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Nakaima to seek a re-look of U.S.~Japan Agreement

Date Posted: 2010-09-15

Okinawa’s governor is bracing himself for new battles over relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the northern reaches of his prefecture, formally announcing his reelection bid for the November 28th election while saying he thinks it may be time for Japan and the United States to re-think the entire Futenma move.

Nakaima, eyeing the Sunday win by anti-base politicians in Nago City’s Assembly election, is ready to put himself into a more staunch position of challenging the central government in Tokyo, now opting to demand more than simple answers from Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Until now, Nakaima has been lighting opposing the airbase relocation, limiting his criticism to the government’s positions and seeking additional explanations.

Nakaima is expected to insist the whole Futenma relocation issue, as spelled out in the 2006 U.S.~Japan Agreement, be reexamined, reevaluated and revised. Nakaima knows Tokyo and the United States are basically supporting him in the upcoming gubernatorial election, believing he is more flexible than Yoichi Iha, Ginowan’s mayor and his chief opponent for the job.

An Iha victory and control of Okinawa Prefecture could intensify opposition to the Futenma move, as it would force Tokyo into taking strong-handed tactics of overriding Okinawa’s governor to enact a special law appropriating the land needed in the Henoko district for the new airbase. Such a move is sure to infuriate Okinawans, and complicate the entire issue.

Now, Nakaima is working under the premise it’s his responsibility for protecting his constituents by reducing or eliminating dangers the new base would cause. Sources say he’s talking with supporters on exactly how he should undertake the new approach by himself clearly issuing a call for the base to relocated outside Okinawa, or whether he should declare “opposition to relocation within the prefecture.”

The governor’s aides have been advising that reelection on his record alone won’t get him past voters on November 28th. He must, they say, make an election promise of supporting the wishes of Okinawa residents. “If the government does not make clear a convincing solution,” Nakaima said in May after then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and the U.S. issued a renewed statement to continue with the Futenma relocation, “we will have to review the statement.”

Only days before the Nago election, Nakaima met with Land Minister Seiji Maehara, who promised to support Okinawa’s request for new permanent laws intended to insure smooth development of dozens of bases and sites being returned by the U.S. military. “We need some kind of new measure,” the minister said, “and we hope to come up with something good after hearing problems with current laws.” Two temporary laws expire in March 2012 that detail planning for eventual return of anumber of bases.

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