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2014年1月21日 (火)

名護市長再選 普天間移設は着実に進めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 20, 2014
Futenma relocation must go ahead despite outcome of Nago mayoral race
名護市長再選 普天間移設は着実に進めたい(1月20日付・読売社説)

Despite the outcome of Sunday’s mayoral election in Nago, the government should push ahead steadily with the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture to the city’s Henoko coastal district.

Incumbent Mayor Susumu Inamine, an adamant opponent of the relocation, secured a second term by defeating first-time candidate Bunshin Suematsu, a former Okinawa Prefectural Assembly member who supported the move.

In Nago’s five mayoral contests since 1998, candidates in favor of the relocation plan were victorious in the first three. Inamine won the other two.

The outcomes of the last two elections presumably were the result of the Democratic Party of Japan irresponsibly calling for the Futenma facility to be moved outside Okinawa Prefecture when it was in power, whipping up the expectations of residents of the prefecture. This helped lend ammunition to their arguments against the relocation of Futenma’s functions to Henoko, even among those voters who held conservative views.

Although New Komeito’s headquarters threw its support behind the relocation plan, the party allowed its members to freely cast their ballots in the mayoral race, while the party’s Okinawa prefectural chapter remained committed to having the facility relocated outside Okinawa Prefecture.

It was problematic for the party’s headquarters to give tacit approval to the prefectural chapter’s anti-relocation stance while supporting the relocation plan as a ruling party.

In his campaign, Suematsu promised to promote the local economy of Nago by strengthening cooperation with the central and Okinawa prefectural governments.

Suematsu was hampered in his efforts to make headway against Inamine by the delay in getting a former Nago mayor who supported the relocation to give up his plan to run, thereby unifying the pro-relocation camp.

As Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima gave the green light toward the end of 2013 for the central government’s application to carry out a land reclamation project at Henoko, the basic direction of advancing the Henoko relocation plan has effectively been irreversibly settled.

Delays must be avoided

The task of keeping intact the important functions of Futenma Air Station, which is responsible for transporting U.S. marines stationed in the prefecture, is of key significance to the Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan’s national security. This must not be affected by the outcome of a single local election.

Nakaima’s decision to approve the land reclamation prior to the mayoral election was appropriate from the standpoint of averting untoward developments.

The mayor of Nago has the licensing authority on such matters as approval of building construction material depots necessary to construct the new Futenma facility, so he would be able to delay construction to a certain degree. The mayor’s power, however, is not strong enough to bring the Henoko relocation plan to a halt.

Taking into account the weight of the votes garnered by Suematsu, Inamine should not use his authority to block the landfill work.

The government, for its part, should make further efforts to enhance close cooperation with Okinawa Prefecture by speeding up the landfill project with the aim of making the deterrence of the U.S. forces in Japan compatible with the goal of alleviating the burden on Okinawa Prefecture residents in hosting U.S. military installations.

The slower the pace of construction, the longer the perilous situation of Futenma Air Station will remain, as it is located in a densely populated area of a city.

Under the circumstances, schedules to implement other measures to alleviate the prefecture’s burdens, such as transferring U.S. marines to Guam and the return of U.S. military bases in the southern part of the prefecture to Japan, would also be delayed.

The cooperation of local communities is indispensable to ensure smooth progress and shorten the time needed to carry out such tasks as land reclamation work, which has been sought by Nakaima and other prefectural leaders.

The government must continue its endeavors to obtain the understanding of the people about the importance of the Henoko relocation plan by providing thorough explanations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 20, 2014)
(2014年1月20日01時29分  読売新聞)


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