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Okinawa - Tokyo relations at all time low, Governor comes under criticism

Date Posted: 1998-08-14

The record low relations the Okinawa Prefecture Government has with the central government in Tokyo seems to have sunk to new record lows with the new Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka publicly criticizing Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota for his indifference to former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto upon his resignation. "I think it is highly unusual that Governor Ota didn't say a word when the prime minister resigned. He had, after all, had extensive meetings with the governor which proves that he really worked hard to resolve the heliport and other issues affecting Okinawa," Nonaka said in a recent interview.

Nonaka also refused to arrange a proposed meeting between the new Prime Minister Seiroku Obuchi saying it showed a very shallow attitude for the Okinawan government to try to meet the new prime minister without showing any respect for the previous prime minister.

In his response during a press interview, Monday, Governor Ota declined to comment on the remarks by the Chief Cabinet Secretary except by stating that, "I will try to solve this problem as soon as possible."

Governor Ota is scheduled to travel to Tokyo at the end of the month, and said that he is trying to meet the prime minister and other cabinet members at that time. He also reiterated his resolve to clear the U.S. troop issue "as hard as ever."

For his part, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto had an interview with major Okinawan newspapers, Monday, where he indicated that he had thought that he and Governor Ota had a full understanding on the issues based on several frank discussions.

"I am sure that the governor understood the agreements between the Japanese and U.S. governments concerning the return of MCAS Futenma. We stressed that the facility will be returned, but only on condition that an alternative site within the prefecture can be found. And he agreed with that," Hashimoto said in his Tokyo office.

"But when he went public, he said that he wouldn't accept our proposal contrary to what he had earlier indicated, and that was a severe disappointment to me. That made me wonder what his true thoughts are," Hashimoto said, suggesting the governor should explain his position to the public.

The row has all but frozen all economic and other stimulus packages aimed at Okinawa, and many in Tokyo expect the things to stay that way or even get worse if there is no change in the governor's position.

"We always must remember that Governor Ota agreed to the original conditions and then changed his mind. That's why the whole progress in at standstill. We still would like to support Okinawa, and our door is always open. But there must be something to negotiate to begin with," Hashimoto concluded.

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