On March 23, Hatoyama and four other members of the Cabinet started discussing the plans for "relocating" Futenma Air Station (see Jiji news quoted at the bottom). There is a grim prospect of any plan to come out of this team that will be favourable to Okinawans. Hatoyama last week expressed difficulty for Futenma to relocate to another area but Okinawa, and there is little to expect from the other members - Hirano, Okada, Kitazawa, and Maehara.
Hirano Hirofumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary has been known for his repeated gaffes, like the one he said immediately after Nago Mayoral election that the anti-base candidate won. He said on January 25,"The election result is one expression of popular will, but there is no reason to take that into consideration for future discussion of policies." He also expressed his inclination to disregard the local opposition in making a national security policy on January 26. He, like Hatoyama, has been repeatedly saying that the options are being considered on the "zero-base" basis, meaning that anything was possible, by which he really means that "relocation" within Okinawa prefecture is not ruled out. He also told Okinawa Governor Nakaima on February 20, "I think the 'best' plan is ideal, but we might have to settle for a 'better' plan."
It has been also reported that Hirano and PNP's Shimoji met behind the closed doors on March 22, the day before the Cabinet members started discussion. Shimoji, now infamous Okinawan member of the parliament who has been endorsing the plan to build a runway within Camp Schwab, has been associated with his family's construction business(Daiyone Kensetsu) that will most likely profit from subcontracting for such a project. It is almost obvious that Shimoji met with Hirano to push this idea. Medoruma Shun suspects that Hirano's casino construction idea on Miyako Island, where Shimoji is from, is a reward for betraying Okinawans and promoting a plan to "relocate" Futenma within Okinawa.
Maehara Seiji, Transportation Minister also in charge of Okinawan issues, said on March 6,"there should be a special promotional measure allocated if a community within Okinawa has been chosen as a relocation site for Futenma," meaning that the government will dump money and construction projects for "economic development" of the host community. But we don't know if that strategy works any more. In the symposium held at Hosei University in Tokyo on March 20, Kawase Mitsuyoshi, Kyoto Prefectural Universty professor mentioned the fact that Inamine Susumu, new Nago Mayor rejected the government subsidy associated with hosting a new base for the new fiscal year. Kawase expects this would set a new trend for Okinawan municipalities to stop the disproportionate flow of those government funds to communities that hosted bases.
Kitazawa Toshimi, Defense Minister met with Okinawa Governor Nakaima on March 17, in which it is reported that two plans were suggested - the plan to reclaim a site off White Beach (Uruma City) and another plan to relocate Futenma to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima. This Tokunoshima plan is technically an "out-of-prefecture" plan because Tokunoshima belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture and seems to be favoured by Hatoyama who wants to honour his word before the election that the Futenma relocation had to be out of Okinawa prefecture. This Ryukyu Shimpo column on March 22, however, points out that this island only 200 km north of Okinawa did belong to Ryukyu Kingdom, and it is still a relocation within the wider Ryukyu region - "a faraway place from Tokyo, where bureaucrats and politicians would have no worry about noises and accidents from the base affecting them."
Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya stirred controversy by stating that the failure to "relocate" the airbase in Ginowan City may lead to continued use of the current Futenma Air Station on February 2. Even PM Hatoyama said on March 23 that he would not rule out "emergency use" of Futenma.
Does this mean that in the worst case scenario, Okinawa will end up not just with a new base, but with the existing Futenma Air Station as well? Okinawans would accept neither of them, let alone one of them. What is the government thinking? What is going on? Another symposium held on March 20 at Okinawa International University had that very title - "Chaasuga (What's Going On) Futenma?" It was an opportunity for Okinawans to ask questions of the three parliamentarians representing Okinawa. One thing that the three representing each coalition party (DPJ, PNP, SDP) did have in common was their opposition for the plan to reclaim an area off Katsuren Peninsula (White Beach), for different reasons - DPJ's Kina calling the plan "reckless," SDP's Teruya fearing the large reclamation project would destroy the whole Eastern shores of Okinawa, and PNP's Shimoji arguing "creating a base in an area other than within an existing base is not acceptable."(We all know where Shimoji's twisted disagreement comes from - he wants to build a runway within Camp Schwab.) Okinawa Governor Nakaima expressed a serious concern over the plan - not just the reclamation plan, but the Camp Schwab plan as well.
It seems as if this symposium left the audience with more questions than answers. Now what? Chaasuga? What decisions will come out of this team of PM and four Cabinet members, of which each seems to have lost the DPJ's pre-election ambition to remove the Futenma base out of Okinawa? Hatoyama, in his January 29 Policy Speech, placed a special emphasis on "policies for protecting life ("inochi o mamoru seiji")." Hearing this speech reminded me of this group in Okinawa - the Association for Protecting Life ("inochi o mamoru kai"). The group of Nago residents and their supporters have been protesting on the shore of Henoko against construction of a new base for the last thirteen years.
Can Hatoyama protect the livelihood of people and the lives of the natural environment of Okinawa by removing Futenma and not building another base there?
He should, against all odds, if he is really determined to live up to his principles.
- Japan to Present Multiple Proposals for U.S. Base
Tokyo, March 23 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese government plans to present multiple proposals for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, a government official indicated Tuesday.
After Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had talks on the Futenma issue with relevant ministers, a senior Foreign Ministry official said that the government does not intend to decide fully on its own and seek negotiations, indicating the government will not narrow candidate relocation sites down to one and will present them to the United States and local governments.
Relocation sites being considered by the Japanese government are the inland area of the Marine Corps' Camp Schwab in Nago and a landfill off a U.S. Navy facility at White Beach in Uruma, both in Okinawa.
At the day's meeting, participants likely discussed a proposed transfer of the U.S. Marines' drills to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, north of Okinawa, as Hatoyama is exploring a possibility of moving the Futenma base out of Okinawa.
The meeting was held by Hatoyama, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Seiji Maehara, minister in charge of Okinawa.