Okinawa governor pleads case against new US base

The Okinawa governor was unable to win over US officials on Washington, Hawaii visit

Okinawa governor pleads case against new US base

World Bulletin / News Desk

A Japanese governor opposed to the relocation of a U.S. military base has visited Washington a month after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe– but there was quite a contrast in their reception.

A month ago, Abe was treated to a standing ovation from 535 members when he addressed a Joint Session of Congress, during a visit and summit meeting with President Barack Obama.

On a similar trip this week, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga was met by an acting deputy secretary of state for East Asian affairs.

To be sure, Onaga – who was elected in November after campaigning on a platform to stop work on a new airbase in Henoko district -- had not realistically expected the United States to roll out the red carpet for his visit.

His main message -- “Henoko cannot be built” -- is not popular in Washington or Tokyo, but he probably got points for trying among his anti-base constituency. Onaga had defeated Hirozaki Nakaima, who as governor had given his approval to begin some of the reclamation work at Henoko on Okinawa’s more remote coast.

The proposed new airbase is to replace an existing Marine Corps airfield named Futenma that now sits in the middle of the densely populated city of Ginowan.

The proposed new base isn’t the only issue in the 20-year effort to reduce the U.S. military “footprint’ on the strategic island. But it is key -- without Henoko the entire plan falls apart.

Both Washington and Tokyo consider the matter closed. During Onaga’s first six months in office, Abe -- who considers it an important mission to strengthen security ties with the U.S. -- refused to even meet with him.

The governor was not entirely snubbed during his trip. He met with the governor of Hawaii and both U.S. senators from the state during a stopover.

He even won Senator Brian Schatz’s support for closing down Henoko.

While in Washington, Onaga did see Sen. John McCain, the influential chairman of the Senate Committee on the Armed Services who was polite enough to meet the governor -- but was not moved by any arguments to stop the airfield’s construction.

The people of Okinawa have long felt oppressed by hosting around two-thirds of the entire U.S. military establishment in Japan.

In 1995, following a gruesome rape case involving a marine, Washington and Tokyo agreed in principle to reduce the military presence on the island.

The deal, however, has never been implemented as it has proved impossible to satisfy all three parties: Okinawa, Japan and the U.S.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the first opposition party premier in recent memory, had tried to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all. Failing to do so, he resigned from office.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Haziran 2015, 11:29