January 20, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo Digital Edition
In his annual policy speech delivered to the Diet on January 20, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated his administration’s stance on working to reduce the base burden borne by Okinawa, however since 2014 the word “Henoko,” the hot-button destination for the relocation of MCAS Futenma, has disappeared from the annual address and was not referenced.
The return of MCAS Futenma that was agreed upon by Japan and the U.S. was also not discussed. Conversely, he did mention his desire to support the rebuilding of Shuri Castle, which burned down late last year.
In the policy speech, Abe stressed, “We will continue to reduce the base burden of Okinawa while maintaining our deterrent capabilities.”
He added, “We continue to work on new facilities in our efforts to relocate the Marines to Guam in the first half of the 2020’s.”
Minister of Defense Yoshihide Suga has indicated that the Henoko relocation and the Guam relocation are “linked,” and if the Henoko relocation is delayed it could affect the move of the Marines to outside of Japan’s borders.
In this year’s address, there are some that view the reference to the Guam relocation as also directly referring to the return of MCAS Futenma to Japan.
Other Okinawa-related topics included the use of Naha Airport’s runway No. 2, where Abe stressed, “By expanding the landing and takeoff slots to over 100,000, we hope to continue to revitalize Okinawa as the ‘Gateway to Asia.’”
He also mentioned the hosting of the Japan Cultural Expo, which with feature local culture from all over Japan including things like Ryukyuan dance.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)