Okinawa’s budget slashed, but Henoko continues

The central government in Tokyo has been sending not-quite-so-subtle signals to Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who’s only been in office a month, letting him know that opposition to the national government programs and plans for relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to northern Okinawa will come at a cost.

Onaga’s opposed to the base relocation to the sparsely populated Henoko district of Nago City, and has vowed to find a way to reverse approvals that have initial land reclamation and plans for the new airbase well under way, thanks to approvals by former governor Hirokazu Nakaima.   That’s not sitting well with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which several weeks ago refused to even see Governor Onaga when he was making calls in Tokyo.

Now, Abe’s team is sending another warning; oppose us and your funding for economic promotion of Okinawa will be diminished.  Reports from Tokyo earlier this week are calling for a reduction from ¥350.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year promised to Governor Nakaima, and a ¥40 billion decrease to just over ¥310 billion.

Within the prime minister’s inner circle, there’s not unanimity on how to handle the Okinawa opposition.  Some re saying it is necessary to get Okinawa’s attention, rewarding good conduct and punishing bad conduct.  Others, however, think it is tactless, or in poor taste, to slash budget numbers previously promised.  The State Minister for Okinawa and the Northern Territories Affairs, Shunichi Yamaguchi, told reporters he thought it’s wrong to cut Okinawa’s funding. In fact, he’s asked the Finance Minister, Taro Aso, limit budget cuts to a “mild” level.

“It’s not right to reduce what’s necessary for Okinawa,” he said.  At the same time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated there’s no chance of the Futenma airfield relocation project being stopped.  “The former Okinawa prefectural administration approved the plan, and there are no problems with carrying out the work,” Suga told a satellite television program.  What will not change, the Chief Cabinet Secretary promised, is support for construction of a second runway at Naha International Airport.  The current year national budget includes ¥33 billion for the airport expansion.