Abe vows to help ease Okinawa’s burdens

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has again expressed his resolve to make progress on issues involving Okinawa Prefecture.

 “The central government will make an all-out effort to ensure steady progress on various issues in Okinawa,” Abe told a meeting of officials from the state and Okinawa prefectural governments.    This is the first meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council since Abe took office in December.

Abe sought Okinawa’s understanding of his government’s plan to hold a ceremony on April 28 to mark the 61st anniversary of the country’s restoration of its sovereignty after its defeat in World War II.   The prime minister said people should not forget a historical fact that the islands of Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara were kept out of the country’s administrative control even after the San Francisco peace treaty took effect in 1952.

The meeting was held as requested by Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima. The meeting last took place in May last year, when the country was governed by the Democratic Party of Japan, which was ousted from power by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in national elections in December.   The latest meeting comes as the central government is expected to apply for Nakaima’s permission as early as this month for landfill work needed to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station in the Okinawa city of Ginowan.

The Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in crowded Ginowan City in central Okinawa has been drawing strong opposition from Okinawa people.   Nakaima told the meeting that the Futenma base should be transferred to somewhere else outside Okinawa where a runway already exists because it takes time to build a new facility in Henoko.

Prime Minister Abe assured Okinawa that his government will make efforts to ease the burden on Okinawa Prefecture of hosting the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan, and to promote economic development in the southernmost island prefecture. “There are still many U.S. military facilities, imposing large burdens on the people of Okinawa,” Abe told a meeting of a council to discuss issues surrounding Okinawa. It was attended by all Cabinet ministers and Nakaima.

The government will make “all-out” efforts to ease Okinawa’s burdens,” Abe told the Okinawa officials, while maintaining the “deterrence” effect provided by the U.S. military stationed in the prefecture.