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2010年4月27日 (火)


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 26
EDITORIAL: Rally in Okinawa.

The stock excuse seems to be that it's a problem in faraway Okinawa Prefecture that has little to do with us. That's rubbish.

A mass rally was held Sunday in Okinawa to demand the removal of the Futenma U.S. airfield from the prefecture, or out of the country altogether. According to the organizers, 90,000 people attended.

"To everyone in the country, the Okinawa base problem is not just an Okinawa problem," Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima thundered at the rally. His message was this: Japan's national security affects each and every one of us and the issue is directly linked to the existence of U.S. bases in Okinawa. This means that people living outside of Okinawa should think about the burden borne by those residing in the midst of those bases.

Every Japanese citizen benefits from the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is the main pillar in Japan's security policy. While U.S. bases that support the alliance are dispersed widely--Misawa in Aomori Prefecture, Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture, Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture, etc.--75 percent of the facilities are concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture.

American logic dictates that if the two countries are to continue monitoring North Korea's nuclear capability or the Sino-Taiwan situation, then the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to a new site within Okinawa Prefecture would be the rational military move.

Because of the high concentration of bases, Okinawans are forced to live with an inordinately high risk of accidents, as well as intolerable noise levels. Their burden is totally disproportionate to the load carried elsewhere. It is no wonder that Okinawans feel a "sense of injustice, as if being discriminated against," as Nakaima has said.

The entire nation benefits, yet it is Okinawa that bears the brunt of the burden. This glaring discrepancy infuriates Okinawans and was the trigger behind Sunday's mass rally.

With the end-of-May deadline for a "solution" to the Futenma issue drawing near, the Hatoyama administration shows no sign of having a substantive plan. By rights, the proposal to reduce Okinawa's burden and share it more equitably over the entire nation, and to search for a possible relocation site outside the prefecture, is not wrong.

But in the face of such an overwhelmingly difficult issue, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has gone about things in a totally ill-prepared manner. Despite having said he has a plan in mind, there is no knowing whether there is any substance to the remark. Although Hatoyama tried to seek negotiations with the island of Tokunoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture, the local mayors gave him the cold shoulder. Negotiations with the U.S. government during the past seven months have also been totally out of sync.

We do not expect the government to disclose every single detail of diplomatic negotiations when another party is involved. But from what we have seen, the prime minister seems to be doing nothing other than repeating half-baked attempts to beat the deadline. There is little time left. If the option to relocate the base "outside the prefecture" is not going to bear fruit, then the nation will have no recourse but to have Okinawa bear the burden--for the time being.

The prime minister should offer the nation an explanation. He should explain what the government has done to try to move the base outside the prefecture and what it discussed with the United States about the intersection between our security needs and taking care of citizens living near the base. What does Washington think should be done about Okinawa's future burden.

Without a proper explanation, the administration's proposal to have the entire nation share the burden loses all appeal.


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