The Nation Has Spoken: Follow the Will of the People, Give Up on Henoko

It has now become clear that the majority of Japanese citizens look unfavorably upon the aggressive efforts on the part of the Abe administration to ignore public opinion in the pursuit of the new base installation on the Henoko coast at Nagi.

In a nationwide survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun on the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a majority of 53 percent responded “Opposed” when asked their feelings on the administration’s methods, which are deepening antagonism with the Okinawa Prefecture. This stands in contrast to a figure of 34 percent in favor, a 19-point gap in attitudes.

Not just in Okinawa but nationwide, people are critical of the administration’s overbearing tactics in the relocation dispute. It’s time to take note of what the people of Okinawa—what the people of Japan—are saying, and back down from the construction plans.

In 2014, the people of Okinawa sent a clear message of “No Base in Henoko” to the administration via a series of prefectural elections. It can be surmised from the same survey that people throughout Japan look harshly upon this administration’s disrespectful attitude toward popular will.

Since Governor Takeshi Onaga’s inauguration in December of last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have not engaged in talks with the governor. It was only in April that such discussions started taking place. This has nothing to do with the Abe administration’s interest in dialogue with Okinawa, and everything to do with creating an alibi for the upcoming U.S.-Japan leadership summit. It’s safe to say the public was able to see through this little ruse as well.

In a national telephone survey conducted by Kyodo News Service in December of 2013, 49.8 percent of respondents were in favor of the Henoko relocation. With only 33.6 percent opposed at that time, national opinion diverged considerably from attitudes in the Okinawa Prefecture. Although the methodology and query differed, it’s still evident that opinion of the administration regarding the relocation issue had undergone a complete turnaround by the time of the Mainichi Shimbun’s survey.

In prefectural surveys in Okinawa, residents are consistently opposed to the relocation, registering between 60 and 80 percent of respondents. Taken in consideration with the results of the Mainichi Shimbun’s survey, the only option available to the Abe administration is to abandon the Henoko relocation plans.

It ought to be common sense to any administration that policies that fail to win the support and understanding of the people must be amended. Now is the time for the Abe administration to change direction from this unilateral self-centeredness toward operating as a true reflection of the needs and desires of the citizenry.

For that matter, as a democratic nation, it’s inexcusable for the U.S. to turn a blind eye to the desires of Japan’s citizenry. In this upcoming U.S.-Japan leadership conference, I want the U.S. to ask Prime Minister Abe if any agreement between them will be able to gain the support of the Japanese people, and to shift toward a policy that reflects the popular will.

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