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Politicians and citizens argue against troop realignment deal

Date Posted: 2005-11-19

The majority of Okinawans are opposed to keeping Futenma Marine Corps Air Station within the prefecture, and most firmly believe the Japanese government is out of line making such a deal.

Governor Keiichi Inamine is pleased with results of a poll conducted by Okinawa Times and Asahi Shimbun newspapers, which show 84% of Okinawans want the controversial airbase sent to the United States, Hawaii or Guam. More than two-thirds—72% of those surveyed—say the Japanese government is acting poorly in making such deals without support from Okinawa Prefecture and others who are impacted by the agreements.

The governor says “the people agree with my thoughts” and are joining local leaders in opposing the unilateral measures taken by the central government in Tokyo. Mayors and members of the Diet are opposed to the agreements, and are demanding they be revoked. “There is no way we can support this plan,” says Seiki Nakamura, chairman of a group of Okinawa Liberal Democratic Party Diet members. “We support the governor in his efforts to end these plans.”

Far to the north, Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara is angry with the agreement, which puts additional U.S. forces in his community. Twelve KC-130 air refueling tankers would move from Futenma to Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station under the agreement.

Governor Inamine has been lobbying across Tokyo, meeting with Liberal Democratic Party leaders as well as government agencies. He not only wants the Marines’ presence reduced, but changes in Kadena Air Base status as well. Those changes are muddy and not defined by the Governor’s office, other than reductions in numbers of aircraft and flight activities.

Nago’s Mayor Tateo Kishimoto is calling the Tokyo agreement “realistic” while opponents call it a “betrayal” of Okinawa interests. The Ginoza Village Mayor agrees with the opposition, saying Kishimoto has the right to accept the deal, but that he should be careful to listen to fellow citizens and communities. The Anti-Helicopter Base Council spokesman says the mayor is being irresponsible in agreeing to the new airfield.

Naha Mayor Takashi Onaga called the agreement “regrettable” and said he had expected the government to listen to the voices of the people. Kadena Town Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi is calling on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to reverse the agreement and reconsider the military burdens and troop reductions issue.

Neighboring mayor Masakazu Nakasone of Okinawa City agrees. “The burden should be more fairly borne,” he says, “with more efforts to send troops to other prefectures, and even to other countries.”

Ginowan mayor Yoichi Iha, in whose community the sprawling Futenma air base lies, blasted the prime minister for a lack of sensitivity, and for failing to consider the implications the new troop reduction plan has for the well being of Okinawa.

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