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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Current Situations Surrounding Futenma "Relocation" Issue

Kyodo News reported that the two junior coalition parties submitted their proposals for the Futenma "relocation" to the government on March 8. (whole news quoted below)

Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major newspapers of Okinawa and astute Okinawan blogger Shun Medoruma analyse:
(Medoruma's blog is in Japanese.)

The government, namely Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano and Defense Minister Kitazawa, have already been discussing relocation plans, and they seem to have set their mind on two plans - an in-land runway within the Camp Schwab and between Tsuken Island and White Beach.

(See this map for the location of White Beach.
Also see Tsuken Island, this island south of White Beach.
The "new" plan , on top of the in-land option in Schwab, is to reclaim between White Beach and Tsuken Island to build a runway. The plan was suggested in late 90's but did not materialize due to the local residents' opposition. The in-land Schwab option also was opposed by local politicians and residents years ago. So all these "new" plans are not really new. )

So what was the purpose of having this committee, consisting of junior partners PNP (People's New Party) and SDP (Social Democratic Party) to come up with their plans?

DPJ's Yukio Hatoyama won the last general election saying that the minimum that he could accept was out-of-prefecture relocation.

By having PNP work on the inter-prefecture relocation plan, DPJ does not have to contradict their campaign pledge.

By having SDP work on the out-of-prefecture and out-of-country relocation plans, DPJ can demonstrate that the government seriously gave thought to these ideas.

The true intention of the government is the inter-prefecture relocation, i.e. building a new base within Okinawa. This has been proposed by PNP's Mikio Shimoji. He argues that there are no other prefectures that are willing to host a new base. Medoruma argues neither is Okinawa, and
imposing another base on Okinawa would be blatant discrimination against Okinawa.

The government is trying to legitimize that plan by having Shimoji, a member of parliament from Okinawa, propose the plan.

Speaking of Shimoji, Manabu Sato, professor of Okinawa International University says that Shimoji's behaviours are easy to understand, because they come from two standpoints only - whether the relocation plans benefits his family's business Daiyone Construction or whether he
can put good-looking political covers on these plans that they are for the sake of Okinawans.

For example, Shimoji's current proposal endorses a construction of a new in-land base within Camp Schwab. Shimoji is making this plan look "better" than the Henoko shore plan because it uses part of an existing US base. The in-land plan would not require reclamation, so it could evade criticism from dugong supporters. Shimoji's brother's construction business (Daiyone Construction) will most certainly profit from this plan.

Medoruma argues that Shimoji's plan would perpetuate the decades of the government's discriminatory policies on Okinawa and is simply not acceptable. If the government formally announces its inter-prefecture relocation plans, which could include this in-land Schwab idea, Okinawa will show its united opposition the government.

Governor Nakaima used to support the inter-prefecture relocation, but he has changed his position recently and has expressed his frustration with the central government. He said that he had no other choice than object if the government would just show him a plan as if it were already a set deal.

The Okinawa prefectural assembly has unanimously passed a resolution to oppose inter-prefecture relocation and they are planning a large-scale rally of Okinawa's citizens mid-April.

We should fiirmly stand by democracy for the people of Okinawa.


From Kyodo News

  • Coalition partners present Futenma relocation plans
    Tuesday 09th March, 08:06 AM JST

    TOKYO —
    Junior coalition partners in the Democratic Party of Japan-led government presented their proposals Monday to a government committee studying where to relocate a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa Prefecture.

    Now that the two parties have submitted their plans, the government will study the feasibility of each plan through unofficial consultations with the U.S. side, with a view to coming up with its own plan by the end of this month.

    With the support rate for his Cabinet hitting an all-time low, the political stakes are high for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who has promised the United States that the base row will be resolved by the end of May and has set a deadline of the end of March to begin talks with the parties concerned with a concrete plan ready.

    The plans presented by the Social Democratic Party include one to relocate the Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to Guam, while those submitted by the People’s New Party include one to move it to the Marines’ Camp Schwab in Nago on the same southern island.

    The current plan agreed by Japan and the United States envisions moving the Futenma functions to a new facility to be built on a coastal area of the camp. It involves reclamation, unlike the PNP proposal.

    The government, meanwhile, is studying a plan to build a helipad or a 1,600-meter-class runway at the camp, without reclamation, and another to reclaim an area between the U.S. military’s White Beach area in Uruma on the main Okinawa island and Tsuken Island, according to sources close to bilateral ties.

    A highest-level consultative body involving the leaders of the three coalition parties is likely to meet possibly by the end of this month to confirm a government plan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Monday.

    Once the plan is finalized, talks with the United States and a local government that would host a Futenma replacement facility would begin in earnest.

    But the efforts are likely to hit a snag because the United States has maintained that the current bilateral plan is the best and a local government is certain to react negatively to a plan that would affect its community.

    Earlier in the day, the Nago city assembly unanimously adopted a position document opposing the PNP proposal to relocate Futenma to Camp Schwab.

    Commenting on the move, Hatoyama said, ‘‘The important thing is, as I have said repeatedly, Futenma’s final relocation site will not be decided unless we can obtain support from the public, starting with the people of Okinawa.’‘

    ‘‘We need now and in the future a process in which plans will be consolidated into one that can gain the support of people, particularly the people in Okinawa Prefecture,’’ Hatoyama told reporters.

    The SDP, which calls for reducing the base-hosting burdens on the people of Okinawa, presented three plans to Monday’s panel meeting. The first one seeks to move Futenma entirely to the U.S. territory of Guam or Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands.

    The second plan seeks to make Guam the new base for the Marines currently based in Okinawa, with their drills to be held in Japan excluding Okinawa. And the third plan seeks to relocate the Marines’ bases and drills to Japanese locations outside Okinawa Prefecture.

    The SDP listed the three plans in order of preference, while calling for allowing the use of the Futenma facility by the U.S. military in emergencies until it is returned to Japan. The party kept secret the names of the domestic locations eyed for drills under its plans, disclosing them only to Hirano, who presides over the panel.

    The locations include installations of the Self-Defense Forces, according to a source close to the matter.

    The PNP presented two plans—one to consolidate Futenma’s functions into the U.S. Air Force’s nearby Kadena Air Base and the other to build a 1,500-meter runway at Camp Schwab that would not require reclamation.

    Under the PNP’s plans, the Marines would be moved out of the prefecture 15 years after the locations were put into use and their drills would be relocated to SDF installations outside Okinawa.

    Hirano said Monday that the panel would still meet whenever necessary, including when a coalition party requests such a meeting.

    The top government spokesman had earlier considered terminating consultations under the framework without having the junior partners present their plans, but decided to convene the panel at the request of the SDP, according to a high-ranking government official.

    Japan and the United States agreed in 2006 to relocate Futenma to Nago from the more densely populated city of Ginowan by 2014 under an accord encompassing the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including the transfer of some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam. But Tokyo started to review the Futenma relocation plan in the wake of the historic change of government in September.

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