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Okinawa mayors, citizens stage Tokyo Diet sit-in

Date Posted: 2010-05-01

Angry at what they perceive a lack of listening by the Democratic Party of Japan-led central government, a group of Okinawa mayors—joined by citizens representing local organizations—staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the Diet building in Tokyo.

The mayor of Ginowan City, which hosts the controversial and much-disliked Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, reminded the Diet that “fourteen years have passed since Japan and the U.S. agreed on the land return, but the airfield remains a major impediment to the city’s urban planning and economic development. Mayor Yoichi Iha blasted both the U.S. and Japanese governments for the lack of progress in getting Futenma out of his city, and the land returned.

Nago City’s mayor, Susumu Inamine, said that while he “believes in” Prime Minister Yuko Hatoyama, he demanded “the prime minister clearly show a road map” toward relocating the base out of Okinawa Prefecture. At the same time, the leader of a women’s group on Okinawa, Setsuko Oshiro, asked lawmakers “Why is the base problem in Okinawa neglected? Why do we have to bear the possible crash of helicopters.”

A Marine Corps heavy lift helicopter crash landed on the Okinawa International University campus, just outside Futenma, in August 2004, injuring three Marine crewmen but nobody on the ground. The crash has repeatedly been cited as a reason for the base to close before another incident happens.

Japan’s Foreign Minister says, though, that U.S. Marines are a “necessary deterrence” to protect and defend the lives of Japanese and their property against overseas threats. Katsuya Okada says the Marines must stay, but the locations and arrangements are subject to revisions. The Chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, Zenshin Takamine, said the Foreign Minister has not considered moving Futenma outside Japan, because the Marines are needed because Self Defense Forces alone cannot defend the country.

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