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EDITORIAL | Okinawa Gov Should Drop Blind Opposition After Election Setback

Losing the majority in the prefectural election, Governor Tamaki should cooperate with the national government to safeguard the lives of Okinawa residents.



Governor Denny Tamaki responds to questions from reporters in Naha City on the day after the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election. (©Sankei by Naoki Otake)

On Sunday, June 16, the ruling party coalition supporting Governor Denny Tamaki lost its majority in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election. That side included the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and the Social Democratic Party. Meanwhile, all of the candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, which have opposed Tamaki's policies, won in the election. As a result, Tamaki's opponents will now control a majority in the prefectural assembly. 

Local governments have a dual representation system, consisting of a mayor and an assembly.

Hopefully, Governor Tamaki will take the election results to heart and adopt a more cooperative stance in dealing with the national government. His cooperation is especially important on issues such as the status of military bases and other security issues affecting Okinawa. 

A Liberal Democratic Party candidate (center) who opposes the governor cheers with supporters after winning the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election (June 16, 2019, Tomigusuku City, Japan) (Kyodo News)

Reversal of Fortunes

Before the election shakeup, the prefectural assembly was evenly split. On one side was the "All Okinawa" faction supporting the governor, including the JCP, with 24 seats. Opposing it was a bloc of the LDP, Komeito, and other parties. It, too, had 24 seats. In the election, Tamaki's supporters won 20 seats, while his opponents saw their ranks swell to 28. 

This was the first time the "All Okinawa" group lost its majority in a prefectural assembly election since former governor Takeshi Onaga formed the coalition in 2014. The coalition staunchly opposed the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko in Nago City. Currently, the base is located in heavily populated Ginowan City.

The prefectural government should take this opportunity to abandon its confrontational stance against the national government.

Supporters gathered at the office of a candidate opposed to the governor, waiting for the votes to be counted in the Okinawa Prefectural Election. (©Kyodo)

Safeguarding Okinawans

The most important thing is to adopt policies to safeguard the lives and property of residents of the prefecture. Responsibility for foreign policy and national security is invested solely in the national government. Tokyo has been working diligently to build integrated defense capabilities for the Nansei Islands chain stretching from Kyushu to near Taiwan. However, Okinawa Prefecture has provided very little cooperation.

One example concerns the designation and development of "special-use airports and ports." These are existing facilities that could be easily used by the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the Japan Coast Guard. The national government has only been able to designate two such bases in Okinawa. They are Naha Airport and Ishigaki Port, where SDF and JCG elements are currently stationed.

Other facilities in the prefecture are also suitable for immediate use, such as Shimojishima Airport in Miyakojima City. However, the prefecture has adamantly opposed such suggestions. 

On the final day of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election campaign, Governor Denny Tamaki gives a street speech with SDPJ leader Mizuho Fukushima, Communist Party Secretary-General Akira Koike, and CDP Deputy Representative Kiyomi Tsujimoto in Naha City on June 15 (©Kyodo).

China's Expansive Territorial Claims

China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, a group of small islands that are administered by Ishigaki City in Okinawa. And Chinese Coast Guard vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters in that area. Indeed, China claims that the Senkakus are part of Taiwan Province. For the leadership in Beijing, the process of unification to absorb Taiwan will never be complete until the Senkakus are taken from Japan. 

There is great concern that in the event of a Taiwan emergency Okinawa will also come under attack. Therefore, Governor Tamaki should cooperate fully in developing evacuation plans for Okinawa residents in the event of such an emergency. There are also other necessary preparations, such as building underground shelters (evacuation facilities, bomb shelters) and related preparations. 

Governor Denny Tamaki responds to questions from reporters in Naha City on the day after the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election. (©Sankei by Naoki Otake)

Tamaki's Response

Responding to the results of the prefectural assembly election, Governor Tamaki said, "I take the results seriously." At the same time, he vowed "not to waver" in his opposition to the Henoko relocation plan. 

His position is difficult to accept. Is continuing blind opposition taking the will of the voters "seriously"? The Henoko relocation plan was specifically devised to protect the lives of the prefecture residents living near today's Futenma Air Station. Meanwhile, it maintains the deterrent power of the Japan-US alliance. With these Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election results, we hope to see the coalition led by the LDP and Komeito push for greater cooperation between the national government and the prefecture. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun