Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tokyo and Okinawa at Loggerheads Over US Army Base

The recently elected governor of Okinawa is refusing to bend to the orders of Tokyo authorities seeking to relocate and redevelop the US military presence in the region.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga told Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in a meeting on Sunday that he is "convinced that the new [US air] base can never be built," in a setback for the Tokyo administration, as it seeks to redevelop the presence of around 47,000 US military personnel stationed in the country.

Onaga became governor in December on a platform to put a stop to plans to build a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps' base, which is currently at Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City. The plan to move the base to the less populated Henoko District, in the coastal area of Nago, Okinawa, was approved by Onaga's predecessor but has raised fierce opposition from local residents in Okinawa.

  • Around 26,000 US military personnel are based in Okinawa, the country's southernmost prefecture, and where 74 percent of the total land of US military facilities in Japan is located.  
  • Governor Onaga told Suga on Sunday that the prefecture "never voluntarily offered [land] for bases," and that the burden should be spread throughout Japan, rather than relocating the base to another location in Okinawa.

"You say we should shoulder [the burden of the base] because [Futenma] is the most dangerous [one] in the world and its risks need to be eliminated, all the while causing the people of this prefecture great pain," said Onaga.

On Sunday, demonstrators staged a protest outside the hotel where Governor Takeshi Onaga and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga were holding their talks; the demonstration was attended by an estimated 1,500 people. Local media reported isolated clashes with police at the protest, at which local residents of Okinawa sought to express their opposition to the building of new bases in the area, which bears the greatest burden of US personnel stationed in Japan under the terms of the 1951 Security Treaty with the US.

  • Suga repeated on Sunday the central government's belief that relocation to Nago is the only option for Japan to fulfill the terms of its defense alliance with Japan, citing the safety risks of the existing base, and the need to "maintain the deterrent power of the Japan-US alliance."
The closing of the base at Futenma and the construction of a facility in a new location 50 kilometers away was first planned in 1996, as a response to outrage after the gang-rape in 1995 of a 12 year-old-girl by US troops stationed at the base. However, the central government's plans to move the base have been repeatedly blocked by local residents due to the crime risk posed by US servicemen stationed there.

In 2008 US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice apologized for a series of crimes committed by US servicemen stationed at the base, including allegations of drink-driving, robbery and rape. In March, 2013, two US servicemen were sentenced by a court in Okinawa to ten and nine years each in prison for the rape and robbery of a woman in a parking lot.



U.S. Futenma airbase opponent wins Japan's Okinawa governor election



  1. The population of Japan's Okinawa Prefecture is growing more angry over the plans of the country's government to relocate a US military base from one part of the island to another, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga said Sunday...

    Japanese authorities are planning to relocate the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the city of Nago. The plans face opposition from local environmentalists and civic groups who are against damage to flora and fauna, as well as US military presence in the region.

    "People in Okinawa never volunteered to host military bases… And the more the government insists the work continues, the more alienated and angry the people of Okinawa become," Onaga was quoted as saying by Euronews.

    Rallies have been erupting in Japan over the government's decision of the US base's relocation, which was agreed upon back in 2006...............

  2. Suga says he will no longer use term ‘proceed as planned’ over Futenma relocation...

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday he will no longer use the expression “shukushuku-to,” which roughly translates as “proceed as planned,” when explaining the Abe administration’s position on the planned relocation of the Futenma air base in Okinawa Prefecture.

    Suga made the comment a day after Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga criticized him for repeatedly using the term to express the administration’s policy of pressing ahead with the plan to build the replacement facility in the Henoko area in Nago, farther north on Okinawa Island than its current location in the city of Ginowan.

    “If (the expression) made him feel uncomfortable, I don’t think I should use it,” Suga, who doubles as minister in charge of reducing the burden on Okinawa of hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan, said at a news conference...............

  3. Onaga renews vow to block Henoko base construction...

    Local leaders and anti-base protesters will try to block construction work on a new air base in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, and it could seriously damage the Japan-U.S. military alliance, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga warned on Wednesday.

    “It’s not easy for the Coast Guard and riot squads to stop (anti-base protesters). I’d like to tell America that (we) will never let them build” the air base, Onaga said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

    Tokyo plans to build a replacement base in the Henoko area of Nago for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is located in the Okinawan city of Ginowan.

    Onaga also said he and Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine will take every legal measure available to obstruct the construction work at the Nago site.

    “It’s wrong to assume you can carry out the plan,” Onaga said, adding that is one of the key message of his diplomatic trip to Washington, which will begin on May 27.

    “I fully understand (the importance) of the Japan-U.S. alliance. You should never break it down,” Onaga said.

    Tokyo and Washington have agreed to relocate the Futenma base, which sits in the middle of a densely populated area, due to noise and safety concerns..............

    1. Okinawa governor criticizes US bases damaging local economy ...

      Takeshi Onaga, the governor of the Japanese southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa, on Wednesday criticized that US bases in Okinawa has been damaging local economic growth and Japan is only a follower of US policy.

      Onaga said that US base-related revenue only takes about 4.9 percent of the prefecture's gross domestic products, a tumble of some 45-percent since the 1945, adding that local economy witnessed momentum after exploiting and developing the land returned from the US bases.

      Okinawa merely accounts for about 0.6 percent of entire Japanese territory, but the tiny island prefecture is home to about 74 percent of US military bases in Japan. The governor commented that the US bases are the major obstacle for the prefecture to develop economy.............

  4. Hawaii senator to help Okinawa oppose Futenma transfer...

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has vowed to support Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga as he tries to stop the planned transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.

    The Democratic senator made the remarks after Onaga, during talks in Honolulu on Thursday, asked for help in blocking the plan to relocate the base from a congested area in the city of Ginowan to the coastal Henoko district in Nago.

    After meeting with Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense, Onaga told reporters he got “a strong statement” from the senator. Onaga quoted Schatz as saying he would do his utmost to help get the plan rejected, and also said the issue needs to be

  5. Futenma replacement base ‘fundamental’ to security, U.S. tells Okinawa governor...

    U.S. officials told the governor of Okinawa on Wednesday that a U.S. forces presence on the Japanese island, which he opposes, is fundamental to the U.S. commitment to defend Japan.

    Officials from the U.S. State and Defense Departments told Takeshi Onaga in a meeting in Washington that the United States and Japan shared “an unwavering commitment” to building a new base for U.S. Marines on Okinawa Island, a State Department statement said.

    “The United States’ troop presence in Okinawa is fundamental to our treaty commitment to the defense of Japan,” the statement

  6. Okinawa Governor to Revoke Permits for New US Base ...

    The governor of Japan's southern island of Okinawa says he will revoke permits for the construction on a new U.S. air base on his island, after talks broke down between his administration and officials in Tokyo.

    Takeshi Onaga told reporters Monday that his government was taking the action after discovering "defects" in the original permits issued by his predecessor. His decision was announced just days after work resumed at the site near a remote coastal village on Okinawa called Henoko. The construction had been suspended for a month to allow for the negotiations.

    Onaga was elected governor last year on a pledge to block the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Base from a heavily populated area of Okinawa to Henoko, and instead move the facility to another island. Tokyo and the United States negotiated the relocation in recognition of residents' complaints of noise pollution from the air base and the large number of U.S. military personnel on the island. Over 19,000 U.S. Marines are stationed in Okinawa in order to rapidly respond to regional threats, provide disaster assistance and defend the interests of the United States and Japan......................


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