Okinawan governor faces revolt in assembly

OKINAWA —

Okinawan Gov Hirokazu Nakaima is facing a revolt after the prefectural assembly on Friday adopted a resolution calling for his resignation. The resolution says that Nakaima broke an election promise by giving his OK for the start of landfill work at Henoko, Nago, for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps air base at Futenma.

The resolution was passed 24-21. The assembly also demanded that the prefectural government oppose the the relocation of the base within Okinawa.

Nakaima has been under fire since he approved the plan last month. Threatening lawsuits and protests, opponents are gearing up to fight the decision.

The new base is designed to reduce the impact of the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa by replacing another base in a more congested area, but opponents want the operations moved off Okinawa completely.

“What the governor has done is unforgivable,” Yuichi Higa, the head of the assembly in Nago, said. “Residents who are opposed will surely resort to the use of force, such as blocking roads, to stop this from happening.” 

Hiroshi Ashitomi, head of a Nago group opposing the base, has said his organization would file a lawsuit challenging the governor’s decision.

The new base is part of a U.S.-Japan agreement that would also move 9,000 Marines off Okinawa, including transferring 5,000 to Guam.

The debate over the future of Futenma dates to 1996, when the U.S and Japan signed an agreement to close the base and move its operations elsewhere in Okinawa. In 2006, the two countries agreed to relocate the base to a relatively unpopulated area called Henoko in Nago city. But after the Democratic Party of Japan took power in 2009, it raised the possibility that the base could be moved off of Okinawa. While it later agreed to the Henoko plan, the proposal energized a movement to move the base elsewhere.

A key factor could be the outcome of a mayoral election in Nago on Jan 19 that pits an opponent of the Henoko plan against a supporter. Two independents are running for mayor—Bunshin Suematsu, 65, who favors relocation of the base to Nago, and Susumu Inamine, 68, who opposes the move. 

Japan Today/AP

  • 2

    darknuts

    The governor has put the lives and safety of Okinawan citizens ahead of politics which is something the others have a hard time doing. The base will not be moved off of Okinawa. It's too strategically important for holding off the blood thirsty Chinese hordes. So while the hardliners hold out for something unachievable, we have base in a heavily populated area. How long before the next helicopter crashes into a school? We've waited long enough. Now Thousands of marines will be moved off the island and the base will be moved to a safer area. The governor has made the right decision.

  • 1

    Graham DeShazo

    Gov. Nakaima should have known better than to make promises that were not up to him to keep. And now the fringe groups (as well as mainstream politians too afraid to oppose them) that he chose to lie down with are unhappy with him. I have very little sympathy.

    Everyone with a brain (that categorically rules out former PM Hatoyama) knew from the get go that the Marines were not leaving Okinawa. And yet there he was taking a hard line using confrontational language. He walked himself out on a thin branch with his pronouncements, and then he started to saw off the branch. What a surprise, he needs help to get out of the mess he made.

    The current relocation plan isn't perfect, but it's much better than the current arrangement. In addition, Okinawa will get an additional $ 3 billion per year for the next 5 years (I believe. ). Not a bad deal for the prefecture with the lowest per capita GDP and the lowest rate of jobs to job seekers.

    Dear Okinawan prefectural assembly: Stop harping, recognize a net positive when you see one, and take the deal.

  • 1

    voiceofokinawa

    darknuts (Jan. 13, 2014 - 09:24AM JST):

    You seem to sound great by saying, "The governor has put the lives and safety of Okinawa citizens ahead of politics."

    Our appeal has been to reduce the burden of hosting so many of the U.S. military bases and eliminate the hazards they bring to people's daily life as much as possible. No doubt, Futenma is the wold's most dangerous air base as former DOD secratary Donald Rumsfeld observed in 2003, for it sits in the very crowded residenetial section of a city. It must be closed in no time.

    Benevolently enough, Washington agreed in 1996 to return it in five to seven years, but there was a catch in the agreement which no one, Okinawa included, took very seriously at the time -- its replacement must be built within Okinawa.

    It's apparent that the U.S. side had Henoko as Futenma's relocation site from the very beginning. The Okinawa Marines had already drawn a blue print of a new base to build at Henoko in the 1960's, a plan strikingly similar to today's relocation plan.

