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Let's discuss the U.S. base situation in Okinawa

This week’s featured article

KYODO

The government on Friday pushed ahead with full-fledged land reclamation work needed to move a key U.S. air base to Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, despite stiff local resistance and legal wrangling.

The pouring of soil and sand began before noon in Nago’s Henoko district, where the replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is to be built, marking a new and significant phase in the relocation process. The unpopular base is currently in a crowded residential area of Ginowan.

“I cannot help feeling strong resentment toward the work being carried out in defiance of the prefectural residents’ will,” said Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki.

The relocation plan originated from an agreement reached between the Japanese and U.S. governments in 1996, after public anger was fueled by the 1995 gang rape of an Okinawa girl by three U.S. servicemen. But progress has been slow, with many residents hoping the base will be removed from the prefecture altogether.

Many hours before soil was dumped in a 6.3-hectare area on the southern side of the landfill site, protesters gathered in front of the gates of the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab, which is adjacent to the site, and held sit-in demonstrations in which they held up placards and called for immediate suspension of the work, facing off with the riot police.

“We have been betrayed by the government all too often. I am sick of it,” said Seiko Kaneku, 69, from the city of Uruma.

The current feud between the central and local governments re-emerged under the tenure of previous Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, with the fight picked up by Tamaki — who was elected in September on an anti-U.S. base platform after his predecessor died of cancer.

But Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters in Tokyo that the central government will advance the construction work so as “to achieve the complete return of the Futenma air base (to Japan) at the earliest possible date.”

First published in The Japan Times on Dec. 14.

Warm up

One-minute chat about Okinawa.

Game

Collect words related to army, e.g., camp, base, defense.

New words

1) reclamation: the conversion of land for use, e.g., “We are working on reclamation work.”

2) adjacent: side by side, e.g., “The office is adjacent to the school.”

3) feud: a long dispute between two groups, e.g., “The television show ‘Game of Thrones’ is about a feud between the fictional Stark and Lannister families.”

Guess the headline

Japan begins filling in Henoko B _ _ in Okinawa to make room for unpopular U.S. b _ _ _

Questions

1) What happened recently in Okinawa as part of the base relocation process?

2) What has been the reaction from local people?

3) Why did the Japanese and U.S. governemnts want to move the base in the first place?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What is your image of Okinawa?

2) What do you think about Okinawa having a new base?

3) What do you think is the solution for the issue?

Reference

長らく論争が続いていた沖縄の基地問題が大きな動きを見せました。地元の人々の訴えは続くなかで政府がその反対意見を強行突破したような形をみせています。

地元の人々の理解を得られるように努力するとの政府コメントもありますが、多くの人々が納得できる最善案とはいったい何なのでしょうか。

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