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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Okinawa Gubernatorial Election: Iha VS Nakaima 沖縄知事選:伊波、仲井真一騎打ち

Iha Yoichi
Nakaima Hirokazu
 The Okinawa gubernatorial election, one that is expected to play a critical role in the Okinawans' struggle against the U.S. and Japanese plan to build a new military base in Henoko, will be on November 28. Iha Yoichi, former mayor of Ginowan City, where Futenma Air Station is, is running against the incumbent governor Nakaima Hirokazu. The U.S. and Japanese governments need an approval for reclamtion by Okinawa's governor to carry through their current plan to build a base in Henoko, Oura Bay. While Iha is clear about his position to ask immediate closure of Futenma and his opposition against the construction of a new base within Okinawa, Nakaima, who had accepted a new base within Okinawa during the LDP administration, has been ambiguous about it. He has recently expressed his will to ask the government to move the base outside of the prefecture, but he has hinted in many occasions the possibility of conditional acceptance. " In an interview with Wall Street Journal on November 2, Nakaima said, "It will take a long time and a lot of energy for the government to change my mind (of wanting the new base outside of Okinawa). If the government provides a convincing explanation and an acceptable solution, the circumstance will change."

On November 1, Iha and Nakaima held a public debate, hosted by Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times, two Okinawan newspapers. Below is a summarized translation of part of the debate related to the base issue. 

Moderator to Nakaima: What will you do if the government asks your consent to reclamation of a public water area?

Nakaima: That question has too many "if"s. The previous "V-shape plan" went through an environment impact assessment, and it had reached a final stage for approval. The government needs to attach assessment documents to a request for reclamation approval. But I don't know what the government is going to do now. For now, options to build a base within Okinawa are not in my mind. I will call this my answer to your question.

Moderator to Iha: How are you going to get the government to accept a base to be moved out of the prefecture and the country?

Iha: If I am elected, I will be firm on my opposition against the plan to build in Henoko, and make that a prefectural policy. I won't oscillate about this, and will tell the government in a convincing way that I will not approve reclamation. I will hold Japanese and U.S. governments accountable for the U.S. plan to move Okinawa's Marines to Guam, and confirm that the troops scheduled to move there do include those of Futenma's helicopter unit. It is not necessary to build a "replacement" base in Henoko.

Nakaima to Iha: You are objecting a new base within Okinawa, and closure and return of Futenma airbase. This may lead to a prolonged use of Futenma base. Won't you ask for the base to be relocated outside of Okinawa?

Iha: The conservative government of Okinawa was not proactive in solving the Futenma problem. There is a U.S. plan to move 10,600 Okinawa Marines to Guam, and even Japanese government is paying for it. It is important that this plan is carried through, and we do not necessarily have to create a new move to relocate the base to another part of Japan.

Iha to Nakaima: You are asking for Futenma to be moved outside Okinawa, but you have been spearheading the move to build a base within the prefecture. How are you going to explain this?

Nakaima: I have been working for resolution of the base problem and the Futenma issue, by visiting the U.S. twice, talking to the LDP and DPJ's leaders, including Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and speaking at the governors' meeting. If you only hold the prefecture and the state responsible in a philosophical way, there will be no solution.

Iha to Nakaima: At another debate, you stated that you were in the position of accepting the base conditionally. Does that mean that with necessary conditions met, the plan to build a base in Okinawa is inevitable?

Nakaima: There are no options in my head to build within the prefecture. Nago City (where Henoko is) was in the position to accept the base conditionally, and it was a natural solution to relocate to Henoko, in order to eliminate the danger of Futenma base. However, Nago's mayoral election changed the situation. Since Hatoyama came to say the government will build in Henoko, I have been expressing my disappointment with the government and telling them that it would be difficult to do so.
On Novemer 5, another public debate was held in Naha. Below was the video clip of part of the debate, from Ryukyu Shimpo website.

video

It is funny how uncomfortable Nakaima appears in shaking hands with Iha, who looks confident in doing so.

Here, too, Iha is challenging Nakaima about his position on the "Futenma relocation" issue and whether he would approve reclamation. Nakaima says, "This kind of problem can't simply be answer by 'yes' or 'no.'" It is a question Nakaima rather avoids, and Iha keeps asking.

Iha is becoming more and more vocal on the U.S. plan to realign and transfer Okinawa Marines to Guam (all of them, not just part of them), and this won't be liked by international activists who oppose military build-up in Guam. In the interview at the end of 2009 that was translated for Asia-Paficic Journal: Japan Focus, he made it clear that he was not endorsing the Guam plan; he was just sharing his discovery of the U.S. documents that indicated that all Marines were actually being transferred to Guam. He is probably simplifying the argument for the sake of the election, but he should still make that distinction clear.

Nakaima or Iha? Will the result of this election bring some form of closure to Okinawans' fourteen-year struggle over the "Futenma relocation"?

Whichever candidate the people of Okinawa choose, it will be a beginning of a new challenge.

There is, however, no doubt that, if Iha wins, it will send an unequivocal signal to Tokyo and Washington that Okinawa's final answer to the Henoko base plan is "NO."

PeacePhilosopher

For the past articles on the US military base issue, please see HERE.

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