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Okinawa immediately presses Prime Minister for change

Date Posted: 2010-06-05

Naoto Kan wasn’t even officially sworn in as Japan’s Prime Minister when Okinawa launched a barrage of appeals that he change the agreement made only a week ago that solidified moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to northern Okinawa.

Okinawa’s governor was quick to send the message to Kan that there should be changes to the agreement made between the U.S. and Japan through Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned the post on Wednesday. Speaking at his regular weekly news conference, Hirokazu Nakaima said he would like to see Kan try hard to get Futenma moved and have the land returned to Japan. Nakaima couched his remarks as an appeal to Kan to make the government reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bulk of American troops and installations in the country.

Nakaima still would like to see Futenma moved off Okinawa, and not shifted north to the Henoko district of Nago City, but he conceded the bilateral deal reached June 28th is between the two nations, and not with the people of Okinawa. Still, he says he’d like Kan to use his Cabinet to find ways to relocate troops and bases to help Okinawans.

Okinawans are demanding the base be moved out of Okinawa, and the immediate consensus is that Kan’s new government should reject the deal Hatoyama and the United States brokered. Some members of Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan feel likewise, already telling him to change the agreement. Toshimi Kitazawa, Japan’s Defense Minister, says the agreement signed last week should stay unchanged.

Susumu Inamine, Nago City’s mayor—who was elected on a campaign to block Futenma being moved to Henoko and Camp Schwab in his city’s jurisdiction, says he’s still not convinced the base location dispute is ended. Nakaima must weigh in and approve the land reclamation necessary for construction of the new base, and it’s not likely he’ll do that before November’s Okinawa gubernatorial election.

On the national level, residents of Tokunoshima, a Kanagawa Prefecture site Hatoyama had tried to woo into accepting some of the Futenma mission, soundly rejected hosting any training functions. Murky waters are also being forecast ahead of July’s Upper House of Councilors election, which could pressure Kan’s new government to at least consider further modifications to the U.S. ~ Japan agreement.

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