Ok­i­nawa pushes for base move

Gover­nor says putting Ma­rine site on east coast un­ten­able

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO — The new gover­nor of Ok­i­nawa said Fri­day that he wants Amer­i­cans to know that the U.S. and Ja­pa­nese govern­ments are forc­ing a re­lo­ca­tion of a U.S. Ma­rine base that res­i­dents want re­moved from the south­ern Ja­pa­nese is­land.

Denny Ta­maki was elected last month af­ter cam­paign­ing for mov­ing the dis­puted Ma­rine base en­tirely off the is­land and re­duc­ing the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence.

Ta­maki, who took of­fice Oct. 4, held talks in Tokyo with Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe on Fri­day and urged the cen­tral govern­ment to do more to re­duce the bur­den on Ok­i­nawa of host­ing U.S. bases and have it shared by the rest of Ja­pan.

Ta­maki said the cen­tral and Ok­i­nawan govern­ments re­mained di­vided on the base re­lo­ca­tion, and that he wants U.S. in­volve­ment in re­solv­ing the is­sue.

Cur­rently, Wash­ing­ton’s po­si­tion is that the dis­pute should be re­solved be­tween Tokyo and Ok­i­nawa.

“I want to ap­peal to Amer­ica, where the peo­ple have a clear sense of democ­racy, that they should not ne­glect this base prob­lem,” Ta­maki said. “I want them to know that the for­mer and cur­rent gover­nors have clearly op­posed the cur­rent plan, and both have won the con­fi­dence of the Ok­i­nawan peo­ple.”

Ta­maki suc­ceeded Takeshi Onaga, who fought against the Henoko plan and died in Au­gust of can­cer.

At the cen­ter of con­tention is a decades-old plan to re­lo­cate the Ma­rine Corps air sta­tion from the densely pop­u­lated area of Futenma in south­ern Ok­i­nawa to less-crowded Henoko on the east coast. Ta­maki and many Ok­i­nawans want the air sta­tion to be moved off the is­land in­stead.

Abe replied that he un­der­stands that Ok­i­nawan peo­ple find it un­ac­cept­able that their land is still oc­cu­pied by a heavy U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence more than 70 years af­ter World War II, and that he will be mind­ful of their feel­ings and work to steadily re­duce their bur­den.

Abe and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump have reaf­firmed the Henoko plan, call­ing it “the only so­lu­tion that avoids con­tin­ued use” of the Futenma lo­ca­tion.

The re­lo­ca­tion plan was de­vel­oped af­ter the 1995 rape of a school­girl in which three U.S. ser­vice­men were con­victed. The case ig­nited sim­mer­ing Ok­i­nawan op­po­si­tion to the U.S. bases.

Ta­maki told Abe that many Ok­i­nawans also want a re­vi­sion of the Sta­tus of Forces Agree­ment with the United States, which gives Amer­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel cer­tain le­gal priv­i­leges.

Achiev­ing those goals would be dif­fi­cult be­cause the cen­tral govern­ment takes prece­dence over the lo­cal govern­ment in Ja­pan-U.S. al­liance is­sues.

About half of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Ja­pan un­der a bi­lat­eral se­cu­rity pact and the ma­jor­ity of their key fa­cil­i­ties are on Ok­i­nawa. Res­i­dents have long com­plained about base-re­lated noise, pol­lu­tion and crime.

Ta­maki told Abe that he sup­ports the Ja­pan-U.S. se­cu­rity al­liance, but that Ok­i­nawa should not be the only one sac­ri­ficed. “Every­one in Ja­pan should think about it,” he said.

“We will keep ask­ing for di­a­logue so that the voices of Ok­i­nawan peo­ple are heard,” Ta­maki said.


“I want to ap­peal to Amer­ica” about Ok­i­nawans’ de­sire to move the U.S. Ma­rine base off the is­land, Ok­i­nawa Gov. Denny Ta­maki (cen­ter) said Fri­day af­ter meet­ing with Ja­pa­nese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

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