The reclamation of the irreplaceable sea of Henoko has been enforced, and the voices of Okinawans have been ignored. The responsibility for this situation falls on both the Japanese and the U.S. governments.
What is the Opinion of Okinawa?
In Okinawa prefecture, the governor of Henoko land reclamation was elected in 2014 and 2018. A referendum for the Okinawan people was held in 2019, asking whether voters approved or opposed the reclamation of Henoko. 71.4%, or approximately 600,000 voters, opposed the Henoko land reclamation (18.99% in support, 8.70% with no opinion either way, and 0.58% invalid votes). The Japanese government, which received the public’s opinions, ignored the results, and the U.S. government is avoiding dealing with the problem and labeling it “an issue of domestic politics”.
Although Henoko is a land of Okinawa, the new base will be built by Japan and used by the United States. Due to selecting the soft ground of the Henoko Sea for the establishment of the base, the estimated budget for construction has risen to 930 billion yen (about 8.5 billion US dollars), and the estimate by Okinawa prefecture is expected to rise to 2,555 billion yen (about 23 billion US dollars).
The Japanese government is afraid that the budget for the construction will reach more than 1,000 billion yen (about 90 billion US dollars), because public opinion of the Japanese mainland could be critical about the construction since the budget comes from taxes. Thus, the Japanese government has reduced the number of sand compactions, which fix the base into the soft ground, from 77,000 to 47,000 to lower the cost. The government plans to jack up the new base periodically because the base will sink bit by bit into the soft ground, but there is no example in history of a military base being periodically jacked up. Yet the base plan, despite being clearly incomplete, is undergoing construction.
Despite the dangers of building the base and the airstrip at this location, the Japanese government is spending heavily on taxes to complete the project. However, the base will be used not by Japanese citizens, but by the U.S. military, possibly including your family members. Moreover, the resource to maintain this base is the taxes of U.S. citizens. Is building the base, which poses dangers to U.S. soldiers, destroys the nature of Okinawa, ignores the voices of Okinawans, and costs U.S. citizens for its maintenance a wise decision?
Do you think Japan should be responsible for the maintenance fees of the new base? In July 2019, President Trump urged the Japanese government to increase the financial support for U.S. forces in Japan to five times the current amount. The U.S. government is, of course, also aware that the burden of the maintenance on the United States is too heavy. However, the Japanese government refused the request because the ruling party, known as the Liberal Democratic Party, would lose votes in Japan if the government accepted increasing financial support for the U.S. military.
The reason that the Japanese government proceeds with construction without considering the future of Japan, the United States and Okinawa is that there are various interests involved. For example, in June 2019, it came to light that members of the ruling party had received contributions from contractors involved with the base construction. The tax from the Japanese people has been siphoned off to the politicians. Politicians that are currently members of the ruling party in Japan are not considering the future of Okinawa and the United States, not listening to the voice of Okinawan people, and profits for the politicians are prioritized.
Of course, people in Japan and Okinawa will continue to appeal to the Japanese government, but external pressure from the United States could help to overcome this situation.
Would you help us to regain international interests in Okinawa by stopping this discriminatory and meaningless policy forced on Okinawa?