The newly installed minister of state for Okinawa affairs says the prefecture’s residents deserve a full breakdown of the government’s rationale for relocating a contentious U.S. military base from the crowded city of Ginowan to the coastal district of Henoko in Nago.
“I believe we will have to make continued efforts to fully explain to the people of Okinawa the government’s efforts to reduce the base-hosting burden, including the transfer” of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less populated area of the island, minister Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi said in an interview this week with media outlets, including The Japan Times.
Miyakoshi’s comments come amid a widening rift between the central government and the prefecture.
The prefecture recently elected Denny Tamaki, a strident opponent of the relocation plan, as new governor in what was widely seen as a repudiation by residents of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tamaki wants Futenma’s operations moved out of Okinawa altogether and supports his late predecessor Takeshi Onaga’s annulment of landfill work needed to transfer the base to Henoko.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has repeatedly insisted Futenma, which is located in a residential area, is the “world’s most dangerous” air base, and that its relocation to Henoko would significantly reduce the danger for locals and noise pollution.
“As someone in a position to promote the economy of Okinawa, I will vigorously push my way toward this goal, including making good use of the post-relocation site of the base,” Miyakoshi said.
Miyakoshi is also in charge of Japan’s decadeslong disagreement with Russia over the sovereignty of islands located off Hokkaido, and other territorial disputes.
The minister expressed particular displeasure over a recent series of provocations by China and South Korea, including a visit earlier this week by a group of South Korean lawmakers to islets in the Sea of Japan that are controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo. The two islets are known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
“Acts like this are totally unacceptable and I find them to be extremely regrettable,” Miyakoshi said.
Miyakoshi said he wants to beef up efforts to raise international awareness of Japan’s territorial stances. He said he wants to further build on current measures in place, such as offering multilingual translations of special government websites on each territorial dispute and holding related seminars overseas.