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Japan says U.S. base in Okinawa is only solution

By Yuriko Nagano

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:09 a.m. HST, Jan 20, 2014

TOKYO » The Japanese government said Monday (Sunday in Hawaii) it would push forward with a long-stalled agreement to relocate a U.S. military base within Okinawa, despite the re-election of a mayor who opposes the plan.

A government spokesman said building the base in Nago city is the only solution, given all the factors involved.

"We remain unchanged on continuing steadily with the plan," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding the government would work hard to win over Okinawa residents.

His comments come a day after Nago city Mayor Susumu Inamine, who vowed to block construction of the base by denying permits for the project, won a hard-fought contest against a pro-base opponent supported by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"The local residents, the people of this prefecture are so much against this," Inamine said of the base after his victory.

The U.S. and Japan agreed in 1996 to move the Marines Corps Futenma air station to Nago from a more congested part of Okinawa, but many Okinawans want the base off their island completely.

The plan got a boost last month when the governor of Okinawa gave the go-ahead for land reclamation to build the new base, whose runways would extend over water from the U.S. military's existing Camp Schwab. Opponents filed a lawsuit last week seeking to invalidate the governor's approval.

Inamine's victory will make it more difficult to move forward, analysts said.

"I don't think it'll be easy now for the U.S. base to be relocated, but I think there is a limit to what a local mayor can do," said Toshiyuki Shikata, a former Japanese military officer and professor of political science at Teikyo University in Tokyo.

The Futenma air station would be moved from Ginowan city to the sparsely populated Henoko district in Nago, because of concerns about aircraft noise, accidents in civilian areas and base-related crimes such as rape. The proposed move is part of a broader plan to consolidate and reduce the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, currently home to about half of the U.S. troops in Japan.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports the move, wooed voters with promises of additional development funds for the city. But an exit poll of 1,204 voters by Japan's Kyodo News service found 65 percent opposed to the base, and 13 percent in favor.

Inamine got 19,839 votes, versus pro-base challenger Bunshin Suematsu, who received 15,684.

"Despite all the efforts, the Liberal Democratic Party has lost," said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. "I think it reflects how strongly people are opposed to a base relocation."

Before the vote, Hitoshi Morine, a spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry in Okinawa, said the government will seek bids soon for drilling surveys of the seafloor bedrock to begin designing the base.

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localguy wrote:
Nago city Mayor Susumu Inamine is just kowtowing to the special interest groups. Failing to realize the longer he delays construction of the new airfield, the longer Futenma air station will be taking up valuable and scarce city land space. He would be wise to follow the government lead, approve the project, and get it done as fast as possible. When done, Futenma will be dismantled, all land given back to the Okinawan people. He can't have it both ways.
on January 20,2014 | 06:29AM
HD36 wrote:
"Do not think that God has given America messionic powers such that it can be the police man of the world." Such arrogance will break the back bone of your power and I shall give it to a power that doesn't even know my name." -MLK
on January 20,2014 | 06:39AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
I am watching Chris Broussard of ESPN on SportsCenter right now. It's a LIVE commentary for The New York Knicks of the NBA.
on January 20,2014 | 08:04AM
pcman wrote:
IRT local guy on Inamine. At the end of WW II, Okinawa was placed under the control of the US, who won the war. The US gave back Okinawa to Japan in 1972 from the goodness of our government, not under any pressure from Japan or the UN. The GOJ and US should not have to move around or move out of Okinawa at the whims of local Okinawan or GOJ politicians. Additionally, any "desired" move needs approval by the US government, including the US Congress for strategic consideration, financial planning and treaty implications. Any such move, should also be paid for by the GOJ, including for land, infrastructure, buildings, dependent housing, PT facilities, morale and welfare facilities, support functions and local security forces. Final lesson, if we cannot retake Okinawa, next time we win a war against Japan, we should not give anything back.
on January 20,2014 | 10:38AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Okinawa is owned by Japan. Why should the GOJ have to pay for all the things you state to have U.S. troops there that the local people do not want there? If the U.S. wants to keep troops there, they should pay the cost and also rent for the land that they occupy. The U.S. does not rule the world and cannot do whatever they want.
on January 20,2014 | 06:57PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Environmentalists in the US would go absolutely wild if the US military proposed to fill in wet lands or a coral reef in the US or its territories to build a new base and they would prevent it from happening. The plan for the proposed new base on Okinawa is to fill in a reef near Nago, which has not been a secret, so why haven’t the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups objected to the proposed new US base on Okinawa?
on January 20,2014 | 08:29AM
Slow wrote:
Why does the United States have military bases all over the world? No other country has anything like this.
on January 20,2014 | 08:32AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Slow on military bases. Lessons learned from WW II, we need to have a military presence wherever we have Americans who represent America, live, work, study, travel, do business, do missionary activities and social actions, etc. to protect them and to ensure the security of American interests worldwide. Over 2 million Americans died overseas doing so in WW II. We did not want that to happen again and we have succeeded. The fear is that pulling back our military forces would put all of our citizens and interests at risk. Other countries cannot do what we have done. However, other countries have tried to take over more territory, though. But we have squelched them when we were asked for help.
on January 20,2014 | 09:47AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Other than the military and their contractors, what Americans do we have on Okinawa "who represent America" and need military protection? Are you saying that if there is an American living in Russia (for example) we need to have military presence there? Or China? Or Iraq? Or Mongolia?
on January 20,2014 | 06:51PM
whs1966 wrote:
Localguy refers to "special interest groups" as though there is something wrong with their participating in politics. Let's remember that all of us are part of at least one such group, whether tax-payers, firefighters, teachers, construction workers, welfare/public aid recipients, senior citizens, special needs students, teachers, members of the military-industrial establishment, the mega-rich, and even homeless people. In democratic societies, people are free to--and should--organize to make their wishes known.
on January 20,2014 | 01:22PM
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