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EDITORIAL | Okinawa Opposition to Uruma Base Weakens Japan's Defense

Okinawa Prefecture is on the frontline of our nation's defense. It must stop obstructing efforts to defend the lives and property of Okinawa people and Japan.



This former golf course in Uruma, Okinawa proposed is the site for a new SDF training facility. (© Sankei by Naoki Otake)

Okinawa Prefecture is stepping up its opposition to a plan to build a Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) training facility in the prefecture. It would be built on the site of a former golf course in Uruma City on Okinawa Island.

Governor Denny Tamaki is opposed to the plan. In addition, the prefectural assembly also unanimously adopted a written position calling on the central government to scrap it.

These women are protesting against a convoy heading to the Ground Self-Defense Force Katsuren Bunchi on March 10 in Uruma City. (© Kyodo)

Why the Uruma Base is Needed

As China steadily increases military pressure in the region, Japan is rushing to beef up its defense capabilities in the Nansei Islands. These stretch from Kyushu to Taiwan. There are also plans to upgrade the GSDF's 15th Brigade stationed in Naha to the status of a full division. Therefore, developing training grounds to accommodate the troops is critically important. 

For Okinawa's sake and Japan's, the prefectural government and officials should change their stance and agree to the training facilities. 

Uruma City Mayor Masato Nakamura also requested blanket withdrawal of the SDF training ground plan on March 1. In Kadena City. (© Sankei by Naoki Otake)

Training Facilities Near Residential Neighborhoods

In its resolution, the prefectural assembly noted the quiet residential neighborhood surrounding the training facility. It stated in part, "From the standpoint of improving the welfare of prefectural residents and protecting their lives and property, we strongly request withdrawal of the [facility] as soon as possible." 

However, this perspective is sorely off the mark. 

The GSDF in Okinawa is there to protect the lives and property of the prefecture's residents. To do that, SDF personnel must also engage in repeated, regular training. This is extremely important to maintain their proficiency. 

If their training is inadequate, they will suffer more casualties in an emergency and may fail in their defense mission. Training thus directly impacts the lives of soldiers and prefectural residents alike. 

Moreover, the plan also calls for training personnel for life-saving operations in case of a natural disaster. 


Currently, the GSDF's 1st Airborne Brigade of paratroopers is stationed at Camp Narashino in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture. We note that this training facility is also near a residential area. 

Ground Self-Defense Force offloads vehicles at a port on their way to the Katsuren training ground on March 10 in Uruma City. (© Kyodo)

Defending Okinawa ー and Japan

Okinawa is on the frontline of our nation's defense. Knowing this, the prefecture is courting danger by opposing the Uruma training facility. The same is also true of other obstructions, like its opposition to relocating the Futenma Air Station to Henoko in Nago City. 

Has it considered how China's government and military will judge Okinawa's opposition? If the Chinese conclude that "Japan is a pushover" and "Okinawa is not serious about defense," that could weaken Japan's deterrence against China. Shouldn't that situation be avoided when there is concern about a possible Taiwan crisis?

Prefectural assembly members of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito also voted for the statement of opinion. They probably were eager to keep it from becoming a point of contention during the June prefectural elections. The local branches of these ruling parties, however, should explain the need for the training facility. 

Stay with the Plan

While it refuses to withdraw the plan, the Ministry of Defense also says it will reconsider how the land is used. However, they should stick to the basic line of the proposed training facility. 

These days, the SDF is highly regarded by residents of Okinawa. The vast majority of respondents to public opinion polls say that they "trust" the SDF. This training facility is necessary if the SDF is to fulfill that trust. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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