February 7: Futenma Relocation: The View from Henoko

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February 7, 2012: Susumu Inamine
(Click to enlarge) Mayor of Nago City, Okinawa, Susumu Inamine discusses the local resistance to the plan to expand an existing US military facility in Nago to accomodate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
(Click to enlarge) Mayor of Nago City, Okinawa, Susumu Inamine discusses the local resistance to the plan to expand an existing US military facility in Nago to accomodate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Futenma Relocation: The View from Henoko

WASHINGTON, DC (February 7, 2012) – In 2006 the American and Japanese governments agreed to a base realignment plan to relocate the Marine Corp Air Station Futenma from its dangerous high-population location near Okinawa’s capital to the more remote Nago City to the North. Since then the local political situation in Nago has shifted against the relocation of the base to the city’s Henoko ward, as the base issue in Okinawa continues to be a point of contention between Naha, Tokyo, and Washington. While US and Japanese officials were meeting in Washington to discuss revisions to the 2006 plan, Nago City mayor Susumu Inamine came to DC to explain that the majority of the citizens of his town are against the plan to build the replacement facility in Henoko, and that it has become a “grave” political and social issue.

Mayor Inamine stressed that he was not anti-American, but rather had a deep-seated trust in the US and a respect for its democracy. However, he is worried that forced implementation of the realignment plan against the will of the Okinawans can ruin America’s image there. While 11% of Nago City’s land is taken up by US military bases, he was not calling for a removal of the existing facilities, nor denying the need for the US-Japan security agreement, but stated that they could not stand the additional burden of another bases or the destruction of the local marine ecosystem by the proposed runway expansion plan.

In explaining what is seen by Okinawans as an unfair burden on the prefecture by mainland Japan, the mayor described a “history discrimination” of the people of the Ryukyu Islands being “tossed around by Japan” going back hundreds of years. After the Pacific War, until 1972, the US occupied Okinawa and today 75% of all US forces in Japan are based on the tiny islands. In this way, Mr. Inamine charged that in the post war era Japan enjoyed prosperity by sacrificing Okinawa, and that the local mood is that the Futenma realignment plan was based on this same discrimination.

The mayor went on to explain that in the 16 years since the 2006 plan was first proposed, three successive leaders of Nago City accepted the plan. However since he ran, and won, on the platform to oppose the construction of a new base, on the land or sea, of the city in early 2010, there has been a change in Okinawa as a whole against it. Local opposition to the plan swelled. Before the end of the year, the prefecutural government passed a resolution against it and the governor was reelected in November of 2010, after changing his stance to relocating the Futenma replacement out of Okinawa. Therefore Mayor Inamine appealed to the American audience to look at the base issue not as a domestic issue between Naha and Tokyo, but in light of the expressed will of the people; and as a fellow democracy, respect the people’s wishes.

Susumu Inamine was elected Mayor of Nago City, Okinawa in February 2010 after serving as a city official for 36 years. He graduated from the Faculty of Law, University of the Ryukyus, in 1971, and began working in the Welfare Division of the Nago City Office the following year. Throughout his career as a civil servant, Mr. Inamine worked in numerous departments and capacities, including serving as the Director of Planning and Coordination, the Manager of the General Affairs Department, and the chairman of the Nago City Board of Education. He resigned from his position on the school board in 2008 to run as an independent candidate for mayor, on the platform of opposition to the proposed relocation of the Futenma air base to Nago City’s Henoko district.

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