Mayor Susumu Inamine rejected a new proposal to build a runway for US Marine helicopters within Camp Schwab--located on land the US took over during the Cold War period in Henoko, a beautiful coastal area of northern Okinawa.
Inamine also repeated his rejection of an earlier plan to build a controversial and "floating" base over Henoko Bay's coral reef that would destroy the only habitat of the critically endangered dugong (cousin to the manatee) and ruin Henoko Beach forever.
The recently-elected mayor of Nago, where Henoko is located, advocates "reduction--not relocation" of US military bases in Okinawa.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said he would reconsider the new base in light of Inamine's winning platform and resolve the issue by May as promised. Before becoming prime minister, Hatoyama said he was against the new base.
NHK, the Japanese public television channel, reported on Mayor Inamine's refusal to accept a new Marine airfield anywhere in Henoko:
The mayor of Nago in Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa says he will continue to oppose plans to relocate a US Marine air station from central Okinawa to his city...Because this ill-conceived plan would destroy the coral reef which is the home to the critically endangered Okinawan dugong, milllions people throughout Okinawa, Japan and the world and hundreds of NGOs worldwide have rallied against its construction..
A panel of the government and 3 ruling parties are due to decide by the end of May where to relocate the US Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa.
The mayor dismissed the proposal by the New People's Party, a small governing coalition party, to build a runway for Marine helicopters on the premises of US Marine Corps Camp Schwab in his city.
He also opposes the 2006 Japan-US agreement to build an alternative airfield at Camp Swab in a coastal area of Nago, with the runways partly offshore...
NHK also reported on Senator Jim Webb's visit to Okinawa and his thanks to Nakaima for Okinawa's "effort to maintain" security. However, Webb did not explain what this hypothetical security threat exactly is. Moreover, he did not discuss the US military's record of actual damage to people, property, and the environment in Okinawa.
Notably, the US senator did not bring up the notorious 1995 gang rape of a little girl followed by huge protests throughout Okinawa insisting on the closure, (not relocation) of US military bases in Okinawa. He also did not discuss the thousands of other crimes US military troops have committed against Okinwans, or the damage to Henoko's sensitive and unique biodiversity,
Since the end of the Second World War, when the US began its forced confiscation of Okinawan land for military bases, the official US stance has been unresponsive to the democratic popular will in Okinawa. This time Senator Jim Webb echoed U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's insistence--the same, not any change from the Bush era--on this unwanted relocation.
Repeating an official US buzzword "densely populated" to describe Futenma, Webb expressed concern for resident safety for people in Nago, but did not express similar concern for residents of Nago or the survival of the dugong:
A visiting US senator says the relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa should be implemented as planned as part of the US military realignment scheme...including the relocation of the Futenma base to Nago City, also in Okinawa.The US said that the purpose of the Occupation was to democratize Japan's militarist wartime regime that forced its will upon Okinawa.
Nakaima responded to Webb by stating that Okinawa will wait for the government and governing parties to come up with an alternative site for the relocation by May.
Then why has the US replaced Imperial Japan's militarist regime in Okinawa with a US military regime--one that Okinwans have resisted nonviolently and democratically for over sixty years?
How long is the postwar battle for democracy in Okinawa going to continue? For the best, in-depth reporting on Okinawa in English, go to Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog and to Japan Focus.