Okinawan LDP lawmakers agree to Henoko plan
After months of enormous pressure from the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, the five Okinawan LDP lawmakers accepted a plan to relocate the MCAS Futenma from Ginowan to Henoko in the northern part of the island. The five met with the LDP General Shigeru Ishiba to inform him of their decision to finally start toeing the party line.
The Okinawa chapter of the LDP has long been at loggerheads with the LDP’s official line regarding the relocation plan, which the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to years ago. The Okinawa chapter had pledged to move the base out of the prefecture in its election campaigns, first for the Lower House in December last year and then in the campaign for the Upper House in July.
Some of Okinawan lawmakers have said that LDP leadership has warned them privately that they might face expulsion from the party if they continue their opposition to the Henoko plan. Major construction companies that stand to reap great benefits from the plan are also believed to exert strong pressure from behind the scenes.
At a press conference following the meeting, Ishiba confirmed that the five Okinawan Diet members had “agreed not to rule out all possibilities, including the Henoko relocation plan.”
All five stressed that they agreed to withdraw their opposition in order to remove the danger to Ginowan residents from the MCAS Futenma as soon as possible. Lower House member Konosuke Kokuba said that although he agreed not to rule out the move to Henoko, he would continue to push moving the base out of the prefecture.
The LDP bigwigs welcomed to move as a step forward with the long stalled plan. Everyone is now waiting for Okinawa Governor Hirokazu nakaima to make a decision on the Henoko landfill permit that the Japanese government has filed for. Nakaima said to reporters after the announcement that he could not say whether the five lawmakers’ decision would influence his decision on the landfill permit.
Complicating the situation further is the looming Nago City Mayoral election in January, in which the incumbent mayor Susumu Inamine is facing a challenge from pro-base opponents. Luckily for Inamine, it seems that two conservatives want to run against him, thus possibly splitting the pro-base vote and making it easier for Inamine to keep his job.