    So, darknuts, your assertion that the lives and safety of Okinawa citizens should be considered ahead of politics is off the mark. Simply moving one base to another place in the vicinity doesn't solve the problem at all. Aircraft accidents can occur anywhere in base-congested Okinawa regardless of whether you live near a base or not. Take the 1959 Miyamori Elementary School jet fighter crash accident, for instance. Miyamori Elementary School is not located in the vicinity of Kadena Air Base and yet the accident occurred.

    That means that, even if Futenma were to be relocated to Henoko, crash accidents could occur anywhere in Okinawa just as well. In total, U.S. military aircraft caused 212 accidents, including 2 crashes, during the 7-year period from 2005 to 2012, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Government's documents.

    The Futenma issue has nothing to do with what you call the "China threat" nor North Korean nuclearization. It's only the U.S.'s militaristic and imperialistic ambition to keep Okinawa as its military colony indefinitely. You may not know, but the occupation of Okinawa to make it a beachhead for the U.S. to advance to Asia was the scheme Commodore Mathiew Perry entertained when he pried open the door of closed Japan in the 19th century.

  • -2

    Zenpun

    Okinawa is not the prefecture of Japan. It has been used as US bio chemical weapons test ground before. It is the cemetery of US Air Planes and Helicopters. It should be called as 52 state of USA. Residents are sick and tired of flop-flopping deals and broken promises.

    No amount of money or Jobs opportunities will change their commitment for kicking out the base into somewhere else in Japan.

  • 0

    toshiko

    Nakaima wanted to be accepter by LDP that he forgot there are people in Okinawa. So far, China and S. Korea re busy tp criticize Yasukuni visit. It is not in Okinawa so they haven't threatened any Okinawa invasin,

  • -2

    YuriOtani

    Am only so worried about a PRC invasion of Okinawa. They would have to get their landing craft through the US forces. The USA can position its carriers out of range of the PRC's mainland aircraft. I do think Kadena and Futenma will be knocked out early in any conflict. As for the US Marines if the PRC can land any sizable force on Okinawa they will be beat. This new airbase does not provide any additional protection in today's modern warfare.

  • -1

    YuriOtani

    Looks like the fight is not over yet.

  • -1

    Octagon

    Okinawan Gov Hirokazu Nakaima is a traitor and betrayed trust of the honest local people. If he can not deliver your promise, he should be resigned. If he will not resign, he should be deported to other part of Mainland.

  • 1

    darknuts

    @Octagon

    No he didn't. He took the best deal he could get. Now the base will be moved to a remote area and thousands of marines will get moved off the islands. It's a victory for the okinawan people. Accept it.

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    darknuts,

    Are you still there?

    Okinawans are appealing for the reduction of U.S. base-hosting burden in a tangible way by returning the Futennma air station unconditionally. Washington's answer to this is Futenma will be returned as we wish, but only if its replacement is built on reclaimed land in the less populated area of Henoko in northern Okinawa.

    You cannot call returning the land but demanding its replacement in the vicinity "return" in the true sense of the word. Note Futenma sits on private lands that were confiscated illegally in light of international law. The lands should have been returned 69 years ago when the war ended. How could darknuts say such dealing victory for Okinawa?

    As for relocating about 8,000 of the 18,000 marines now on the island to Guam and elsewhere:

    The figure 18,000 is not the actual number of marines stationed on Okinawa. The actual number is said to be about 12,000, which always fluctuates. So if the deduction is from 18,000, the remaining marines will be 10,000, which figure is not very different from the actual number of 12,000.

    Poster darknuts cannot demand highhandedly, "Accept it. It's victory for Okinawa."

  • 0

    toshiko

    I know Chian and S Korea have been accusing Japan for Yasukuni etc. But I can't recall China declared to invade Okinawa some day.

    @Yuri Otani: do you have info?

  • -1

    atrueokinawan

    The problem is that the Okinawan people have no friends in high places. The bureaucrats in Tokyo and the politicians especially the LDP despise the Okinawan people. Okinawa is kept as the poorest prefecture in Japan on purpose so it will be dependent on the U.S. bases and public work projects controlled by Tokyo.

