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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 January 19 - 25  > Cabinet members rush to Okinawa to promote US base construction
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2011 January 19 - 25 [POLITICS]

Cabinet members rush to Okinawa to promote US base construction

January 21, 2011
Prime Minister Kan Naoto and his cabinet members have visited Okinawa one after another since the Okinawan gubernatorial election last November, putting pressure on the local government to accept the “relocation” of the U.S. Futenma base within the prefecture.

The prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, and chief cabinet secretary visited or will visit Okinawa in December or January.

The government officials have had talks with Governor Nakaima Hirokazu, who initially was an advocate of the construction of a new U.S. base in the Henoko district of Okinawa’s Nago City as an alternative to the Futenma base.

“We understand your election promise to relocate (the Futenma base) outside the prefecture,” said Defense Minister Kitazawa Toshimi in a meeting with Nakaima on January 20. However, he requested the governor to consider accepting the new base construction in Henoko.

PM Kan has repeatedly expressed his intention to promote the transfer of the Futenma base to Henoko in his meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama in November and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January.

Foreign Minister Maehara stated that the Futenma base, often described as the world’s most dangerous military base to nearby residents, will continue to be used as long as Okinawa refuses the relocation plan agreed on between the U.S. and Japanese governments. His statement was severely criticized by local people as an attempt to intimidate them.

On the other hand, members of the Kan Cabinet have not had talks with Nago City Mayor Inamine Susumu, who has been clearly opposed to the relocation of the Futenma base to his city.

The government in December announced that it will suspend its payment of base-hosting subsidies to Nago City. DM Kitazawa stated that the suspension is due to the municipality’s opposition to the relocation plan.
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