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2016年7月 2日 (土)

参院選 沖縄と日米 思考停止から脱却を

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 1
EDITORIAL: Japan, U.S. should abandon fixation on base plan in Okinawa
(社説)参院選 沖縄と日米 思考停止から脱却を

About 75 percent of all U.S. military facilities in Japan are located on Okinawa Prefecture, which accounts for only 0.6 percent of the nation’s land.
This fact has often been quoted to underscore the unfairly heavy burden of hosting U.S. bases borne by the southernmost prefecture.

Recently, however, U.S. Forces Japan made a surprise move to take exception to this description.

USFJ, headquartered in Tokyo, claimed in a posting on its Facebook page June 23 that it is “a misrepresentation of the facts” to say 75 percent or more of all American military facilities in Japan are located on Okinawa. The posting also said Okinawa, in fact, is home to only “39 percent of U.S. exclusive use facilities.”

Even if the “39 percent” figure is accurate in terms of the number of facilities, it is also an undeniable fact that the U.S. bases in Okinawa account for 74 percent of all American military facilities in Japan in terms of area.

Both the prefecture and the Japanese government have been using this number as an indicator of the burden shouldered by Okinawa.

There are certainly many ways to look at the reality. But it is odd to hear the USFJ claim that the 74 percent version distorts the facts.

The U.S. military deserves criticism for failing to recognize the excessive burden imposed on Okinawa. This argument could only widen a rift that should be narrowed.

Japan’s security alliance with the United States doesn’t work unless there is solid mutual trust among the three parties involved--Okinawa Prefecture, the Japanese government and the U.S. government.

The situation surrounding the U.S. bases in Okinawa can only be described as critical for many reasons. There are simply too many U.S. bases in the island prefecture, which has been plagued by an endless series of crimes and accidents linked to the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been recalcitrant about pushing through the proposed relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan in central Okinawa Prefecture to the Henoko district of Nago, another city in the prefecture.

Both the Japanese and U.S. governments should confront the reality that it is difficult to carry out the relocation plan in the face of strong opposition from people in Okinawa. This view is shared by some experts in both Japan and the United States.

In June, a third-party panel named the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council, which had been trying to mediate a legal dispute between the central government and Okinawa over the Futenma relocation plan, stopped short of taking sides and urged further talks.
The Okinawa prefectural government had asked the council to judge the appropriateness of a request by Keiichi Ishii, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, to retract the Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga’s revocation of his predecessor's approval of land reclamation work off Henoko.

Explaining the council’s decision, Mitsuo Kobayakawa, the panel’s chairman, said: “We did not think that making a decision in either direction would contribute to the construction of the proper relationship between the central and local governments.
“The best path for both sides to take is to hold sincere talks to achieve their common goal of Futenma’s return (to Japan) and make efforts to find an answer acceptable (for both).”

The Abe administration should take these words seriously. It should spare no effort to hold constructive dialogue with Okinawa Prefecture.

In the campaign for the July 10 Upper House election, the ruling and opposition camps are at loggerheads over the issue.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has pledged to carry through the Futenma relocation plan. The four opposition parties--the Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends--have proposed to “call off the plan to build a new military base in Henoko against the public will in Okinawa.”

The political impasse over the issue needs to be broken. Tokyo and Washington should abandon their blind adherence to the view that a Futenma replacement facility in Henoko is the only option. They should scrap the current relocation plan and review the scale and functions of U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to transfer part of the functions out of the prefecture or out of Japan.

Given that the U.S. military has been promoting rotating deployments of Marines to Australia and the Philippines, there should be a way to ease the burden on Okinawa while maintaining deterrence.


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