  • 0

    toshiko

    When JT Times news stated that Japan will increase defence budget, and it needs money, I thought LDP will finally get rid of all US Military bases in Japan so that it can budget over 2.2 billion dollars Japan will save and use these to fill up weapon purchase. No, Oki Governor missed a chance to promote yankee Go Home sentiment of not only Okinawan people but also Mainland Japanese people. How many years since Japan lost war? Japanese people call Senryo Gun, Tried to call l back to Shinchu Gun but still Senryo Gun. Now, Japan has to find out money for weapons. That is ok. Boeing and other weapon companies use Japan Inc. products that use Japanese subcontractors. However, he is not going to be accepted by LDP main stream because he made LDP lose a good chance to save 2.2 million dollars plus a year/

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    ATO (Jan. 15, 2014 - 10:31PM JST),

    Tell me who should be despised, those U.S.-subservient bureaucrats and LDP politicians who want to keep the nation to be a U.S. vassal forever or those who seek a way for it to be a true, democratic sovereignty? Okinawa stands on the latter side.

  • 0

    sfjp330

    voiceofokinawa Jan. 16, 2014 - 06:08AM JST Tell me who should be despised, those U.S.-subservient bureaucrats and LDP politicians who want to keep the nation to be a U.S. vassal forever or those who seek a way for it to be a true, democratic sovereignty? Okinawa stands on the latter side.

    Let Japan defend themselves. Declare independence like what Philippines did few decades ago. This would be good news for U.S. taxpayers. If U.S. decides to leaves Japan entirely, let Japan spend ten percent increase a year in defense cos and your talking about at least $5 billion a year increase to upgrade their military for many decades. Currently, Japan only pays one percent of GDP for defense.

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    sfjp330 Jan. 16, 2014 - 06:20AM JST:

    When U.S. forces closed the Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Force base in 1991 did the Philippine government increase its military budget to counterbalance it? Negotiations have been going on for some time between Manila and Washington on how to deal with rising China, but certainly Manila must be resisting the U.S. initiative to re-open the two former U.S. bases, the abominable remnants of the colonial days.

    How to run a nation is purely that nation's internal problem. No outsider can interfere in the other's internal affairs, saying or rather intimidating, "You have to spend ten percent increase a year in defense costs." I'm not for Japan's current military status, but even if U.S. forces leave, Japan can save an enormous amount of money which it now pays to the U.S. coffers for being "protected". In that case, Japan's defense budget ceiling could be less than 1 percent. No big deal, isn't it?

  • 1

    sfjp330

    @voiceofokinawa

    It is very hard to frame and convey this positive view when the issue is wrapped in the rhetoric of the U.S.-Japan alliance as the “cornerstone” of U.S. and Asian security. I agree that U.S. interests will be best served by supporting Japanese defense build up that will eventually obviate the need for a U.S. security guarantee. This would happened by U.S. force withdrawals over time, undertaken under secret agreements with China.

    This is the only scenario that fits the larger geostrategic trends in the region. In this scenario the new, state-of-the-art base that will be built for Futenma relocation will be handed over to Japan at some point, serving as an important part of Japanese capability. That this is expected may be why Japan seems so willing to allocate so much money to the project.

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    sfjp330,

    The U.S. closed the two bases in the Philippines not because Manila demanded their closure but because it was very costly for the U.S. to operate them. The U.S. had to pay charge for using the bases, let alone their operating costs, all by itself. The Pinatubo volcano eruption was the last straw for the quick withdrawal of the U.S. forces.

    The story is quite ifferent in Japan. Tokyo pays rental fees to private land holders of U.S.bases and even shoulders more than 70 percent of base operating costs. No wonder the U.S. withdrew its forces from the Philippines and moved most of their function to Japan.

    The Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi prefecture was expanded by reclaiming the coastal waters recently. Now, the U.S. is demanding Futenma's replacement be built at Henoko in northern Okinawa with the state of art facilities added. Is Tokyo lavishing so much money into these bases, thinking these bases will be returned to Japan someday as sfjp330 thinks so simple-mindedly? If it does, Tokyo is full of stupid, imbecile bureaucrats and politicians. Who in the world will give away such special privileges already given and guaranteed by an international agreement?

