A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (August 7, 2014)
post date : 2014.08.07
The Japanese Defense Ministry on July 22 asked the Saga prefectural government to accept its plan to deploy at Saga Airport controversial MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft, which the Self-Defense Forces plans to introduce from next fiscal year. In addition, the ministry sounded out the possibility of using the airport for a temporary relocation of the same type of aircraft that the U.S. Marine Corps currently deploys at Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.
Four national dailies wrote about this development in their editorials: The Asahi Shimbun (July 26), The Mainichi Shimbun (July 27), The Sankei Shimbun (July 25) and The Yomiuri Shimbun (July 24).
Yomiuri and Sankei are strongly in favor of the Defense Ministry’s move to use the airport for Ospreys. Asahi also supports the move if it will become a step toward relocating the Futenma base outside Okinawa Prefecture. Mainichi stressed the need for the government to explain why it has chosen Saga Airport to local residents before realizing the plan.
The significance of deployment at Saga Airport
Yomiuri stressed that “Creating an environment for the new aircraft to show its high transport capabilities during emergencies is important for purposes such as disaster response and urgent medical transportation, let alone the defense of remote islands.” The Osprey deployment at the airport, therefore, “is reasonable in terms of allowing for a prompt response to a contingency in the Nansei Islands,”a chain of islands stretching from Kyushu to Okinawa Prefecture that includes the Senkaku Islands, it said.
Sankei echoed similar views. “Deploying Ospreys at Saga Airport would, first of all, drastically enhance the SDF’s capabilities to defend remote islands and substantially improve the deterrence to prevent conflicts from erupting.”
Saga Airport is located about 60 kilometers from Sasebo, where the Ground Self-Defense Force plans to establish an amphibious mobile unit modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps by the end of fiscal 2018. Sankei said if the unit is mobilized with Ospreys, the unit will greatly contribute to the defense of the Nansei Islands and “will be able to support the U.S. military in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.”
Okinawa gubernatorial election
Asahi said, while it “is significant that the administration has indicated the possibility of moving functions of the base outside the prefecture, albeit temporarily,” the move is “politically motivated.”
In the Okinawa gubernatorial election, incumbent Hirokazu Nakaima, who has accepted the government’s proposal to relocate the Futenma base to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture, is expected to face--if he decides to run--tough challenges from the Naha mayor who is opposed to the proposal.
If Nakaima fails to be reelected, “the Abe administration’s plan to relocate the base to the Henoko district… could fall through.” the newspaper said. “In order to placate Okinawans resentful over the heavy U.S. military presence, the administration is making desperate efforts to underscore its commitment to reducing their burden.”
Mainichi, meanwhile, did not explicitly state whether it supports the deployment of Ospreys at Saga Airport. The move has stirred debates among local residents as to why Saga has been chosen for a candidate site, the newspaper said, adding that “The government’s explanation thus far is extremely insufficient.” It urged the government to spare no efforts in explaining its move.
While stressing “the mainland Japan should share more of the excessive burdens that Okinawa now shoulders in hosting U.S. bases,” the newspaper said the “dangers” from hosting Ospreys should not be spread across the nation. It urged the U.S. military to abide by such rules as night flight restrictions to dispel safety concerns among the public about the aircraft.
*English translations of Yomiuri and Asahi are from The Japan News and The Asia & Japan Watch, respectively. Those for Mainichi and Sankei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center/Japan, and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.
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