Ok­i­nawa leader wants Amer­i­cans to stop US base

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE bi­cul­tural, newly elected gover­nor of the south­ern Ja­panese is­land of Ok­i­nawa plans to visit the United States with a mes­sage to the Amer­i­can peo­ple: Stop build­ing a dis­puted mil­i­tary base and build peace in­stead.

“I want the Amer­i­can peo­ple to un­der­stand what has been, what is and what will be, to solve this prob­lem,” Denny Ta­maki told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day at the Tokyo of­fice for Ok­i­nawa pre­fec­ture.

Ta­maki plans to visit New York and other US cities in Novem­ber, al­though dates and other de­tails are not yet de­cided, ac­cord­ing to the gover­nor’s of­fice.

Ta­maki took of­fice Oct. 4 af­ter cam­paign­ing for a dis­puted US Ma­rine air base to be moved en­tirely off the is­land and for the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence on Ok­i­nawa to be re­duced. The tiny is­land hosts about half of the 54,000 Amer­i­can troops sta­tioned in Ja­pan and ac­counts for 64 per­cent of the land used for U.S. mil­i­tary bases.

Ta­maki, 59, is the first per­son with an Amer­i­can par­ent to lead Ok­i­nawa, and he stressed that his bi­cul­tural roots make him per­fect to re­lay a mes­sage to the US pub­lic.

His fa­ther is a US Ma­rine he has never met. His mother, who raised him in Ok­i­nawa, burned all his fa­ther’s let­ter and pho­tos, Ta­maki re­called.

But he would like to meet his fa­ther in the US and hug him, he added.

“I’d like to say, ‘Hi, dad.’ How’ve you been?” he said in English and Ja­panese, wav­ing, adding jok­ingly per­haps 100 peo­ple might come for­ward.

He ac­knowl­edged he was not sure what he thought of the over­all pol­icy stances of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. A meet­ing with Trump is not on the trip agenda.

Ta­maki said al­though Trump ap­peared to take a neg­a­tive view to­ward Asia on trade, his ges­tures for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with North Korea, in­clud­ing a sum­mit ear­lier this year with leader Kim Jong Un, showed Trump was com­mit­ted to pur­su­ing re­gional peace.

“I would like to make it a win-win sit­u­a­tion,” for Trump and Ok­i­nawa, said Ta­maki, friendly and re­laxed in the of­fice filled with lion stat­ues and wo­ven trop­i­cal fabric.

Ta­maki, who had a ra­dio show be­fore be­com­ing a par­lia­men­tary law­maker in 2009, said he was all for the US-Ja­pan bi­lat­eral se­cu­rity treaty, signed af­ter Ja­pan’s de­feat in World War II. He was also not op­posed to Ja­pan’s hav­ing troops for self-de­fense, he said.

But Ja­panese peo­ple need to un­der­stand and talk more about se­cu­rity is­sues, de­fense spend­ing and the un­fair bur­den on Ok­i­nawa for host­ing US troops, he added.

Ok­i­nawa’s de­mands must be co­or­di­nated with the over­all Amer­i­can plan to re­lo­cate the US Marines in the Pa­cific, Ta­maki said.

At the cen­ter of con­tention is re­lo­cat­ing a US air base from densely pop­u­lated Futenma to less-crowded Henoko on the east coast. Early con­struc­tion has be­gun at Henoko, but it’s far from fin­ished.

The US and Ja­pan’s cen­tral govern­ment sup­port the re­lo­ca­tion, and govern­ment min­istries have re­jected Ok­i­nawa’s le­gal ma­neu­vers to block the con­struc­tion.

“The peo­ple of Ok­i­nawa have op­posed this new base for more than two decades and so there is a ba­sic mis­take in Henoko,” he said, not­ing what he called the “demo­cratic process” was be­ing ig­nored.

“We be­lieve the Ja­panese govern­ment should as­sert that to the Amer­i­can govern­ment, not that Henoko is the only so­lu­tion.” – AP

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