NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima’s approval Friday of the start of offshore fill work for building an airstrip to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma angered people opposed to the base to the point that around 1,000 protesters forced their way into the prefectural office and staged a sit-in.
The protesters, who occupied the lobby and formed a human chain outside, called for Nakaima to retract his approval of the fill work and resign.
“Okinawa residents cannot tolerate the base relocation within the prefecture,” said Akira Oshiro, a 53-year-old company worker from Urasoe who was among the protesters.
Oshiro slammed Nakaima for giving the green light to replacing the Futenma base with a new facility in Okinawa, a reversal of the governor’s previous stance that the prefecture should not have to bear that new burden.
Hiroshi Ashitomi, a 67-year-old anti-base activist who has been leading a sit-in in Nago near the planned construction site of the Futenma replacement base, also took part in the rally, saying: “As an Okinawa resident, I am ashamed of choosing such a governor. He should step down.”
Fusako Nakamoto, a 70-year-old resident of Naha, said local people were “treated badly both by the central government and the governor.” She said it’s painful to think that another base will be handed down from generation to generation, this time in Nago.
Tomoko Tamaki, 60, collapsed on the floor of the prefectural building immediately after learning of Nakaima’s decision.
Tamaki said in tears that the governor’s approval was “cruel.” She asked whether the governor intends to collude in war by accepting the construction of a new military base.
In Ginowan, where the Futenma base is located, Shinji Gima, 71, was bewildered by the governor’s decision. He said local residents were “fearful” of accidents and crimes caused by U.S. military personnel stationed at Futenma but could not welcome its replacement in Nago.
“The base will just be moved from one place to another within Okinawa,” Gima said.
Meanwhile, Shohei Nakachi, head of a group of citizens in favor of the Nago base plan, told reporters at the prefectural government building that his colleagues “fervently support the governor’s bold decision.”
Nakachi said if the base replacement is achieved, “the danger posed by Futenma will be removed and base-hosting burdens will certainly be alleviated.” The group had collected more than 80,000 signatures calling for Nakaima’s approval of the offshore fill work.