Onaga vows to block Futenma transfer at any cost if elected
Former Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga said Tuesday he will do “whatever it takes” to block the planned transfer of the MCAS Futenma to the new site off Henoko. He made the promise at a press meeting where he laid out his campaign pledges for the Nov. 16 governor election.
That sets the stage for the upcoming election to be the de facto referendum on the transfer plan of the MCAS Futenma that the majority of local people strongly oppose.
Onaga’s main opponent, incumbent Governor Hirokazu Nakaima who’s seeking the third term in the office has already approved the permit for the landfill, and insists that the current relocation plan “would boost the safety of local residents for sure.” He points out that the military aircraft operating from the new base would not fly over residential areas whereas the MCAS Futenma is located in the middle of a densely populated Ginowan City.
Onaga stated he will “never allow a new military base to be built in Henoko, and would do whatever it takes” to stop the construction, currently in its survey stage.”
“If we can find flaws in the agreement, we can invalidate Nakaima’s approval of the landfill, and it won’t take much time to go through the paperwork,” Onaga said. He added that he wouldn’t approve an application the Defense Ministry submitted in September to partly change the construction plan.
The relocation faces a strong opposition in Okinawa, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to increase financial support to the prefecture and take other steps to “ease the burden” of Okinawa for hosting so many American bases. Most observers see his pledges as an apparent bid to get the base transfer moving forward by helping Nakaima to bolster his changes of winning the election.
The election is expected to be an uphill battle for Nakaima, despite the support from Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party, and pledges for more money.
The uphill also got a little steeper for Nakaima and the LDP as Komeito, the ruling coalition partner of the LDP, decided Tuesday not to support Nakaima in the election at a meeting of senior Komeito officials.
The party’s Okinawa Chapter is opposing the relocation plan. “We find it difficult to back Governor Nakaima due to disagreements between him and our local chapter on the Futenma issue,” Komeito campaign chief Tetsuo Saito said at a press conference after the meeting. Instead, Komeito will leave it for its local members to decide who to vote in the election.
LDP bigwigs in Toyo seem to be aware of the situation. “According to recent opinion polls, the situation is not necessarily in our favor,” LDP Secretary General Sadakazu Tanigaki said at a party meeting Tuesday, calling for an all-out effort to win the Okinawa election.