Talks with H.E. Mr. Hirokazu Nakaima, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with H.E. Mr. Hirokazu Nakaima, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, at the Prime Minister's Office.
The Prime Minister said in his address,
"On the occasion of the meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council on the 17th of this month, I said to you that I would make maximum efforts to realize the requests I received from you.
Today, I would like to explain to you directly the Government's basic stance on the initiatives and the details of the forthcoming initiatives, and share my feelings with you.
First, what I would like to emphasize is that your requests were wide-ranging, covering both the promotion and development of Okinawa and the reduction of burdens upon the Prefecture. Depending on the matter, some requests are expected to face a variety of difficulties in their realization, as there are also counterparties in some of these matters. The Japanese Government takes these requests seriously as representations of the views of all of the people in Okinawa Prefecture, and that we will do everything we can towards the requests. This is the basic stance of the Abe administration.
On this basis, I would like to elaborate on several important matters.
The first concerns the measures for the promotion and development of Okinawa. In the FY2014 draft government budget, 346 billion yen has been allocated, which includes consumption tax. Therefore, an amount exceeding the 340.8 billion yen total in the budget request has been secured. Furthermore, as I stated during the Cabinet meeting yesterday, I pledge to secure at least 300 billion yen every year for the Okinawa promotion and development budget throughout the period of the Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan; in other words, until FY2021. In addition, I definitely would like to have the construction work for building another runway at Naha Airport completed by the end of 2019; and with regard to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), to carry out reviews from a variety of perspectives, including on the issues of securing the necessary funding and maintaining the quality of faculty, in order to expand the scale of the institute. With regard to the program for the promotion and development of Northern Okinawa, I pledge to sustain a program of at least 5 billion yen every year until FY2021.
This was also explained by Minister of State for Okinawa Yamamoto during yesterday's Cabinet meeting.
With regard to the FY2014 taxation system reform, the Government has decided to fulfill your requests as much as possible, and will work to steadily implement them.
The next item concerns the reduction of burdens on Okinawa associated with U.S. forces' bases.
First, with regard to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the Japanese and U.S. Governments have agreed to launch bilateral consultations towards producing a new intergovernmental agreement that would supplement the SOFA concerning the environment.
In the negotiations, we intend to also deal with the requests we have received from you.
Since the issuance of the SOFA some 50 years ago, this is will be the first time that such consultations are taking place. Additionally, you have requested the suspension of the operations of Futenma Air Station within five years, and the deployment of around 12 Osprey aircrafts to locations outside of Okinawa Prefecture.
I share with you precisely that it is a critically vital task to remove the dangers posed by Futenma Air Station, up until such time of its relocation.
In order to reduce the burdens of the bases in Okinawa, I consider that all possible efforts should be taken in mainland Japan as well.
While this matter also concerns other parties, including the United States, the Japanese Government will work to conduct Osprey trainings at several Self-Defense Force (SDF) exercise areas and other locations in mainland Japan, in order to be able to conduct roughly half of the trainings and other activities in locations outside of Okinawa Prefecture. To this end, we will introduce tilt-rotor aircrafts of the SDF and allocate the necessary funds to study this in the FY2014 budget. We will also establish a team at the Ministry of Defense, and finalize the work towards giving shape to this plan.
With regard to your request for the full return of Camp Kinser within seven years, we have established a team at the Ministry of Defense to promote the master plan pertaining to land returns. For the storage area in particular, we will aim to minimize the length of time until its return as much as possible, through Japanese efforts.
While what I have just described are the main initiatives of the Government, the Government will also be fully dealing with the other requests we have received.
The Abe administration will continue to make every effort to undertake various measures through a whole- Government approach, while standing in solidarity with the Okinawan people on both the promotion and development of Okinawa, and the reduction of the burdens of the bases.
I hope you will give us your understanding on these initiatives. The Government will work hard towards the promotion and development of Okinawa in full cooperation with Okinawa Prefecture. We look forward to working with you."
Following the Prime Minister's address, Governor Nakaima made the following comments.
"I am very grateful to Prime Minister Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga for providing us with an opportunity such as this. I would like to thank the Prime Minister also for providing an explanation himself about the contents of the Government's response to our requests. The Government's response contains various elements that are both astonishing and wonderful. On behalf of the people of Okinawa Prefecture, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation. Thank you very much.
I would like to thank you for allocating a budget that exceeds the original budget requests. The Government has also increased the allocation for the runway project at Naha Airport, which has been a long-held hope of the prefecture. With regard to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and also the North-South Rail Transit Project, which is a mid- to long-term project, I have received an explanation today that the Government seeks to develop infrastructure at a speed that will allow construction to proceed in the years ahead. Furthermore, with regard to the promotion and development of the northern region of Okinawa, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the detailed explanation I have received. I am also delighted to learn that the Government is considering a candidate site with regard to IR, as a mid- to long-term issue for the future. With regard to the taxation system, the special zone for monetary affairs in Nago City has been designated as the Industrial Development and Business Innovation Promotion District, and many authorities of the prefectural governor have been delegated to ensure that various businesses, in addition to financial businesses, can be promoted. I believe that this measure will considerably advance the vitalization of the northern region of Nago City. Various taxation systems have also been applied to Okinawa as a whole, and this too represents a significant improvement. Thank you very much.
With regard to the issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa, this is an extremely difficult issue, and during the seven years I have served as governor of the prefecture, there have been times when I have thought that one millimeter of progress had been made, only for a two millimeter step backwards to be then taken. The Government and the prefecture share the same recognition that eliminating danger at Futenma is an extremely important issue. I actually have great hopes, as the allocation of research expenses and the creation of a research team within the Ministry of Defense in relation to the Osprey have been arranged in the next fiscal year's budget. I would be most appreciative if the relocation of the functions of Futenma could be realized within five years, and suspension of the operation of the air station could be realized.
I am also delighted to hear that the Government will engage in negotiations with the United States for the first time in more than 50 years concerning the Status of Forces Agreement. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for such negotiations to be implemented and for the wishes of Okinawa relating to the environment to be also addressed. I am also extremely appreciative for the progress that is being made with Camp Kinser, and mindful of the many requests being made by the prefecture.
I would like to make a final comment. I will take the responses the Prime Minister has given today and the actions that are being taken by the Government with all due seriousness, and on the basis of the responses I have received today, I would like to make a final decision within the next two days on whether to approve the application for the landfill application for the construction of an alternative location to Futenma Air Station.
Prime Minister Abe is taking the lead in diligent efforts for the revitalization of Japan. This is something which is to be very highly appreciated. Okinawa is a prefecture set in a large expanse of ocean, stretching 1,000km from east to west and 400km from north to south. As such, we lie on the boundaries of the Asia-Pacific region, and therefore have a great interest in the stability and prosperity of this region. It would be a source of great pride if we were able to make a contribution in that regard. The people of Okinawa Prefecture are working hard in that regard, and we too are diligently engaged, although our prefecture is rather small. I am engaged in my work with a firm feeling that the issue of the bases on Okinawa is useful for the security of Japan as a whole. Without close Japan-U.S. relations, Okinawa would also have a bumpy ride. I believe that efforts on the part of the Prime Minister and the Chief Cabinet Secretary to ensure strong Japan-U.S. relations will be important for the resolution of base issues in Okinawa.