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.