NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Goshi Hosono met with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on Wednesday, the 41st anniversary of the prefecture’s reversion to Japan, suggesting the top opposition party seeks to heed local needs and ease Okinawa’s burden as the host to most U.S. bases in Japan.
“When the DPJ was in power, we failed to meet all the expectations that the people in Okinawa had about relocating U.S. bases. We should reflect on that,” Hosono told Nakaima in the meeting at the prefectural office in Naha. “The government and the Diet need to move ahead with policies that cater to Okinawa.”
When the DPJ took power in September 2009 after a general election, Yukio Hatoyama, the party’s leader who became the prime minister at the time, promised to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of Okinawa, only to later renege on the pledge before stepping down less than a year into his stint.
During the long postwar rule of Liberal Democratic Party administrations, the government and the U.S. agreed to replace the Futenma base with a new airstrip to be constructed in a less-populated coastal area of Okinawa.
During the Wednesday talks, Nakaima said it is important to have dialogue on the issue of U.S. bases, while telling Hosono, “The government led by the DPJ crafted laws, tax measures and budgets (that were beneficial for Okinawa).”
The meeting came as Okinawa celebrated the 41st anniversary of its reversion to Japan in 1972 after years under U.S. control, and ahead of the House of Councilors election expected in July.
Hosono placed flowers at the cemetery for the war dead in Peace Memorial Park in the city of Itoman before visiting the Futenma base, which the DPJ had promised to move out of the prefecture.
“We will move forward step by step, with our emphasis on dialogue with the people of Okinawa,” Hosono told reporters. “I’d like to make it a start for substantive discussions, since I visited here on the anniversary of the reversion.”
When the LDP returned to power in last December’s election, ousting the DPJ, the government applied to start land-fill work on the offshore portions of the planned new airstrip to replace Futenma, further infuriating Okinawans.