Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga apologized to Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga during talks Saturday in Tokyo for calls by members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its associates to destroy or attack the funding of his prefecture’s two main newspapers for reporting critically on the government’s security bills, the governor said.
Onaga and Suga also agreed to continue discussing their differences over a U.S.-Japan plan to relocate a U.S. military base within the prefecture, the governor told reporters after the meeting, which was held at a Tokyo hotel.
“It was good” that Suga offered an apology, Onaga said, adding, “It will serve as a basis for several rounds of talks down the road.”
At a June 25 meeting of junior members from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP, one lawmaker and a guest speaker said that Okinawa’s two major newspapers had been “taken over by left-wingers” and should be “destroyed.”
In an apparent bid to avoid further damaging their relationship, Onaga said he and Suga did not discuss the fiercely opposed plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma further north in Okinawa.
“The next talks and onwards will be severe,” said Onaga, who was elected last December under a pledge to block the relocation plan and lessen the U.S. military’s footprint on Okinawa by pushing for the base to be removed from the prefecture altogether.
Despite staunch local opposition, the central government is maintaining plans to begin construction of the replacement facility this summer.
However, the plan could face a delay if Onaga, based on a report to be released this month by an external committee that he set up, retracts the approval given by his predecessor to start landfill work at the relocation site.
The meeting between Onaga and Suga, who doubles as minister in charge of reducing Okinawa’s base-hosting duties, is their second since April 5 in the prefecture.