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Revocation of Approval for Henoko Relocation | 公益財団法人フォーリン・プレスセンター(FPCJ)

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Revocation of Approval for Henoko Relocation

post date : 2015.10.30


Asahi: “Face up to the agony of Okinawa”

Sankei: “Abandoning official responsibilities as governor?”

Nikkei: “Pay more attention to what an Okinawan base should be”

Mainichi: “Okinawa Gov. Onaga compelled to revoke landfill work approval”

Yomiuri: “Okinawa Gov. Onaga should not incite antagonism against central govt”


Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on October 13 revoked the approval of land reclamation work off the Henoko district of Nago, the planned relocation site within Okinawa Prefecture of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan, saying there were flaws in his predecessor’s approval for the project.


In response, the Defense Ministry filed an appeal on the following day with the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry for an administrative review of the revocation based on the Administrative Appeal Act.     If the land ministry approves a stay of execution against Onaga’s revocation, the government plans to start the main reclamation work as early as November. But the Okinawa governor is likely to fight on by taking further administrative and legal actions to stop the reclamation work.


The five national dailies took up the topic in their respective editorials on October 14, but their views were widely divided.


The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Sankei Shimbun sharply criticized Onaga’s actions, with The Yomiuri saying: “As long as Onaga only incites antagonism against the central government, it will not only make the relocation of the Futenma Air Station less likely to be realized, but also may bring the partial transfer of U.S. marines from Okinawa to Guam to a standstill.”


In contrast, The Asahi Shimbun urged the government to scrap the project altogether and face up to the agony of Okinawa, which hosts more than 70 percent of the U.S. military facilities in Japan in terms of area.


The Mainichi Shimbun criticized the government’s “high-handed” approach to the relocation project. “... [I]sn’t the latest development the result of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to force the relocation of the U.S. air station within the island prefecture without hearing the voices of Okinawa?” The Mainichi said. “We believe that the situation required Okinawa to cancel the landfill work approval.”


The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) said, “It is appropriate for the government to try to relocate [the Futenma Air Station] to the less populated district of Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.” But the economic daily added the government “must make further efforts to reduce the burden Okinawa now shoulders in hosting U.S. bases.”


■ Security vs. popular will


Both The Sankei and The Yomiuri regard national security as something that should be prioritized over the relocation issue.


The Sankei cited safety issues in criticizing Onaga’s responses, in addition to security concerns. “If the relocation project of the air station to Henoko is scuttled, Japan can neither maintain deterrence against China, which has repeatedly made ambitious maritime advancements near the Senkaku Islands and other sea zones, nor can it eliminate the danger of the Futenma Air Station located in the middle of an urban area,” The Sankei said. “In either case, the safety of the Okinawan people is put at risk. Should a top local administrative official be allowed to make such a [flawed] judgment?”


The Yomiuri also expressed concerns, saying “Relocating the helicopter unit outside the prefecture…would certainly lower the rapid-reaction capability of the U.S. forces.”


The Yomiuri’s editorial evolved around criticism against Onaga. “The relocation to the Henoko district is the sole, realistic option chosen following many years of discussions among the Japanese and U.S. governments and local governments of Okinawa. Onaga continues taking his noncompliant stance, providing no alternative plans whatsoever.”


As opposed to these views, The Asahi stressed the importance of respecting the popular will of Okinawa. “As the central and prefectural governments fight each other by taking administrative and judicial steps, the construction of a base goes ahead against the will of the people. Such an abnormal situation should be avoided at all cost.”


The Nikkei and The Mainichi, meanwhile, mainly pointed out problems on the part of the government in dealing with Okinawa.


“What level of defense capability is needed in Okinawa?” The Nikkei said. “If the Japanese and U.S. governments as well as the ruling and opposition camps pay more attention and conduct serious discussions on what level of U.S. military presence Japan should have in the prefecture, the people of Okinawa should be able to understand the situation they are currently in.” The paper also mentioned “Okinawa is being put in a bad situation due to the selfishness of the central government. As long as the people of Okinawa believe this, then even if the Supreme Court approves the relocation to Nago, there will still be tension,” and so a “sincere approach by the central government” is necessary.


The Mainichi was also critical of the government’s stance. “In the 10 months since Onaga assumed office, the Abe administration lacked the willingness to acknowledge Okinawa’s claim in terms of the U.S. base relocation plan,” the paper said. “Top government officials at one point refused to meet with Onaga.” It suggested that “The central government should not force the base relocation to Henoko, but rather halt the drilling survey and other work related to the relocation plan and face Okinawa sincerely to provide answers to these questions.”


■ Is the base problem a human rights issue?


The Yomiuri, The Sankei and The Asahi discussed Onaga’s speech last month at a meeting in Geneva of the U.N. Human Rights Council, during which he said, “Our right to self-determination and human rights have been neglected.”


 “We cannot help feeling a sense of discomfort,” The Yomiuri said. “Such messages could be suggestive of the ‘aboriginal nature’ of Okinawa and suppression of human rights by a despotic state, thus likely to send a wrong message to the international community.”


The Yomiuri also introduced the following counterarguments at the same meeting made by a woman from Nago who supports the Henoko relocation. “We enjoy the highest-level human rights in such aspects as education and livelihood. Don’t believe the propaganda [of Onaga].”


The Sankei also criticized Onaga’s speech, saying “His action, which gave the impression worldwide of Japan being hit by confusion, can be described as damaging to national interests, particularly when the issue is closely related to the nation’s defense.”


The Asahi is wholeheartedly embracing Onaga’s arguments.


The Asahi said Okinawa experienced “the risk of becoming victims of crimes or accidents involving the U.S. military as well as the history of enduring aircraft noises and other damages from living next door to the bases since the end of World War II 70 years ago.” But the prefecture is still forced to shoulder the excessive burden, the paper said, stressing that “This is indeed ‘discrimination’ against Okinawa.”



*English translations of The Yomiuri and The Mainichi are from The Japan News and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Asahi, The Nikkei and The 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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