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Prefecture to take up Futenma issue

Date Posted: 2010-04-22

Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and the site for its relocation is expected to be a hot button topic April 25th when the Okinawa Prefecture General Meeting takes place in Yomitan.

Of the 41 municipalities in Okinawa, 37 municipal mayors are headed for Saturday’s meeting, with most firmly opposed to plans to relocate Futenma either at Camp Schwab in northern Okinawa, or on reclaimed land near White Beach.

Okinawa’s governor still hasn’t made up his mind whether to participate or not, telling officials at a meeting this week “let me think one more day, but if I do attend the demonstration, I’m going to give a clear message to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.” Hirokazu Nakaima says he’s going to tell the Prime Minister to “please shape up and make clear your answer not to transfer the Futenma base to any place in Okinawa.” The governor has been reiterating his case to the Prime Minister for quite a while; telling Hatoyama “we have to remove the danger of Futenma very quickly. We can’t wait much longer, but if you don’t decide, the danger situation will not be removed at all.”

Each of Okinawa’s municipalities have been establishing committee groups and organizing literature and buses to participate, while jointly establishing an executive committee this week. The executive committee is being headed by Uruma City Mayor Toshio Shimabukuro. The executive committee will visit local Chambers of Commerce, Fishermen’s Associations, Residents’ Associations and peace groups to get a feel of local opinions.

Nago City, in whose district the new airbase would be constructed under terms of a 2006 agreement between Japan and the United States, has also established its own executive committee headed by its anti-base mayor, Susumu Inamine. Similarly, Okinawa’s largest city, Naha, set up an executive committee headed by Mayor Takeshi Onaga on April 20th. Naha City has budgeted ¥1 million for the meeting preparation.

Uruma City’s mayor, Toshio Shimabukuro, says, “my public promise is to make sure the American bases are cut here in Okinawa. We can never accept new bases. Never.” Urasoe City’s mayor, Mitsuo Gima, complains “I thought Prime Minister Hatoyama promised that Futenma would be moved outside of Okinawa, so why now is he changing his opinion?” Ginowan City Mayor, Yoichi Iha says, “Hatoyama should let people know about his transfer plans, and not just be looking for new places.”

Hirotsune Uehara, the mayor of Itoman City, says, “Prime Minister Hatoyama should keep his promises on what he said to people.” Tomigusuku City’s mayor, Homei Kinjo, adds he “hopes Prime Minister Hatoyama will understand our minds and take the base outside of Okinawa.”

Opposition party members in Nago City say they will not participate in the upcoming meetings. The nine members had agreed to support the relocation plan approved in 2006, and still contend the proposed site on Camp Schwab, with its twin V-shaped 1,500-meter runways extending on reclaimed land in Oura Bay, is still the best plan.

Japan’s Foreign Minister still contends the Camp Schwab site is best, but Japan’s Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has yet to make a decision on where the new airfield should be built. Yuichi Higa, chairman of the Nago City Assembly, is frustrated the opposition party members will not participate in the upcoming meetings. “I feel very sorry for them,” he says, asking, “why don’t they attend this general meeting?” The Prefecture is expecting about 100,000 citizens to participate.

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