Iha Yoichi, Mayor of Ginowan, appeared in "News 24" of Nihon TV (Nittere) on December 11, 2009. The full text of the interview has been transcribed and translated into English by Peace Philosophy Centre(Dan Aizawa and Satoko Norimatsu). The Japanese version is here. 日本語版はここです。
(For simplicity and clarity purposes, some of the questions by the interviewer have been omitted or integrated into the answers by Mayor Iha. )
English translation of the Interview with
News 24, Nihon TV, aired on December 11, 2009
- Question: As the mayor of Ginowan City, you have to deal with the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. As mayor you have advocated that the Futenma Base is the world’s most dangerous base and that it should be removed from Ginowan. But you have advocated for the complete removal of the Futenma Base from Okinawa Prefecture, and move it all to Guam. What have you discussed with Tokyo, in regards to this matter?
Regardless of this, the Japanese people, parliament, and the people of Okinawa have never been given a proper explanation of the plans. In the US, a report on the environmental impact of the relocation of the base to Guam has been made public; I want this report to be explained in detail in Japan. I want to request that the problems surrounding Henoko and US bases within Okinawa Prefecture be reviewed. I want to ask why a base is still required in Henoko when most of the Marines in Okinawa are being relocated to Guam, and the Futenma Base itself is going to be moved to Guam.
- Question: Is a complete relocation to Guam possible? Defense Minister Kitazawa has stated that a complete relocation of facilities to Guam would be impossible; this is different from what you have been advocating. What do you think about the Defense Minister’s comments?
It is public knowledge that 8,000 Marines will be relocated to Guam from Okinawa, and 9000 of their family members will also be moved to Guam. But the number of the family members is less than 9,000. It is said that it is actually less than 8,000. .
The Japanese government has agreed to build homes for 9,000 family members in Guam. Ultimately the Marine units that will be relocated to Guam will be met with more Marine units from around the world. In the end there will be 10,600 marines going to Guam.
- Question: Is Defense Minister Kitazawa wrong in that sense?
In regards to moving the airbase however, building a new airbase in Henoko and building a new airbase in Guam are two completely different stories. There are already two airbases in Guam, so it should be impossible to build another. But the reason behind wanting to build an airbase in Henoko was because the first agreement had decided that the Marine units would also be moved to Henoko that is why we agreed to build a new base in Henoko.
- Question: So why did Defense Minister Kitazawa make a trip to Guam now? What did he want to see in Guam? Don’t you think maybe he went to Guam to see whether or not it would actually be possible to completely relocate US troops in Okinawa to Guam?
However, by May of 2006, the US Military had warmed up to the idea of relocating troops to Guam; following this the US Military decided to move all 8,000 marines in Okinawa to Guam. This plan was devised in July of 2006, and we have read the document behind this plan, and it is called the Guam Integrated Military Development Plan. Environmental impacts of this Plan have been examined for the past three years, and on November 20, 2009, EIS/OEIS (Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement) documents have been released.
- Question: What do you think about Defense Minister Kitazawa’s recent actions and statements?
Iha: We learned some new things from recent events. We learned that the US Marine presence in Okinawa is a strictly tactical post. This means that up until recently the Marines in Okinawa were there so that they could be deployed anywhere. However, this center is now going to be moved to Guam. A small contingent of troops will remain in Okinawa, but this will be for Okinawa alone, and will not be for redeployment to other areas. In the past US troops would be posted to Okinawa and then they would be redeployed to places like Iraq and elsewhere. Okinawa was the center for deployment of troops, but by 2014 troop deployment capabilities will be moved to Guam entirely.
Everyone is thinking about the October 2005 argument, including the media. In other words, everyone thinks that only the headquarters will move to Guam, and that the Marines will stay in Okinawa. However, this is a mistake. I think Defense Minister Kitazawa, by going to Guam, has understood this mistake clearly. He must have had such briefing there. I am pretty sure that he has been informed of the change in the position of Okinawa, though we need to ask him really to be sure. We now understand that the troops in Okinawa are there for tactical reasons, and not strategic reasons.
The official number of US troops in Okinawa is 18,000; however, there are only 11,000 US troops in Okinawa at the moment. From those 11,000 troops, 8,000 will be relocated to Guam. So in the end no more than 3000 troops will be left in Okinawa. However, the Japanese government claims that 10,000 Marines will remain in Okinawa. That gap between 3,000 and 10,000 troops will not be buried. If there’s only going to be a little over 10,000 troops in Guam, how are there going to be another 10,000 troops in Okinawa at the same time?
