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Okinawa Times, Japan

Addressing the Military Base Problem
and Okinawa’s Excessive Burden

Translated By Tom Derbish

30 November 2012

Edited by Rachel Smith

Japan - Okinawa Times - Original Article (Japanese)

While the campaign agendas of Japan’s political parties are continuing to merge, all of them fail to adequately address the military base problems that impose an enormous burden on Okinawa.

It would be a mistake to think this election should only focus on issues such as nuclear energy, consumer taxes, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and economic policies. At the very least, the people of Okinawa should be concerned that the country’s policies are being defined without any reference to the base problem.

This is not only about relocating the Futenma airbase to Henoko. This year, for example, there were widespread protests against the U.S. Marine Corps’ deployment of Bell Boeing V-22 Ospreys. This is not to mention the endless crimes committed by U.S. military personnel, including two violent incidents this year.

This is not just an Okinawa problem. This burden was placed on Okinawa by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and it concerns the entire nation. The problems must be recognized, and we must question the nation’s stance on both the treaty and the Status of Forces Agreement. All candidates must also show how their party plans to handle the base problem, and how they will help reduce this enormous burden and the damage caused by the bases.

We must also call on newspapers, television, and all other forms of mass media. It is essential that voters understand all of the issues central to this election. However, making something understandable does not mean simplifying or abbreviating it. We need the media to delve deeply into the policy issues facing our nation, and accurately portray the various parties’ stances.

The major political parties’ historical campaign promises regarding the base problem have been stymied by the shifting political landscape. In 2009, we saw an effort to bring up the question of revising the Status of Forces Agreement and to re-evaluate the military bases in Japan. This time, however, we hear of the need to deepen the U.S.-Japan alliance and lighten Okinawa’s burden by pushing forward land reclamation efforts in areas south of Kadena, with the U.S.’s consent. How these candidates expect to answer the demands of the citizens of Okinawa is unclear, and one can only conclude that they are retreating from their earlier statements.

The Liberal Democrats, seeking to regain political control, claim they will reconstruct the strong U.S.-Japan alliance by maintaining and strengthening the power of deterrence. They claim they want to hear the problems of the people, especially of Okinawans, and construct a new U.S.-Japan military relationship that will lighten the burden imposed on areas such as Okinawa.

The fact that a concrete plan was not presented before the dissolution of the two-party-dominated Lower House could be a sign that the base problem is not being taken seriously, or it could simply be an election strategy. The people of Okinawa need to remain vigilant and continue to demand specific policies from all parties.

Currently, the people of Okinawa, along with the governor and various heads of local governments, are protesting issues such as the relocation of Futenma and the Osprey deployment. This is an unprecedented level of prefectural unity on this issue.

If the new administration, like the old one, does not listen to the Okinawan people and fails to address the burden the bases place on us, it could have serious ramifications for Japan-U.S. relations.

The government has delayed the decision on Futenma and land reclamation in Henoko until after the election. We can only hope that the parties will address the issue directly during the campaign.



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