NAHA -- A 47-year-old judicial scrivener and others announced in a March 25 press conference that they would send petitions nationwide urging local assemblies to adopt a statement against the central government over landfill work off the Henoko district of Nago for the construction of a new U.S. military base.
Nagatsugu Asato from the city of Naha and others told reporters at the Okinawa Prefectural Government building that petitions enclosing a draft statement will be sent to 1,788 prefectural, municipal and special ward assemblies across Japan.
The draft statement demands that the central government immediately halt the reclamation work for the construction of a new military base in Henoko and hold national debate on whether a substitute facility to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is necessary in Japan. If it is deemed required, the draft urges the national government to consider all municipalities in the nation other than Okinawa as candidate areas and to choose a relocation site through a just and democratic process.
Asato says just feeling sorry for Okinawa will not change the current situation. He pointed out, "The landfill work won't stop unless discussions deepen in mainland Japan as a matter of democracy."
As a judicial scrivener, Asato was consulted by people with multiple debts in the prefecture and became aware that eliminating the concentration of U.S. bases in Okinawa, where some 70 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan are located, is essential to solve the serious poverty issue in the southernmost prefecture.
The 47-year-old contributed his proposal in a monthly magazine two years ago. As a deputy head of the "association of 'Henoko' Referendum," Asato scrambled to collect signatures for a petition to have the Feb. 24 prefectural referendum held.
He believes that the reason the central government insists on relocation work off Henoko is because it cannot find any other site in mainland Japan where it can gain understanding from local residents for the relocation of a U.S. military facility.
Asato said that if the statement sparked wider debate, it would disprove the theory that constructing a new military base in Henoko is the only solution to halt Futenma base operations. Similar statements have already been adopted by the municipal governments of the Tokyo cities of Koganei and Kodaira.
"I ask for people in mainland Japan to decide if the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is necessary and where to relocate the Futenma airfield."
(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)