- Question: After listening to you speak it has become clear that both Defense Minister Kitazawa and Foreign Minister Okada both lack critical information. How do you think the Japanese government has dealt with this issue so far?
Iha: The biggest problem about this issue is that the US side has failed to explain in detail the Guam relocation plan. There has been no detailed explanation about the situation after the May 2006 “Roadmap,” regardless of the fact that the situation has changed considerably since then.
The Guam Integrated Military Development Plan was set up, and in 2007 the mayors of Okinawa’s central municipalities went to Guam. In Guam, the Okinawa mayors, myself included, were given detailed explanations on where the Marines from Okinawa will go, where the Futenma helicopter units will go, and we were given a detailed explanation on the locations of each of these.
On September 15th, 2008 the US Secretary of the Navy presented, to the House of Representatives, a detailed document on the relocation of troops; particularly on the relocation of so-and-so marine units to Guam.
In June of 2009 the Commandant of the US Marine Corps presented, to the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, a detailed document on the 8,000 marines that will be relocated to Guam. This document assessed the situation of Futenma, and how Futenma had become encroached by local residents and is now located in a highly populated area. The document assesses the problems surrounding Futenma, and the reasons for relocation.
However, the shift in the situation from May 2006 to November of 2009 has not been explained in Japan; it has not been explained in the Diet, and the government has not explained it to the Japanese people.
- Question: Why don’t the problems surrounding relocation of the base make any progress, why hasn’t the problem been solved yet? Is there an individual or a group that is slowing down the progress; does the Japanese government not want change, or is it the US, or is it the people of Okinawa? Who is slowing down the progress?
Iha: The people of Okinawa are highly opposed to relocating the base from Okinawa simply to another area in Okinawa. It has been 64 years since the war, and 13 years ago, in 1996, there was an agreement. At that time, there was a base relocation plan with a possibility of its removal, but that was rejected. The people of Okinawa are highly opposed to constructing anymore new bases. Okinawa Prefecture comprises just 0.6% of Japan’s land mass, and yet 75% of Japan’s US military instillations are located in Okinawa. The people of Okinawa will not accept a resolution to this problem, where the resolution involves having to remove a base simply to have it restored in another location. , This is unacceptable. This is the greatest opposition, and this is why an inter-prefecture relocation has been opposed so strongly.
- Question: Is the reason why the Japanese government has been dragging this for so long the strong opposition by the people of Okinawa? Do you think there is maybe some issues over concessions, maybe some parties with interests in the bases?
Iha: That has been said a lot by the media, but we are not debating from that vantage point. However, it has been the government’s position that the U.S. military bases are a necessity under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and the government assumed from the beginning that these bases would be in Okinawa. . In other words, the reason why Henoko was chosen, under the previous LDP government, was because it was decided that there would be no other place but Henoko to build a new base and there would be no alternatives in the rest of Japan; in this way the opinions of the people of Okinawa have been trampled upon.
- Question: Regarding the Environmental Impact Statement from November 2009, on Relocating Marines from Okinawa, you have concentrated on a particular section entitled “Global Alternatives Analysis Summary” (Page 69, Volume1), which rates the candidate locations using three criteria. Could you explain this for us?
Table 1. 4-3. Global Alternatives Analysis Summary (see the Page 69 of this document for the table)
Iha: The reason why it was decided to relocate the Marines from Okinawa started in 2002, when the US began a global realignment of bases. Within this larger picture Okinawa’s Marines were also included and where they should be relocated. When looking for candidates for a replacement location for Okinawa, Guam got top scores, three stars, as a possible candidate for relocation. In fact, Okinawa only got one star.
I am not the one saying that the US should relocate to Guam; it is the US military that is saying that Guam is the best location for relocation. The “Roadmap” has been agreed upon this decision on Guam by the US.
I don’t know if the Japanese government has been given a proper explanation on this US stance on Guam, but regardless of this, the US will go through on its decision to relocate to Guam. Relocating to Guam from Futenma is not to solve the Futenma Problem, but it is part of a larger US strategic military decision. Under my understanding, I believe that the US will begin large scale relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2010.
- Question: So all of this has been released by the US military? So it must not be just you who has looked through and analyzed these documents; the important people from MOFA and MOD must have gone through these documents, and they must have analyzed and reached the same conclusion as yours?
Iha: The problem is that the bureaucrats from MOFA and MOD have not seen these documents. This is the strange thing about Japan. The Japanese government has agreed to spend over $6.9 billion for this relocation, but the Japanese government doesn’t understand the details of this plan, they do not have enough information to make an intelligent decision.
