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Okinawans angry with new base accord

Date Posted: 2010-05-30

Okinawa residents reacted angrily Friday after learning that Japan and the United States had signed a formal agreement to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the Henoko area and Camp Schwab in northern Okinawa.

Nago City’s mayor, Susumu Inamine, continued to be defiant about the new base being built in his community, declaring there’s “zero” chance it will ever happen. “I will not engage in negotiations,” he said. Word spread quickly as the news was broadcast on television, most expressing both anger and disappointment that the agreement was approved despite Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama knowing the sentiments of the Okinawan people.

“I get the impression that it was reached over our heads,” said Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima. “Implementing it is extremely difficult.” Nakaima, who in the past had endorsed moving Futenma north with the proviso the U.S. and Japan agree to move the two V-shaped, 2,500-meter runways further into reclaimed land in Oura Bay as a safety measure that would also have reduced noise pollution. Nakaima has the authority to approve the land reclamation measures necessary to make the base’s runways a reality. “I’m not at the point where I should say it yet,” is how he responded to questions about whether he would grant the needed permit.

Local groups opposed to the move were angry, too. One, Hiroji Yamashiro, muttered “this kind of scam can’t pass. Nago City’s mayor Inamine, who was elected largely through is opposition to moving the Marine airbase to Henoko, said “returning to Henoko after raising expectations so much among the people of the prefecture amounts to a betrayal of them, and can’t be accepted.”

Roughly 1,200 people gathered at Nago City Hall to protest, while another 1,500 gathered at the Prefecture Headquarters in Naha City. Activist Muneyoshi Kayo, who’s been leading sit-in demonstrations against the Futenma move to Henoko for years, criticized Hatoyama, saying “the ancestor of the Hatoyama family will be crying, saying ‘the grandson is a liar’”. He was referring to Hatoyama’s father, former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama.

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