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2015年3月26日 (木)

(社説)辺野古移設 沖縄の問いに答えよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 24
EDITORIAL: High time for government to answer Okinawa’s questions
(社説)辺野古移設 沖縄の問いに答えよ

How long will the central government continue to blatantly and completely ignore Okinawa Prefecture’s requests and questions concerning the plan to relocate a key U.S. air base?

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on March 23 ordered the Okinawa Defense Bureau to suspend within a week all work to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the crowded city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago. The ongoing work includes a seabed drilling survey to prepare for land reclamation off Henoko.

If the bureau refuses to obey his order, Onaga warns he will revoke the prefectural government’s permission, issued by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in August last year, for rock reefs to be destroyed for the construction work.

In a March 23 news conference, Onaga said, “I’ve made up my mind.” His move should be regarded as a strong signal of Okinawa’s will that this is effectively an ultimatum by the prefecture.

In pursuing the plan to build an airbase in Henoko to replace the Futenma facilities, the central government has repeatedly said it would continue efforts to win support from people in Okinawa. In reality, however, the government has been quietly but steadily going ahead with the plan without paying any attention to Okinawa’s calls.

Destruction of the rock reefs will alter the configuration of the seabed. To prevent a negative impact on marine resources, prefectural fisheries coordination regulations require advance permission from the prefectural governor for the destruction of such reefs.

The current row between the administration and the prefectural government began in January, when the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Defense Ministry’s local branch, sank a number of massive concrete blocks onto the seabed as anchors for buoys and floats that indicate the off-limits zones.

The blocks were sunk along the borders of the off-limits zones, which surround the areas where Nakaima approved the destruction of rock reefs for the construction work. This raised concerns about possible damage to coral reefs and other natural elements, prompting the prefectural government to start an on-site inspection on its own.

But the prefecture’s attempt to conduct an inspection in the off-limits areas was rejected by the U.S. military. The local government again submitted a request for U.S. permission for the inspection. When he ordered a suspension of the work, Onaga also asked the Defense Bureau to help with the prefectural government’s inspection.

Onaga, who defeated Nakaima in a gubernatorial election in November, initially called for a suspension of the work until an independent committee set up to assess Nakaima’s approval of land reclamation off Henoko reaches its conclusion.

But the Abe administration ignored his request and forged ahead with the drilling survey.

As for the sinking of concrete blocks, the administration has kept repeating that the Okinawa government headed by Nakaima said the act is not subject to procedures for approval. Tokyo has ignored the Okinawa government’s argument that its permission is required for sinking such massive blocks.

Onaga was elected on a pledge to stop the relocation of the Futenma air base to Henoko. It is only natural for him to use his administrative powers to take action to promote Okinawa’s position on the issue.

Criticizing Onaga’s move, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said, “I hope he will give a little more consideration to the interests of Okinawa Prefecture and Japan’s national security in thinking” about the issue.

But people in Okinawa Prefecture, which is home to an overwhelmingly large proportion of the U.S. bases in Japan, have many questions about the government’s security policy, such as why a base must be built in Henoko and why U.S. Marines have to be stationed in the prefecture.

The administration should make sincere and straightforward responses to these serious questions asked by Okinawa.


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« チュニジア襲撃 「民主化モデル」を脅かすテロ | トップページ | (社説)不平等な一票 正統性が問われている »