Thursday, January 14, 2010

"In Nago-Henoko, Okinawa island, the Marine Corps are welcome" Japan daily reports

Unusual report in the Japanese press, with the Sankei paper (conservative) by writer Masashi Miyamoto on the issue of Marine Corps relocation based on a Japan USA plan elaborated last century... Now, what is really interesting -if the report could quote more names, it would be even more relevant- is about the Nago Henoko population mixed views, challenges and real interest, into acquiring the added US forces installation according to the newspaper January 11th edition. (Media Group FujiSankei) Maybe the best information would also be to report with the US Command and the Japanese alter-ego what exactly the Marine Corps will do there.

Local economy in need of base work and dollars...

Quotes: "About 13 years have passed since Nago City emerged as a relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture). The Nago mayoral election on Jan. 24 will be the city's fourth poll to ask residents whether to accept the government plan to relocate the Futenma base to the city. Candidates favoring the government plan won the past three elections, but the outcome of the upcoming election will likely have a great impact on the Hatoyama administration's review of the existing relocation plan. The feelings of Nago residents, who will be forced to make a decision, are complicated.

Nago City, located in the northern part of Okinawa Prefecture, has a population of about 60,000. Since 1996, when the Henoko district in the city emerged as the relocation site for the Futenma heliport facility, residents have been split into two groups: one in favor of the plan, the other against it.

The government injected a total of 60 billion yen in economic measures to promote the north of Okinawa for eight years from 2000 through 2008 in return for Nago City's acceptance of the relocation plan. As a result, Henoko and other place succeeded in attracting Okinawa National College of Technology and a call center. A seven-story industry support center building was erected in the center of the city. The emotional strains among Nago residents had been gradually reduced because the city succeeded in inviting industries to an information and financial special regulatory zone, providing about 950 jobs.

However, the city's residents were divided again because the Hatoyama administration advocated a review of the existing Futenma relocation plan. Many residents are fed up with the Futenma issue. They have gotten weary of mayoral elections focusing on the base issue.

Nago residents have an "allergy to U.S. bases." Yet, they have made preparations psychologically and physically to accept the Futenma relocation plan. It could be said that their concern that their efforts might come to naught in the upcoming election exceed their allergy to U.S. bases.

"We cannot help accepting the base because Henoko has been picked (as the relocation site for Futenma). There is no problem because the acceptance of the relocation plan will better promote the region," said a 65-year old restaurant owner, expressing anxiety about an election to put the plan to relocate Futenma to Henoko to the test again.

"If incumbent Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who favors the existing plan, is reelected, the Hatoyama government won't be able to say anything. In case Susumu Inamine, the former head of the board of education, wins the election, those who have opposed the plan to relocate Futenma to Henoko will be left out, because economic assistance will be discontinued," the restaurant owner said.

90% of residents accept existing relocation plan

Nago residents have strong hopes that if the city accepts the relocation plan, jobs and consumption will increase. If the base is built in Henoko, located about 8 kilometers from Nago proper, noise from it will not affect the city. However, the city's main shopping street is noticeably quiet. According to a private research firm, more than 20 construction firms have gone bankrupt in the city since 2006. As a result, the city has no choice but to accept the plan.

A 58-year-old self-employed worker stressed: "Some forget that we have received economic assistance from the government in return for our acceptance of its plan to relocate Futenma to Henoko. We are required to overcome the economic slump. Nothing can be resolved by only opposing U.S. bases." That Henoko resident appears to be taking the Futenma relocation seriously.

One city council member clearly said: "In the Henoko district, there are growing calls for the government to decide on the Futenma relocation as quickly as possible. It is only natural for Henoko residents to feel that way because the city accepted the plan after spending 13 years to consider it."

Yasuhide Miyagi, 54, chairman of a volunteer group for the promotion of a replacement facility in the Henoko district, composed of the commerce and industry association in the city and about 40 volunteers, said: "About 90 percent of the residents favor the acceptance of the plan conditioned on compensation and improvement of infrastructure. Okinawa, which has no basic industries, has no other choice but to rely on the base industry."

He continued: "Forces preventing the relocation plan are opposing it on ideological grounds alone. Although they have cited environmental protection, including dugongs, I haven't met anyone who said, 'I saw a dugong.' " End of quotes.

An other view on this issue in last December 23rd edition of the WSJ

(press review, blog, tartlime, own reporter's notes)

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