  • 0

    toshiko

    $2,2 billlion a year owner pays to tenant. //No wonder LDP plans to increase its defence cost. LDP politicians do not have to increase tax for defence cost increment, When :Ynakee Go Home: is over, it has a full $2.2billion in the pocket of Japan. No wonder USDD begs Japan to let their bases stay in Okinawa. It can not afford to leave Okonawa. Well, it will get payment from Korea like it received from Japan for over 60 years/ $2.2 billion saving is a big savings. Some people say Japan need defence. It is Japan;s business. China will attack Okinawa? It is just like warniong Russia will attack say, Tibet.

  • 1

    Molenir

    The Philippians have virtually no defense, hence why China, had no qualms about simply stealing the Spratley islands from them. The Filipinos have no navy to back up their ownership, and so when China sent some ships out there a few years ago, and drove off the Filipinos, there was nothing they could do. Since then, they've started spending a bit more money on defense, and have gone to the US and asked for aid. Had they still had those US bases, China wouldn't have dared to take the Spratelys. It would have put them in direct conflict with the US.

    The same is true of Okinawa. China does not want open conflict with the US. Not even with a President as weak as Obama. The costs of such a conflict would be too high. At a minimum, the US could simply wipe out all debt owed to china, freeze all chinese accounts, and property owned by China in the US, and elsewhere. Such an action would do massive damage to the Chinese economy. To say nothing of the probability that they would lose any military conflict with the US. The US while less powerful then they were, has the ability to completely destroy the Chinese Navy, and the Chinese air force, simply could not withstand US air power. There is virtually no scenario, short of going nuclear, that has the Chinese able to defeat the US militarily, and the costs to such an adventure, would be disastrous.

    Having the US maintain its bases on Okinawa, means, that China, will not do as they did with the Philippians, openly attack Japan. For Japan, thats a good thing, as they save billions of dollars a year. For the US, its also a good deal. Though while it costs the US billions to maintain bases in Japan, by being there, they act as a deterrent to Chinese agression, and help to maintain the peace in the region. This being the case, the economic benefits for maintaining trade with 2 of its largest trading partners, is easily more then the cost to maintain the bases. And the benefit to Okinawa itself, is billions of dollars in the local economy. Pretty much everyone wins, except the hardliners from Okinawa and China that want the bases gone.

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    Molenir,

    I read your posting with a great interest. I'll come to you in a few days.

  • 0

    atrueokinawan

    I would like to know why the Okinawan people should have to bear the burden of hosting bases that provide for the defense of countries like the Philippines and other countries that refuse to host U.S. bases themselves.

  • 0

    YuriOtani

    Molenir, Japan can defend itself from the PRC threat. The Philippines has no navy and its two best ships are old US Coast Guard ships. They have no fighters and no sub hunting aircraft. Japan has a modern navy, air force and army. The American bases add little to the defense of Okinawa. They have only a few F-15C aircraft, few combat marines and few helicopters. What will save Japan is the SDF the fairly tale only the US military can defend Okinawa is nonsense. Now the Okinawa Governor has sold his soul to the Americans and Japanese. It will be an interesting summer!

  • -2

    voiceofokinawa

    Molenir,

    Don't repeat the Philippines' mistake? Is that what you want to caution Okinawa? Without U.S. bases, Okinawa or Japan may be invaded and swallowed up by China? Is that what happened or was likely to happen to the Philippines when Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base were closed and returned?

    We, Okinawans, hope someday all these U.S. bases must go of Okinawa and think that they can't remain here indefinitely as if Okinawa were America's military colony. Virtual and camouflaged occupation that has continued for 69 years since the end of World War II must end. Unfortunately, the island's base incomes are firmly structured into the overall economy, currently accounting for a little more than 5 percent.

    Like it or not, nobody in Okinawa thinks that the immediate closure of these bases is possible under the current situation, so that the closure or return of the bases must be made step by step. However, the bilateral agreement to return U.S. Marines Air Station Futenma on condition that its replacement must be built at Henoko in northern Okinawa runs counter to our wishes to get rid of bases someday because it appears the U.S. wants to maintain its bases forever, thus perpetuating the military presence, a.k.a., pseudo-occupation, no matter what. The so-called "China threat" has nothing to do with it.

    Futenma (480 ha) is a small fraction, a mere 2.06 percent, of all U.S. bases in Okinawa (23,247 ha) which occupy 18 percent of the land mass of Okinawa Island.

    Can you compare, then, the return of Futenma with the one hundred percent closure and return of the two bases in the Philippines and caution us not to repeat the same mistake as the Philippines made?

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