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Nago mayor still smarting over ministerial snub

Date Posted: 2011-07-29

The mayor of Nago City is still irritated with Japan’s Defense Minister, more than a month after being refused a meeting with him.

Mayor Susumu Inamine had wanted to meet Toshimi Kitazawa during the Defense Minister’s Okinawa travel, so he could express his feelings about the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation. Kitazawa refused to meet with the northern Okinawa city mayor, in whose district a replacement airfield would be relocated under current Japan-U.S. agreements.

Kitazawa, together with a vice minister and a Defense Ministry aide all refused to meet with Inamine during their June visit. The defense minister has tried to brush the rebuff aside by explaining “he (Mayor Inamine) needs to get a proper grasp of the situation before he makes any sort of proposition to the government.” Kitazawa has told reporters “I did not want to meet a mayor who tries to go straight to the top without listening to an explanation of matters from the Director of the Defense Bureau.

Inamine had earlier refused to meet with the Japanese Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Ministry director, who wanted to explain the content of an agreement decided at the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, the so-called two-plus-two meetings. The mayor’s explanation for the refusal was that “The ministry showed no sign of being prepared to listen to the opinion of the local community.” The mayor says he wanted to tell the defense minister he was going to call upon both Japan and the U.S. governments to give up plans for relocating Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago City.

Defense Minister Kitazawa says “although the Director of the Japanese Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau tried to explain things to Mr. Inamine, he would not meet with him. Once he has a proper grasp of the situation, I would like Mr. Inamine to express his thoughts and make a proposition to us.” Inamine, in return, says “the Director tried to report about the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee in a matter-of-fact manner, but my approach was not like that at all. I do not really feel that the government is trying to deal with the issue seriously.”

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