DPJ opposes revision of Okinawa lease law

The Democratic Party of Japan urged the government Mar. 26 not to go ahead with its decision to seek a revision to a law that would allow the government to continue legally providing land for the U.S. military in Okinawa Prefecture after lease contracts expire May 14, DPJ officials said.

Before doing so, the second largest opposition party in the Diet said, the government should first file a request with the Okinawa Land Expropriation Committee for a six-month emergency use of the land after the expiry date. The tracts of land in question involve some 3,000 landowners and 12 U.S. military facilities.

The DPJ officials said it is wrong for the government to change the law before resorting to steps available under the current legal framework. They did not say whether the DPJ would approve a change in the law if the emergency use is not granted in time.

A similar request was filed by the Social Democratic Party of Japan, which forms a loose ruling alliance with the Liberal Democratic Party, during a meeting of senior officials of the ruling camp on the same day. The traditionally antibase SDP remains reluctant to back a change in the law for fear that throwing support behind the government’s plan would further damage its flagging popularity.

Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota has expressed his opposition to the proposed amendments to the law because it would put the prefecture in a weaker position against the central government. But the government apparently will not budge.