“Revisit the Henoko relocation plan.” That’s a voice being heard within the ruling LDP after Defense Minister Taro Kono announced the scrapping of the planned deployment of Aegis Ashore to Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. On July 2, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba opined in a lecture given to a Kyodo News-sponsored editors meeting that the government’s policy that Henoko is the only option must be scrutinized and reconsidered. On July 3 former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani visited Okinawa and met with Gov. Denny Tamaki to suggest that the new Henoko base can be jointly used by military and civilian aircraft, thus indicating there's a room for altering the current relocation plan.
The Abe government keeps saying the Henoko relocation must be carried out at all cost in order to: (1) eliminate the danger Futenma poses to Ginowan citizens and (2) maintain the U.S. Marines’ deterrence capability. The elimination of danger could be solved right away if only they decide Futenma would be closed and returned tomorrow. Why don't they do that if the danger Futenma poses is so worrisome? The government’s reasoning for it is that deterrence must be maintained. But is Futenma's replacement really conducive to the security of Japan, hence an absolute necessity for deterrence?
The Henoko base will be an integral part of the U.S. Marine Corps base complex in the northern part of Okinawa Island. Especially, it's an integral part of the Northern Training Area, aka USMC Jungle Warfare Training Center, where Ospreys are daily conducting STOL practice for transporting troops.
Note, however, that a recently signed bilateral agreement says that the most active elements of the Okinawa-stationed Marines are to relocate to Guam, where the construction of infrastructure for this purpose is going on at a rapid pace. These Marines will come to Okinawa and hone their combat skills in jungle as well as amphibious warfare on a regular basis. The Sasebo-based amphibious assault ship Wasp and other high speed vessels are presumed to transport them to and from Guam.
Considering these facts, the government's explanation of why Futenma's replacement must be built at Henoko turns out to be shenanigans. In other words, the Henoko base is nothing but a white elephant contributing little to the defense and security of Japan just like Aegis Ashore.
The bottom line: Close Futenma and return the land immediately with no strings attached.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.