Susumu Inamine, mayor of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, vowed Thursday to use every weapon in his arsenal to block the central government’s efforts to construct a replacement base in his city for the U.S. Futenma airfield.
Inamine defeated a pro-base rival to win re-election last month, promising to block the Futenma relocation project.
“(The central government) will soon try to start on-site surveys and procedures for the construction. In some cases, (it) will need approval, consensus, or consultation with the mayor,” Inamine told reporters during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
“I won’t cooperate with anything concerning construction. I’d like to say this clearly,” he said.
Inamine didn’t elaborate, but earlier media reports said he is considering trying to block the work by turning down expected requests to use a nearby fishing port to transport construction materials and to set up a tap water system to supply the proposed base.
It has been reported the mayor can also disapprove requests to set up fuel tanks for aircraft.
As far as use of the fishing port is concerned, the central government can legally demand the mayor approve requests and even file a lawsuit to confirm the illegality of the mayor’s refusal.
But even if the illegality is confirmed, the mayor would not be given any punishment, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
As a result, any legal battles with the Nago mayor would likely just further complicate the already controversial relocation project.
Still, the central government is firmly determined to press ahead with the base, which is to include two runways more than 1,200 meters long in the Henoko coastal area to maintain powerful U.S. Marine transport units, including Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
Just two days after Inamine was re-elected, the central government announced it was inviting bids for public works projects related to the base, demonstrating its determination to move the relocation plan forward.
People in Okinawa have long called for removal of Futenma, which sits in the middle of a densely populated area in the city of Ginowan. While the central government is on board with that desire, officials in Tokyo and Washington want the replacement to stay in Okinawa. Many Okinawans, however, are calling for it to be moved outside the prefecture.
Meanwhile, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima has approved a request from the central government to start landfill work at Henoko needed to construct the base, welcoming the central government’s promise to promote large-scale projects to promote the prefecture’s economy.
During his news conference in Tokyo, Inamine claimed the central government is trying to “split the heart of Okinawans into two” by dangling pork-barrel money in return for U.S. bases.
Sex report causes stir
The government will seek answers from the U.S. military in connection with an investigative report that uncovered a pattern of lax punishment for sex crimes committed by U.S. service members in Japan, according to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
“I believe the Japanese government must continue consultations (with relevant U.S. authorities) to prevent further sex crimes” involving U.S. service members in Japan, Kishida told reporters Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported Monday that nearly two-thirds of the 244 service members whose punishments were made a matter of record were not incarcerated, citing documents the U.S. news agency obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Instead they were fined, demoted, restricted to their bases or removed from the military. In more than 30 cases, a letter of reprimand was the only punishment,” it said. “The AP analysis found the handling of allegations verged on the chaotic, with seemingly strong cases often reduced to lesser charges.”
Kishida said he wants to confirm the accuracy of the data and other findings in the report.
“In any case, it is regrettable to see sex crimes involving U.S. military personnel, and such crimes must never occur,” he said.