US Airbase to remain in Okinawa prefecture amid opposition from locals
Locals have criticized the environmental damage caused by the presence of the air station as well as crimes committed by its personnel.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday that Tokyo believes the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (MCAS Futenma) should remain in the Okinawa prefecture despite calls from the locals to relocate it elsewhere.
"From the point of view of strengthening the US-Japanese alliance, combined with the need to relocate the base, moving it to the Henoko area [of Okinawa] is the only solution, and advancing the construction [in Henoko] will allow to return the base as soon as possible and get rid of the danger," Matsuno said at a press conference following the re-election of Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki, who opposes US military presence in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
Tamaki, who has consistently supported the relocation of the airbase outside of Okinawa, won a second four-year term following Sunday's governor election likely due to his opposition to the base's relocation to the Henoko area within the same Okinawa prefecture.
The citizens of Okinawa oppose the US presence on the island. They regularly complain about the noise of low-flying planes and the danger of accidents at US bases, as well as crimes committed over the years by US military personnel. The US military, in turn, claims that the crime rate among their personnel is lower than among the population of Okinawa.
Environmentalists also complain that the necessary work at the landfill for the construction of the base will destroy coral reefs and damage the habitat of manatees.
In 2015, the former governor of Okinawa, Takeshi Onaga, barred the decision to move MCAS Futenma from the city of Ginowan to the northern Henoko area, demanding that it be completely removed from the region. In 2018, Onaga died, but his successor Tamaki continued to push for the withdrawal of the base from the island. The central government won a number of lawsuits, after which the process of moving the base to the Henoko area resumed.
Japan: Thousands protest US bases on Okinawa after local woman's murder— ANTARES (@dragon4audio) September 11, 2022
In 1996, The US and Japan agreed to close the Futenma site after the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three US military personnel spurred mass demonstrations against the American presence pic.twitter.com/LNtUeA0uhz
Read more: France to send nuclear fuel to Japan
In recent months, the relations between the US and Japan have been strengthening in the face of growing tension between the Sino-Russian bloc and the West.
Last month, a major Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri, revealed that the US military and Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) reportedly forged an agreement in December to set up an attack base on the Nansei Islands in the case of an "emergency," should war arise between Taipei and Beijing.
The proposal, if implemented, would see US troops stationed on the Nansei Islands at a temporary attack base, with the SDF providing support in the form of additional troops if a military danger to Taiwan was near, according to Tokyo officials cited by the Kyodo news agency.
On September 1rst, a Chinese official criticized Japan for hyping the 'Chinese threat' and continuously developing its missile programs. Tokyo intends to abolish its pacifist constitution and return to the policy of military expansion. These actions send a concerning signal to the international community that Japan wants to challenge the global order that was established after the end of World War II.
Moreover, Japan and the Israeli occupation have been working on strengthening military collaborations, as revealed by Israeli Security Minister Benny Gantz on August 30.
Read more: Moscow approves Japan stakes in Sakhalin energy project