Remarks last year by Naoto Kan on Okinawa made waves Wednesday after a book by an Upper House member from the prefecture said the new prime minister recently recommended it should become independent from Japan.
In “Okinawa no Jikoketteiken” (“Okinawa’s Right to Autonomy”), written by Democratic Party of Japan member Shokichi Kina and published May 31, Kan is quoted as saying in a conversation with Kina that issues surrounding Okinawa “are too heavy” and he would “rather not touch it.”
Kina, who heads up the Okinawa chapter of the DPJ, also claimed that Kan told him Okinawa ” should just become independent” and that negotiations to remove the U.S. bases in the prefecture “aren’t resolvable.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku refused Wednesday to comment on the matter, saying he hadn’t read the passages in question. He added that he couldn’t immediately confirm the circumstances in which Kan made the comments or how accurate they might have been recorded.
Relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has been a cause of distress since the DPJ took power, with locals criticizing the ruling coalition for backpedaling on its pledge to move the base out of Okinawa.
Kan, who met with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on Tuesday, promised to alleviate the military burden on the prefecture. But he also reiterated his intention to follow through on the deal reached with Washington last month to keep the Futenma base in Okinawa.
According to the book, Kina and Kan exchanged their opinions shortly after the DPJ came to power last September. The Okinawa native wrote in the book that such comments by the party’s key figure carries great weight, “whether he made it half-jokingly or not.”
Sengoku said he has no intention of discussing the topic with Kan, who is scheduled to make his first visit to the prefecture as prime minister on June 23 to attend a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.