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2015年11月 1日 (日)

(社説)辺野古、本体工事着手 埋め立て強行は許されぬ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 30
EDITORIAL: Japan's cherished values apparently don't apply to Okinawa
(社説)辺野古、本体工事着手 埋め立て強行は許されぬ

How long does the central government intend to continue the history of discriminatory treatment against Okinawa?

The government on Oct. 29 started the main part of land reclamation work in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, to build a new U.S. air base to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, a crowded city in the southernmost prefecture.

We cannot help but cast serious doubt on the way the Abe administration has been forging ahead with its plan to build the base, paying little attention to the voices of many people in Okinawa who have clearly rejected the plan.

The administration is running roughshod over Okinawan people’s will and human rights.

At the same time, the situation raises some serious questions about the moral standards of this nation, which keeps forcing Okinawa, only a small part of it, to bear an unfairly excessive burden for national security.

Reasons for Okinawa’s rejection of Henoko plan

We again urge the administration to immediately stop the construction work in Henoko and hold serious talks with the Okinawa prefectural government over the issue.

Let us look back again on Okinawa’s history from the viewpoint of Okinawa’s people.

In the closing days of the Pacific War, Okinawa became a scene of a devastating ground battle that killed a quarter of the local population. Okinawa was used as a “sacrifice” for the defense of mainland Japan.

For many years after the end of the war, Okinawa was excluded from the benefits of Japan’s postwar Constitution, which espouses pacifism and guarantees basic human rights. The U.S. military, which ruled Okinawa with an iron fist, took land from local residents forcefully with “bayonet and bulldozer” and built bases around the prefecture.

Forty-three years since Okinawa’s long-awaited reversion to Japanese sovereignty, the prefecture, which constitutes only 0.6 percent of national land, is still home to 73.8 percent of the facilities used exclusively by the U.S. military in Japan.

Seven decades since the end of World War II, no other area in the world hosts as many foreign military bases.

Okinawa has been continuously plagued by accidents, crimes, noise and other problems related to U.S. bases. This is the grim reality of Okinawa.

Despite all of this, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga doesn’t deny the importance of Japan’s security alliance with the United States. Nor does he demand that the United States return its Kadena Air Base, which is important for deterrence provided by the U.S. forces.

Onaga and people in Okinawa are saying “no” to the government’s blatant attempt to force Okinawa to accept a new U.S. military base despite the prefecture’s long history of suffering from the heavy U.S. military presence.

Once a new base with state-of-the-art military facilities is built in Henoko, it will be hard to get it removed. It is quite likely to become a permanent base.

Listen to the voices of the people

The will of people in Okinawa to reject the planned new base was made indisputably clear in a series of elections last year. Candidates opposed to the Futenma relocation plan won in the Nago mayoral election in January, the Okinawa gubernatorial poll in November and in all of Okinawa’s four single-seat constituencies in the Dec. 14 Lower House election.

But the series of actions taken by the Abe administration to build the new base makes it hard to believe that the administration has any serious interest in listening to the voices of people in Okinawa.

To override Onaga’s decision to revoke approval of land reclamation work for the Henoko project, the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa bureau resorted to the administrative complaint investigation system to request a temporary injunction against Onaga’s move. The land minister, a member of the same government, on Oct. 27 issued the requested injunction.

The system is originally designed to provide relief to private individuals who have suffered damage from actions by administrative organizations.

How can the Defense Ministry’s local bureau qualify as a “private individual?” Is it reasonable for the land minister, a member of the Cabinet, to decide on a dispute between the central government and a prefectural government? There is serious doubt about the fairness of this step.

At the same time, the Abe administration has also embarked on the procedures for administrative substitute execution under the local government law in an attempt to disempower the prefectural government.

The administration’s confrontational attitude indicates that it has no intention to try to find common ground with the prefecture.

As a point to note for the Okinawa governor’s permission for land reclamation in Henoko, talks are supposed to be held between the central government and the prefectural government before the main part of the work begins.
The administration has said repeatedly that the talks are already over, turning a deaf ear to the prefectural government’s claim that they are not.

In addition, the administration has announced its decision to provide state subsidies for local development directly to the three districts of Kushi, Henoko and Toyohara in Nago, collectively known as the “Three Kube Districts,” bypassing the governments of Okinawa Prefecture and Nago.

Do all these facts mean the administration intends to simply ignore the opinions and intentions of the prefectural and municipal governments, which are opposed to the Henoko base plan? Does the Abe administration think only areas that support its policy constitute the nation it serves?

During the one-month intensive talks between Tokyo and Okinawa over the issue held this summer, the administration did little more than let the prefectural government say what it had to say.

Given that the administration later switched to a hard-line stance toward the prefecture, it is hard to deny that the talks were only intended as a means to buy time for enacting national security legislation.

Japan’s integrity called into question

Removing the danger posed by the Funtenma air base is the usual refrain used by the government to justify its plan to build a new base in Henoko.

When the United States considered curtailing and consolidating its military bases in Okinawa, however, the Japanese government showed reluctance in supporting the idea.

Nineteen years have passed since the 1996 agreement between Tokyo and Washington on the return of the Futenma base to Japan. Its original purpose was to ease the burden borne by Okinawa.

To achieve the purpose, the government should first make all-out efforts to deliver on its promise to former Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima that the operations of the Futenma base will be terminated within five years.

The United States has been taking steps to deal with a major cut in its Marine Corps troops stationed in Okinawa, such as planning a transfer of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam and rotational deployments to Hawaii and Australia.

The situation argues for Japan’s fresh efforts to reassess its official position that the relocation of the Futenma base to Henoko is the only possible option and explore an alternative way through a major review of all factors underlying its security strategy for the entire region, including the supposed necessity of a new facility to take over the functions of the Futenma base.

The will of the people in one prefecture has been continuously ignored. As a democratic country, Japan must not overlook this reality.

Is Japan really a nation that respects human rights? Is it a nation where people can influence the future of their own communities?

The question posed by the Futenma dispute is whether Japan, our nation, is a country that cherishes universal values.


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