for approval, but Tamaki expressed a negative view about giving approval.


In February Okinawa Prefecture held a referendum over the issue of relocating Futenma airfield to Henoko. As a result, more than 70% of those who cast their ballots voted against the planed relocation. “The results clearly showed public opposition to the Henoko relocation,” Tamaki said. He also pointed out, “The central government should earnestly consider how the international community will see its continuation of the construction. He added, “[The central government] may come under heavy pressure unless it shares the universal value of democracy.”


The deepest point of the soft seabed is about 90 meters from sea level. However, Defense Minister Iwaya has asserted that it’s possible to improve the soft seabed with construction work to a depth of about 70 meters. Tamaki said, “The government has only conducted construction work to a depth of 70 meters, so I doubt the credibility of his remark.”  The governor explained that the budget [for the relocation] will balloon due to the reinforcement work, which the Ministry of Defense estimates to take three years and eight months. He reiterated, “We demand Futenma be relocated outside Okinawa or outside Japan.”


As measures to block the Futenma relocation, Tamaki said the prefectural government would revise its ordinance to conserve Okinawa’s land in order to tighten regulations against collecting soil. He also said the prefectural government would reject the MOD’s request for special permission to collect coral which needs to be transplanted.


Tamaki also said, “We won’t enter into an unnecessary court battle if the reclamation work is suspended and if the Okinawa and central governments are ready to hold discussions.”  He also indicated his intention to remain committed to dialogue and call for trilateral talks between Tokyo, Washington, and Okinawa.

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