Saturday’s Yomiuri gave prominent inside-page coverage to an interview with DCM Greene regarding the upcoming 50th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa, where he was posted as consul general from August 2009 to July 2012. He recalled that as the top U.S. diplomat on the island prefecture at the time, his foremost task was to maintain the bilateral accord on Futenma relocation in the face of the election campaign pledge calling for the relocation of the Marine installation out of Okinawa made by the Democratic Party of Japan administration led by Prime Minister Hatoyama. The DCM noted that, through detailed discussions with the Japanese side, the U.S. government was able to demonstrate to the Japanese people that the force realignment initiative was extremely carefully designed.
DCM Greene also noted that the peaceful return of Okinawa to Japanese administration marked the start of an egalitarian partnership between the United States and Japan, stressing that despite the tragic Battle of Okinawa during WWII, the two allies have together accomplished many things in the past 70 years. Referring to the strategic importance of Okinawa for peace and security in the entire East Asia region, the U.S. diplomat expressed his intention to mitigate the adverse impacts of military bases on local communities. Recalling his visit to Okinawa last year for the first time in almost a decade, the DCM stated that in his interactions with local residents, he felt that some of them now have a deeper understanding of the necessity for the presence of U.S. troops, perhaps due to mounting concerns about a potential contingency on the Senkaku Islands or in the Taiwan Strait. He noted that Japan’s deployment of additional SDF troops on the remote islands of Okinawa, in addition to bilateral defense cooperation, will help strengthen the Alliance’s deterrence against a conflict like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
DCM Greene emphasized Washington’s willingness to discuss with Tokyo and Okinawa not only outstanding issues related to military facilities, but also the future of the southernmost prefecture, which he said has much potential in addition to tourism. He envisaged the launch of an Okinawan version of Silicon Valley as well as renewable energy platforms, noting that the United States is ready to assist Okinawans with educational training on entrepreneurship. “We would like to return the favor in such areas to Okinawa residents who make contributions to regional peace and security,” said DCM Greene in conclusion.