The Cabinet is dealing with another headache after a right-leaning Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker sparked renewed outrage in Okinawa by accusing authorities there of rabble-rousing during a recent visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Minoru Kihara, who was dismissed last week as head of the LDP’s Youth Division, was quoted accusing the Okinawa Prefectural Government of having “mobilized” hecklers to interrupt Abe as he spoke at a ceremony on June 23 to mark the 70th anniversary of the cessation of fighting there in World War II.
“I’ve seen many ceremonies and rallies, so I can say that they were obviously mobilized,” Kihara was quoted as saying by local daily Okinawa Times, citing Internet video website Channel Sakura.
Kihara’s remark, apparently recorded on June 25, was first reported by Okinawa Times on Tuesday, and major Japanese media outlets carried the story Wednesday.
Asked for comment, Onaga was defiant. “Mobilization was impossible,” he said Tuesday. “If (Kihara) actually made such a remark, it’s very regrettable,” he added, according to the public relations office of the prefectural government.
Kihara was unavailable for comment on Thursday afternoon when contacted by The Japan Times.
A Lower House member from Kumamoto Prefecture, Kihara was sacked on June 27 as the head of the LDP’s Youth Division because of remarks made by participants in a meeting organized by the division.
During the meeting, Naoki Hyakuta, a writer and former NHK governor, said two left-leaning Okinawa local newspapers “must be destroyed.”
During the same meeting, LDP lawmaker Hideo Onishi reportedly argued some “mass media should be punished” and suggested advertisers should boycott them. The remarks immediately drew flak from media outlets and opposition parties.
LDP executives tried to minimize political damage by immediately dismissing Kihara as head of the LDP’s Youth Division and reprimanding Onishi.
The latest allegation against Kihara is likely to provide ammunition for opposition lawmakers and further strain relations between the central and the Okinawa prefectural governments.
Onaga strongly opposes Tokyo’s plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan, central Okinawa, to a proposed base in Nago, in the north of the island.