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2014年11月 1日 (土)

沖縄知事選告示 「辺野古」で責任ある論戦を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Okinawa gubernatorial race candidates must discuss Henoko issue responsibly
沖縄知事選告示 「辺野古」で責任ある論戦を

What should be done to alleviate Okinawa Prefecture’s burden in hosting U.S. military bases? Every candidate must engage in the debate in a responsible manner.

Gubernatorial campaigns in the prefecture have been announced. Incumbent Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is seeking a third consecutive term, while three others have declared first-time candidacies: former Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, former House of Councillors member Shokichi Kina, and former postal reform minister Mikio Shimoji.

The biggest electoral issue is seen to be the problem of relocating the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station.

Nakaima, who is backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, has made an appeal for “making the resolution of the Futenma issue a top priority,” saying he is in favor of relocating the base to the Henoko district in the city of Nago in the prefecture.

Onaga has said, “We will utilize every possible means to block the construction of a new base,” opposing the Henoko relocation plan.

Kina’s campaign pledges include nullifying and revoking the authorization for the reclamation of land where the new base is to be built. Shimoji, for his part, has argued for holding a prefecture-wide referendum to allow voters to decide on the advisability of the relocation.

In the previous contest for the post of governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Nakaima sought relocation of the Futenma facility to a site outside of the prefecture. But toward the end of last year, he gave the go-ahead for landfill work in waters along the coast of Henoko. That was because he placed topmost importance on eliminating the dangers related to Futenma Air Station, which is situated in a densely populated urban area.

The relocation of Futenma to Henoko is the most realistic option from the standpoint of making compatible the alleviation of Okinawa’s base-hosting burden and maintaining the deterrent power of U.S. forces. Realization of the Futenma relocation plan will certainly be of great significance.

Delay could create risks

The Japanese and U.S. governments reached an agreement in April 2013 that Futenma would be returned for Japanese use as early as fiscal 2022, under the assumption that the air station will be moved to Henoko. In the event of a delay in the planned relocation, it would be highly likely that the reversion of not only Futenma but five other U.S. military installations in the prefecture, including Camp Zukeran, which was also included in the agreement, would be postponed.

The candidates opposing the Henoko relocation plan must come up with specific alternatives that would eliminate the dangers related to Futenma. They must also offer a convincing justification of the risks that would result from delaying the alleviation of the base-hosting burden carried by Okinawa Prefecture as a whole.

The Defense Ministry has obtained authorization for the landfill work through necessary and legitimate procedures on the basis of the Publicly Owned Water Surface Reclamation Law. The law does not stipulate such possibilities as revocation of the landfill plan as referred to by Kina. A unilateral alteration of the decision on the landfill work, which has a legal basis, would constitute the abuse of administrative power.

Meanwhile, Komeito’s decision to let its supporters vote at their own discretion deserves to be questioned. Although the party’s headquarters supports the Henoko relocation plan, it was unable to persuade its Okinawa prefectural chapter, which is against the plan, to shelve their opposition. Thus it has fallen short of providing the party’s backing for Nakaima. This cannot be considered responsible behavior on the part of the LDP’s ruling coalition partner.

The stance that the Democratic Party of Japan has taken in the gubernatorial race is also questionable. After causing imbroglios over the Futenma issue under the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ changed its policy, agreeing to extend its support for the Henoko relocation plan. The DPJ decision this time to leave its supporters’ votes in the gubernatorial election up to their discretion can also be deemed irresponsible.

Recently, the peace and security of Okinawa Prefecture have been threatened, as shown by such facts as the repeated intrusions of Chinese government vessels into Japanese territorial waters in the vicinity of the prefecture’s Senkaku Islands. It is of great importance for the candidates for the top post of governor of the prefecture to also discuss such problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 31, 2014) Speech


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