Okinawa defense chief fired over rape remark

November 29, 2011

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa dismissed the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau on Nov. 29 after he reportedly compared the delayed release of an environment assessment report on the relocation of a U.S. military base to failing to warn a victim of imminent rape.

"Would you say, 'I will rape you,' before you rape someone?" Satoshi Tanaka is reported to have said in an unofficial meeting with reporters on Nov. 28.

Tanaka allegedly made the comparison when asked why the government was waffling on the submission date of an assessment report on the environmental impact of the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

More than one person present at the meeting confirmed the remark, which was reported in the Nov. 29 morning edition of The Ryukyu Shimpo, a local newspaper.

The meeting, held at a drinking establishment in Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, was attended by staff from about 10 news organizations. No staff member of The Asahi Shimbun was present when the remark was allegedly made.

Tanaka declined to comment when contacted by The Asahi Shimbun on Nov. 29.

Sources in Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration later told The Asahi Shimbun that Tanaka had been dismissed as director-general.

In a meeting with Defense Minister Ichikawa at the Defense Ministry earlier in the day, Tanaka explained that he intended to say that there was "no way we could say 'we will do it' before doing it, or when we will do it, in advance."

"If we were to say we will do it abruptly, it would be a rough act and it is necessary to handle such things with care," Tanaka told Ichikawa. "If we were to put it in the context of men-women relationships, such a crude act would be considered a crime."

Earlier, Ichikawa told the Upper House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, "We will take stern measures after finding out the precise facts."

"I apologize to the Okinawans for the distress (caused by Tanaka's remark)," he said.

"The remark cannot be overlooked if it was really made," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference.

Ichikawa has said that preparations are under way to submit an assessment report on the base relocation by year-end. However, Ichikawa has vacillated on the submission date, saying, "The issue will not be resolved by setting a timeline."

Earlier this month, the Okinawa prefectural assembly, opposed to the relocation of Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, unanimously approved a recommendation that called on the government to give up on making the report.

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Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the Defense Ministry on Nov. 29. (Hikaru Uchida)

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the Defense Ministry on Nov. 29. (Hikaru Uchida)

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  • Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the Defense Ministry on Nov. 29. (Hikaru Uchida)
  • Satoshi Tanaka (Defense Ministry)

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