Last week I met Foreign Minister Okada, and he says he has never heard of what I told him. Okada claims that he has not heard from the US about the Environmental Impact Statement, and has not heard about the things I’ve been telling him. So even after I told him, he claims that what I am saying is wrong; he claims that it’s probably wrong. But because I have been presenting about the Environmental Impact Statement and the Guam Relocation, Mr. Okada has decided to reassess what is the correct information, and what is really going to happen.
What Mr. Okada understands is that there are 18,000 Marines in Okinawa. (This number is only the capacity, not the actual number.) There are only 7,000 Marines in Okinawa right now, but Mr. Okada believes that there will be 10,000 Marines remaining in Okinawa (after relocation of 8,000 Marines to Guam). This is what the US has explained to Mr. Okada. So Mr. Okada has no understanding of any other plan, but the one that he has been told. He does not think that Marine’s operational units (in addition to the headquarters) will go to Guam.
This misunderstanding has been going on for the past three years. This plan to relocate to Guam was decided in July of 2006, and the documents were uploaded onto the US Pacific Command homepage. We downloaded this document, translated it, and we analyzed and explained what it was about. This document was the Guam Integrated Military Development Plan.
The detailed plans of relocating to Guam from Okinawa have already been decided three years ago. For example, there is a section on the relocation to Anderson Airbase in Guam, and there are detailed explanations on the exact locations, on the airbase, of where the Marines from Okinawa will be placed. In fact there are detailed explanations on which part of this new base development will be paid for by the Japanese government. This plan has been around for three years, and it was made available to the people of Guam. The US government shared this document with the people of Guam, received all kinds of feedback and comments, and after all this was done the Environmental Impact Statement was made public in November of 2009, after three years of assessing the situation in Guam. If all goes according to plan, this plan to relocate to Guam will be approved by July 30th of 2010.
So it has already come down to the point of actually assessing the plan, and it is no longer about making the plan. Japan has already decided to pay 30 billion yen on the relocation construction, and the US will pay more than $300 million, bringing the total to about 70 billion yen. This allocation of funds has been decided for the 2010 fiscal plan, so construction will begin in 2010. The first units from Okinawa will begin relocating to Guam in 2010 as well. At first it will only be the command elements, but starting from 2010, and then through 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 all units from Okinawa will be relocated to Guam.
- Question: But the current situation seems to suggest that all these plans may be scratched in the near future?
Iha: No, that is not possible. That will not happen.. The US has decided, not to solve the Futenma Problem, but has decided to build a Marine base in Guam as part of their global strategic plans, and that means that the Marines in Okinawa will be relocated to Guam.
I believe that when information about scratching the plan comes out, it is actually a threat to actually proceed on constructing a base in Henoko. Relocation to Guam will not be scratched. This is because in July, relocation to Guam has already been decided by a treaty, the Guam Treaty. According to this treaty, Japan has agreed to pay $6.9 billion for the relocation; to this the US has agreed to pay $4 billion for the relocation plan and to go through with it. However, construction of a base in Henoko has been completely left out of these talks. It has been revealed in the Diet, that these proceedings do not mean that the US will be obliged to get out of Futenma, but regardless of this the US continues to proceed with its plans on Guam.
- Question: Do you have anything you must say to the Japanese government?
Iha: I want the government to give a detailed explanation on the relocation to Guam. Japan has agreed to spend a huge sum of money for the relocation, and yet the Japanese government has failed to make a detailed explanation of the relocation plans. The biggest reason for this is because the US government has failed to inform the Japanese government. I want the Japanese government to pressure the US government to give a detailed explanation.
I want an explanation on what kind of units from Okinawa will move to Guam, and I want to know in what form these units will be relocated. After making the above clear the Henoko issue should be reassessed - whether building a base there is really necessary. I believe that there is no need for a base in Henoko.
I believe the information should be revealed to the Japanese people and the Diet. I believe this is the responsibility of the new Hatoyama Government, and that the Hatoyama Government should not proceed with constructing a base in Henoko. I want the Hatoyama Government to solve the Futenma problem and to deal with the relocation of Marines from the whole Okinawa without building a base in Henoko.
- Question: I get an impression that you are speaking on behalf of all Okinawans, not just as Mayor of Ginowan City, which has Futenma Air Base in it. Have you thought about running for the Okinawa Governer’s election, which will take place in November 2010?
Iha: That is a separate issue. A lot will happen between now and then, but right now I want to focus on solving the Futenma problem.