During the speech he gave to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 18, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki criticized the Japanese government's security policies. His criticisms were directed at United States military bases and other issues.
At one point Tamaki charged that "the concentration of US military bases threatens peace and equal participation in decision-making as a prefecture." He also expressed concern that the buildup of military power would increase tensions in areas surrounding Japan.
Tamaki also complained that the Japanese government is forcing the Futenma US Air Station relocation to Henoko in Nago City in the prefecture. He claimed the move involved filling in precious areas of the local ocean to construct the new base.
Tamaki's statements cannot go unanswered. The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and US forces stationed on Okinawa combined serve as an important deterrent force. They safeguard the peace of all of Japan. That includes Okinawa Prefecture.
These men and women are willing to risk their lives in the event of an emergency. They do so in order to protect the Japanese people, including residents of Okinawa.
It is simply wrong for one of Japan's governors to travel overseas and talk about the Self-Defense Forces and the military presence of our ally in such a derogatory manner.
Such speeches serve to drive a wedge between the people of the prefecture and the SDF and US forces. The only parties that will take pleasure in this are those foreign governments and militaries that would contemplate the possibility of attacking Japan.
Security is a National Responsibility
The national government has sole responsibility for national security. But, as Japanese citizens, prefectural residents are guaranteed the right to participate in national politics.
Tamaki's criticisms are off the mark. Okinawa Prefecture has yet to approve changes to the Henoko relocation design as requested by the Japanese government. Moreover, Tamaki himself is largely responsible for the delays in the base relocation work.
Furthermore, in the first place, it is China that is trying to change the status quo by force. And it is Chinese intrusions that are heightening tensions in the region.
China has repeatedly provoked Japan around the Senkaku Islands, Ishigaki City, which are islands within Okinawa Prefecture. What did Tamaki really mean when he castigated Japan and the US military without mentioning that crucial point?
Tamaki's Intended Second Speech
Tamaki was scheduled to speak again on September 21 before the UN Human Rights Council. That time he also intended to talk about how the presence of US bases allegedly "infringes on the rights of residents of the prefecture, oppresses them in daily life, and threatens peace."
In fact, he even released the draft of his planned remarks. Fortunately, the speech never took place due to scheduling considerations.
It would be a travesty to conclude that the human rights of Okinawans are being violated. There are also a large number of local people working at the US military installations. Has Tamaki given any thought to their families and children?
Serious Reflection Required
We urge Tamaki to reflect hard on the implications of his actions.
Recently, Japan's Supreme Court ruled against the prefecture's arguments in a lawsuit over the Henoko relocation construction. That lawsuit was between the government and the prefecture.
Having lost, Tamaki should waste no further time in approving the application for a change in construction in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision. That would be the right way to protect the rule of law in Japan.
Furthermore, it would be the best way to preserve peace for all of Japan. Especially for the safety of the people of his prefecture living around the current site of Futenma Air Station.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun