In continued disregard of Okinawa Prefecture's vehement opposition to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district in Nago, the Democratic Party of Japan administration has delivered to the Okinawa prefectural government an environmental assessment report on the construction of a new offshore runway.
In early November, the Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a statement demanding that the central government abandon the submission of such an environmental assessment report. Later that month, the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau outraged the people of Okinawa by using a rape analogy to explain Tokyo's reluctance to set the submission date of the assessment report.
Determined to stop Tokyo from having its way, Okinawan protesters gathered outside the prefectural government building on Dec. 27, surrounded the van carrying the report, and prevented the report from being handed over to Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.
But the administration of Yoshihiko Noda delivered the report to Nakaima on Dec. 28 because of its earlier promise to Washington to submit it by the end of this year. But the U.S. Congress recently decided to cut expenditures from the 2012 budget for the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam, which was part of the relocation package. Saddled with massive deficits, the Americans are not saving military spending from the ax.
Nakaima was not opposed to Tokyo's submission of the environmental assessment report per se. But he has always stood for Futenma's relocation to outside Okinawa or overseas, and stated his unequivocal opposition to the reclamation of the sea off Henoko.
Although Nakaima welcomed Tokyo's decision to substantially increase its Okinawa promotion budget for fiscal 2012, the fact that he was re-elected governor on his anti-Henoko platform makes it most unlikely that he would go against public opinion in his prefecture on this issue.
May 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan, and a prefectural assembly election is slated for June. The Noda administration is looking to file an application for reclamation with Nakaima next summer after the completion of environmental assessment procedures, but to do so would only fan the distrust and anger of the people of Okinawa.
Tokyo and Washington must stop and think.
Henoko was chosen as the relocation site after lengthy negotiations between Tokyo and Washington to reconcile the two conflicting goals of easing Okinawa's burden and maintaining the deterrence power of U.S. forces in Japan. Given the history, we certainly appreciate the difficulty of reviewing the whole plan from scratch to seek a new solution.
But that is the only option if any progress is to be made at all.
Next year, presidential elections or leadership changes will take place in the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan. And with the recent death of Kim Jong Il in North Korea, the situation in East Asia has grown less predictable.
An unsteady Japan-U.S. relationship will destabilize the region and weaken the diplomatic bases of both partners.
Seeking a new solution is a daunting challenge that also requires every care along the way. But the leaders of both Japan and the United States must accept the fact that this is their only option.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 28
- « Prev
- Next »