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2010年5月25日 (火)

首相沖縄再訪 決断先送りのツケは大きい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 25, 2010)
Delaying Futenma decision has high price
首相沖縄再訪 決断先送りのツケは大きい(5月24日付・読売社説)

The government undoubtedly will pay a high price for not resolving the Futenma relocation issue by the end of last year, in line with what Japan and the United States agreed on in 2006. Many difficulties lie ahead.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama visited Okinawa Prefecture again Sunday and told Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima of the government's intention to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district of Nago. The visit came after Japan and the United States reached a basic agreement to construct Futenma's replacement facilities off the coast of the marines' Camp Schwab in the district.

Nakaima, however, disapproved of the government plan. The governor said the government's choice was "extremely regrettable" and it would be "exceedingly difficult" to implement the plan.

Nakaima had originally accepted the 2006 relocation plan to construct Futenma replacement facilities in Henoko. But as Hatoyama dillydallied on the matter and public calls for the base to be shifted outside the prefecture grew louder, Nakaima changed his stance and now believes relocating the Futenma base within the prefecture will be difficult.

Susumu Inamine, a staunch opponent of the relocation to Henoko, was elected Nago mayor in January. This threw a wrench in the central government's attempts to make a final decision on the relocation issue.


Buck stops with Hatoyama

Had Hatoyama adhered to the 2006 plan last year by overriding the opposition of the Social Democratic Party, the tumultuous to-ing and fro-ing that has occurred this year could have been avoided. Hatoyama bears a heavy responsibility for this politically damaging misjudgment.

During his meeting with Nakaima, Hatoyama insisted the government would lessen Okinawa's burden by dispersing U.S. military exercises to other prefectures. He pointed out the deterrent provided by the U.S. military presence in Okinawa is critical as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula, and sought Nakaima's support for the government plan.

To prevent the latest relocation plan from becoming deadlocked due to opposition from the prefectural government and Okinawa residents, the central government must persuade the governor to change his mind. This will not be simple, though.

Since its inauguration in September, the Hatoyama administration has been at sixes and sevens over the Futenma relocation because it had no "control tower" overseeing the matter. This strained the trust between the government and the prefectural and Nago municipal governments and residents. Before anything else, the administration must steadily rebuild these relationships.


Lay it on the line

The 2006 plan calls for moving the Futenma base from a crowded area of Ginowan to the sparsely populated Henoko district in the northern part of prefecture, the transfer of 8,000 marines to Guam, and the return of Futenma and five other U.S. military facilities to Japan's sovereignty. The government needs to honestly explain that implementing the 2006 deal can considerably reduce the burden that hosting the U.S. military places on Okinawa residents.

The SDP's strident opposition to the Futenma transfer to Henoko also has complicated the move.

Some members of the Democratic Party of Japan want the government's decision on the final relocation plan postponed until after the scheduled end-of-May deadline. But such inconsistency would be an inexcusable repeat of the misjudgment the government made last year regarding a final settlement deadline.

The DPJ holds more than 400 seats in both houses of the Diet. If the DPJ-led government allows itself to be pushed around by the SDP, a tiny coalition partner with only about 10 Diet seats, and fails to decide on matters that affect national security, it would run counter to the national interest.

Resolving this issue will test Hatoyama's resolve and leadership to the limit.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 24, 2010)
(2010年5月24日01時16分  読売新聞)


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