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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine: "Former Defense Minister Morimoto once said there is no military reason for the bases to be in Okinawa. It's just more politically expedient & easier to have them in Okinawa...It is the people of Okinawa who have bore the burden for 68 years."


Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine detailing the rich biodiversity of Henoko and Oura Bay at the FCCJ

More in-depth than TEDx, and the closest thing to C-SPAN re Japanese news, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) videos of press events are terrific windows into Japanese (and now Okinawan) society, economics, and politics.

In his Feb. 13 talk at the FCCJ, Susumu Inamine, mayor of Nago, Okinawa, explains how the Henoko plan would increase the military base burden on Okinawa. Partial transcript:
It is not simply a transfer...New facilities and new functions would be added that are not present in Futenma today...First of all there would be a V-shaped (actually 2) runways. In Futenma today, they only have one...They would be building up embankments so that very large ships would be able to load or berth...What is being built here is a military port...

If you look beyond Henoko, you will see very large, ecologically diverse Oura Bay...We have many different kinds of coral reefs in this area. It is an area frequented by sea turtles and dugongs...There are many sea grass beds which serve as a place where the dugong feed...This area has been designated as an area that should be protected for its rich, biodiverse marine life. If the Henoko base were built as planned, it would be be damaging this irreplaceable natural environment....

The fact that I was chosen as mayor is a clear reflection of the people's will on this issue...As such, since we do live in a democratic nation, I think the expression of the will of the people should be given the utmost respect...What is the future of democracy in our nation?

Q: It is not the US military forces that want this sea-based military port, but actually Japanese involved in domestic politics who want this base.

A: I very much agree with what you're saying...There's no specific indication that a new facility has to be built in Okinawa; it just has to be built in Japan...However no other place wanted this base, so they decided to build it in Henoko...

Q: Why has the Japanese government taken such an inflexible position on this issue?

A:...The Japanese government...has been using the security alliance as a shield  to justify all of their requests:..."They serve as a deterrent...Okinawa is the geographically advantageously placed for these bases..."However, former Defense Minister Morimoto once said there is no military reason for the bases to be in Okinawa. It's just more politically expedient and easier to have them in Okinawa...

All of these justifications no longer work. It is simply a political decision....No one else, no other region in Japan wants these facilities....

Okinawa only has 0.6% of the land mass of Japan...It only represents 1% of the population. We have little power and influence....What I believe the Japanese government most fears...is for the voices of the Okinawan people and knowledge about the Okinawan situation to reach all the Japanese people, for these ideas to spread in Japan.

A: Would you speak to the issue of the US government forcing the base issue, both in Okinawa and to the Japanese government?

...I will go back to the end of WWII...when the US-Japan Security Pact was signed...It was called an administrative agreement which eventually led to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). As a result of all these agreements, it was decided the area south of Amami-Oshima (an island south of Japan) would be used by the US Forces. In other words, the US Forces occupied this area for basically 27 years.

During this time, the US had free rein to do as they wished. If they wanted to take private land, the owners were forced to lease out this land to the US Forces, so the US was allowed to build all the bases they wished. Because of the Security Pact, the Japanese government allowed all these things to occur without trying to step in...For many, many years, after the end of WWII, if the US wanted a piece of land...they had freedom to do as they wished. This was the time that the suffering of the Okinawan people began.

The High Commissioner had great powers, even over Japanese administrative officials...Depending on the whim of the High Commissioner, all of their decisions could be overturned...One High Commissioner said the idea of autonomous self-rule in Okinawa is a myth. This continued for 27 years.  During that time, the people of Okinawa lived inside a giant US base. They were deprived of their freedom to live as they wished. The situation has basically continued during the entire 68 years after the end of WWII. The Japanese government has allowed this situation to occur.

In fact, to give an example of some terrible words spoken by Japanese officials, when it was decided that the Osprey aircraft would be deployed to Okinawa, Prime Minister Noda said at the time, if these are activities that occur within a US military base, then these are activities that can only be controlled by the US military; we (the Japanese government) have no position to say anything about that. The idea that a prime minister would say that about territory belonging to that nation is a reflection of the fact that the government of Japan has treated Okinawa in a very discriminatory way.

They have basically cut off Okinawa from the rest of the nation. We see it's been the government of the US pursuing its own national interests. It's been the government of Japan pursuing its own national interests. And as a result, it is the people of Okinawa who have bore the burden for 68 years.
View Mayor Inamine's entire press talk at the FCCJ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvuaFHQ1Nfc.

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