Tokyo turns up pressure on Okinawa with budget threat

JIJI

The government is starting to apply pressure on Okinawa Prefecture in light of the new governor’s opposition to the Futenma air base relocation plan, according to informed sources.

One change in policy being considered is to reduce the economic development budget planned for the struggling prefecture, a bureaucrat said.

The move is designed to prod Gov. Takeshi Onaga into accepting the U.S.-Japan agreement to build a replacement base in Nago for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is being moved from Ginowan, further to the south.

But the pressure is likely to fuel already strong resentment against Tokyo, creating more uncertainty over the relocation plan, observers said.

In the fiscal 2013 budget, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government set aside ¥300.1 billion for Okinawa development and upped it to ¥350.1 billion for fiscal 2014 as it lobbied the prefecture to go through with the plan.

In its budget request guidelines for fiscal 2015 starting April 1, it raised the amount to ¥379.4 billion in a bid to help Hirokazu Nakaima win a third term as governor.

Nakaima late last year approved the start of reclamation work needed in Henoko to move the base. But he then lost the November gubernatorial election to Onaga, who wants the base kicked out of the prefecture.

At a prefectural assembly meeting Tuesday, Onaga said his policies wold put priority on blocking the base plan.

Onaga hopes to travel to Tokyo this week for talks with Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other ministers to discuss the budget issue, but Suga said Friday he has no plans to meet the governor.

Abe is also considering reviewing another base-related incentive, the central government’s designation of Okinawa as a special deregulation zone, sources familiar with his thinking said.

  • timefox

    If it isn’t relocated, Okinawa wouldn’t need the so many budgets.

    Because it’s development as expected, this later is the point of the capacity of the Okinawa governor.

  • johninokinawa

    Okinawans chose Onaga because the vast majority of people living here are fed up with having to put up with huge US bases. That is also why the LDP did so badly here in the last election.

    Okinawans want the bases off their island. Abe has to come off his high horse and show more respect for his people.

    • rossdorn

      Why does he have to?

  • Facebook User

    As a US citizen I hope Okinawa holds out and doesn’t allow the raping US military to build another base there! Our military is the biggest group of rapist, druggies and all around criminals there is!
    The marines are the worst Americans there are and the most dangerous we don’t even want them around us!
    Www theusmarinesrape com

  • Testerty

    They can move the base to Fukushima. Plenty of empty land there.

    • Firas Kraïem

      No, we don’t want it around here either. If Abe wants it so much, he can have it in Tokyo.

  • Ahojanen

    The base relocation into Henoko is so far the most viable option if not inevitable. Looking at a bright side, Futenma is now back into the hands of local Okinawans!

    Other than this, Okinawa can still request the reduction and handover of US “occupied” areas and properties one by another.

    What Governor Onaga can do is negotiate with Tokyo and US over any lease of a new base at Henoko and its terms (of handover) and specific timetable. The lease may last decades, sometime between 50-100 years. This would be a crucial step however tiny it appears to resolve the US “everlasting occupation” in Okinawa. Okinawa should hold a long-term perspective on the issue parallel to its solid socioeconomic development (much less dependent on subsidies from Tokyo).