Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga recently paid a visit to the United States to convey to government officials and legislators, including Republican Sen. John McCain, as well as to U.S. security experts, the sentiments of Okinawans who oppose the Japanese government's plan to build a new air base for the U.S. military in the northern part of Okinawa Island. Although the visit did not produce concrete results, it was significant that the governor directly expressed his views to U.S. officials and lawmakers, and that "they at least understood" — according to the governor — the situation in Okinawa surrounding the base issue.
Onaga visited the U.S. apparently because he thought that the Abe administration — in its push to build off the Nago coast a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan — turned a deaf ear to the protests of those who oppose the project and that it would be more effective to make an appeal to U.S. officials and experts. In this sense his trip was aimed at Tokyo as well.
Although Onaga was elected governor in November, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and key members of his Cabinet refused to meet him for months. Finally, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga met with him in Naha in April and Abe and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani did so in Tokyo later that month. Neither of them would answer Onaga's question of why a new base must be built in Okinawa rather than in another part of Japan. They only repeated that construction of the replacement facility off the Henoko district of Nago is the only solution to remove dangers from the Futenma base located in a residential area of Ginowan in central Okinawa.