首相沖縄訪問 現実的な基地負担軽減を図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Realistic approach needed to reduce burden of U.S. bases in Okinawa Pref.
首相沖縄訪問 現実的な基地負担軽減を図れ

One of two important tasks is to maintain the deterrent capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance to preserve our national security. The other is to reduce the excessive burden shouldered by Okinawa due to the presence of U.S. bases there. Political leaders are obliged to come up with realistic measures to ensure the two goals are compatible, and make steady progress in achieving these objectives.

On Tuesday, a ceremony was held in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, to commemorate those killed in the prefecture during World War II. It is believed that organized combat in the Battle of Okinawa ended on June 23, 1945.

In his address during the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said with emphasis, “We have earnestly walked the path of peace in abhorrence of war over the past 70 years.”

“We must also continue making tireless efforts toward achieving international peace,” the prime minister said. Abe also reiterated his intention to do his utmost to reduce the burden shouldered by local residents because of the U.S. bases in the prefecture.

In his peace declaration, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga called for halting a project to transfer functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko area. “People [in the prefecture] expressed their opposition [to the relocation project] in [last year’s] election, and it is therefore difficult [to build a new base at Henoko],” he said.

Onaga also said, “The suggestion that Okinawa should present an alternative plan [for the transfer of the Futenma functions to Henoko] cannot be condoned.”

The governor devoted nearly half his speech to making references to the Futenma issue.

We believe Onaga was out of order for advancing his political views during this opportunity to pay tribute to the war victims and renew a pledge to pursue peace. Solely emphasizing his confrontational stance against the central government will do nothing to resolve the complex and difficult Futenma base issue.

Constructive dialogue vital

It was decided not to arrange a formal meeting between Abe and Onaga on the sidelines of Tuesday’s ceremony. One of the factors behind this decision may have been the improbability that any progress would result. Still, the decision is disappointing. We hope the prime minister and the governor will use every opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue.

The Futenma base, used by the U.S. forces since the war ended in 1945, lies in the central part of Ginowan. There is a possibility of serious accidents if the installation remains there. At the same time, it has long hindered the city’s development.

The only practical solution to overcoming this situation is relocating the Futenma facility to Henoko.

The Futenma Air Station symbolizes the U.S. military presence in the prefecture. If the relocation project is translated into action, it would represent a significant achievement after many years of great efforts by the central government and local entities to promote the realignment of U.S. forces.

Questions must be raised about the latest action taken by the Social Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and other forces that constitute the mainstay of the Onaga-led prefectural government. They have submitted to the prefectural assembly a proposal for the creation of an ordinance that would impose restrictions on bringing earth, sand and stone into the prefecture from outside of the prefecture, citing the need to implement environmental protection measures. Such materials are used for land reclamation work.

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, it could cause delays not only in the Futenma-to-Henoko transfer plan but in the ongoing construction of a second runway at Naha Airport. The new runway project is aimed at invigorating the prefecture’s economy while also resolving overcrowded flight schedules at the airport. The project was started in response to the strong desire by local residents for a new runway. Business circles in the prefecture also are worried about the proposed ordinance.

We find it difficult to understand what kind of environmental benefit can be gained through restrictions on earth and sand being brought into the prefecture from other parts of the country. We regard the submission of the proposed ordinance as opportunistic. Doing so will only deepen the schism between the central government and local residents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2015)

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