Applying for Land Reclamation: Taking Back Okinawan Sovereignty
Translated By Stephanie Chiu
12 January 2013
Edited by Victoria Denholm
Japan - Ryukyushimpo - Original Article (Japanese)
Prior to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to America in February, the Japanese government stated that it was considering an application to reclaim public waters as part of the plan to relocate the American Air Base in Futenma to Henoko in Nago City. However, there’s absolutely no way this could be passed.
The Governor of Okinawa, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and all 41 municipalities in Okinawa have opposed its relocation within the prefecture and are requesting either its relocation out of the prefecture or the country, or complete closure and revocation. If the government continues with procedures that oppose the popular will of Okinawa, it will be the same as declaring that the people of Okinawa aren’t living, breathing humans. Okinawa isn’t just some uninhabited islands wrapped up in political struggle. There’s no other democracy in the world where this kind of discriminatory treatment prevails.
If the Prime Minister, who touted a plan to “take back Japan” during the lower house election, applies for land reclamation as a visiting gift for his trip to America, then not only would the Japanese people be unable to take back Japan through the Futenma relocation issue, but they’d also be giving up Okinawa.
Currently, the head of the Executive Office of the Governor, Susumu Matayoshi, is visiting America to explain Okinawa’s request to relocate the base outside the prefecture. The fact that the government is acting contrary to these wishes during the visit is unforgivable. Last month Prime Minister Abe stated in an interview after the election that he “will make effort to gain local support for the relocation plan to Henoko in Nago City,” but can you really say that he’s trying to gain local support? Surely isn’t he only mocking the people of Okinawa?
A revised version of the environmental impact report on the planned relocation was submitted last December, and is currently undergoing official examination. Despite the fact that the governor of the prefecture concluded that “environmental preservation is impossible,” the revision failed to address the concerns of the prefecture. Instead of preparing a presentation of the procedure and seriously considering the environmental impact, the revision presumes the outcome as a forgone conclusion treating the relocation as inevitable.
The revision was submitted between the crushing loss of Noda’s Democratic administration in the lower house election and the transition to the new administration. If the Abe administration plans to move onto the next phase without considering the outcome like the administration before it, then I have no choice but to stop taking it seriously.
Last year, an editorial in the New York Times pointed out that “many Okinawans believe, with justification, that their views are irrelevant to the Japanese government and the United States, whose geopolitical priorities trump local concerns.” It’s ironic how that newspaper understands the feelings of the Okinawan people better than the Japanese government.
The Abe administration should take back Okinawan sovereignty in order to normalize Japan-U.S. relations. Moreover, it would be wise to bid farewell to the land reclamation application and respect the popular will of the people.
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