Reconsidering Futenma Base Closure and Henoko Base Construction

New Diplomacy Initiative Symposium



On January 10, 2014 the New Diplomacy Initiative (ND) held a symposium in Nago City titled “Reconsidering Futenma Base Closure and Henoko Base Construction.” Beginning with a keynote address by Mr. Kyoji Yanagisawa, a ND board member, and a video message from Mr. Mike Mochizuki, also a ND board member, the symposium included a panel discussion with Mr. Susumu Inamine (Nago City mayor), Mr. Toshinobu Nakazato (former chairperson of the Okinawa prefectural assembly and former advisor to the Liberal Democratic Party Okinawa Prefecture headquarters), and Mr. Hiromori Maedomari (professor at Okinawa International University and former Ryukyu Shimpo chief editorial writer).


Despite having only two weeks of urgent preparation time since Governor Nakaima Hirokazu approved the Henoko landfill application at the end of December two weeks ago, the symposium was a great success with close to 1,200 participants including standees. We wish to express our sincere gratitude to everybody who cooperated and participated in the symposium.

Click here for the video


Keynote address: Mr. Kyoji Yanagisawa, ND board member (former Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary, former head of the Ministry of Defense Institute for Defense Studies, and former Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Agency of Defense)


ND board member Kyoji Yanagisawa, who was responsible for safety and security policy as secretary of the Defense Agency, began by pointing out that the original essence of the Futenma issue – the removal of the base and the danger it imposes on the surrounding community – has been substituted by controversy over the base’s relocation. The following is a summary of the rest of his main points:


The new defense guidelines that were established at the end of last year by the Japanese Government emphasize the strategic importance of strengthening the Japanese-American presence in the western Atlantic. Currently in the United States military, the importance of ground forces, including the Marines, is declining.


From 2010 onward, U.S. strategy stresses the importance of Asia, but it avoids concentrating military force in any one place. Given these conditions, even from the standpoint of the United States, concentrating military bases in Okinawa is not rational. Although U.S. military strategy has changed over the past ten years or so, the Japanese government has never changed its position, claiming consistently throughout this period that American bases are important because of their deterrent power.


What is deterrence? Up until now, the reasoning has been that we need deterrence because of the existence of threats, but I don’t think this argument holds up in the post-Cold War present. The logic of deterrence is that both sides step on the breaks in order to prevent a head-on collision. Although now there is friction between countries, there is virtually no situation threatening enough that ensuring one’s own safety would require the destruction or overthrow of another country. Relations between America and China are not this way, at least. It is unthinkable that the United States would send Marines in against China.


U.S. Marines in Okinawa are within the range of Chinese short-range missiles and are too close to China to function as a deterrent. According to reports, American officials are aware that Marine forces on Okinawa could be completely destroyed by just three Chinese missiles. This is why American forces are trying to get out of missile range to places like Guam and Darwin instead.


Yanagisawa continued, “The military conditions for moving the base outside of the prefecture are already there. The realization of that, in the interest of the prefecture’s residents, has to be accomplished through politics,” adding that Okinawa was now pressed to decide whether or not it wants to continue living with military bases. Yanagisawa then concluded, “Futenma is good, but Henoko is ok? Unless it can stop this cycle that just focuses problems in areas with lower population and less resistance, Okinawa will not be able to escape the contradictions of having to live among military bases.”



Video message: Professor Mike Mochizuki, ND Board member (Professor, George Washington University)


Mike Mochizuki, in a video message from Washington, D.C., made the following points: “In addition to opposition to the Henoko reclamation plan, there are also many technological problems that make it very difficult. For the American military, in terms of their responsibility to provide security in the Asia Pacific region, the V-shaped runway that would be built on the reclamation site is going to be considered less and less necessary. In the long term, almost all of the Marines will be stationed and deployed to places like Guam, Hawaii, and the continental United States. From there, Marines can get to Okinawa and other strategic spots in the Asia Pacific region, so there is no need to put a full-scale, permanent base in Okinawa.”



 Panel discussion: Mr. Susumu Inamine (Nago City mayor), Mr. Toshinobu Nakazato (former chairperson of the Okinawa prefectural assembly and former advisor to the Liberal-Democratic Party Okinawa Prefecture headquarters), Mr. Hiromori Maedomari (professor at Okinawa International University and former Ryukyu Shinpo chief editorial writer), and ND board member Mr. Kyoji Yanagisawa



In the panel discussion that followed, Professor Maedomari said that this problem will continue as long as Camp Schwab remains in Henoko. Regarding the Okinawa promotion budget, he then explained that this was money that other prefectures throughout the country receive in a system that normally redistributes grants to areas with few resources, saying “It is only Okinawa that cannot receive this money unless it listens to the government. Why does only Okinawa have to be threatened?”


He continued, “It is being said that Governor Nakaima obtained 340 billion yen budget in exchange for the base, but I would like people not to forget that in ’97 that number was 470 billion yen. That time was when Okinawan opposition to the base transfer was highest, so they named a high figure. The amount of money had gone down, but has risen back up since Governor Nakaima claimed that relocation inside the prefecture was impossible. We cannot continue like this. It is abuse of power.” Maedomari also pointed out that research papers prepared by the Governor indicated that the economic benefit of returning the base to Okinawa would be 1 trillion yen.


名護シンポpic5     Mr. Nakazato, who resigned as advisor to the Okinawa chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party in opposition to the Henoko relocation, expressed anxiety that “If a base is constructed in Henoko, Okinawa will continue to be considered a fort.” Furthermore, regarding problems with the Status of Forces Agreement, Mr. Nakazato said that “No matter how many times we have appealed for radical reform up until now, nothing has changed.” He also stated that, “As a sovereign nation, Japan needs to be in a position where it can apply the rules of its constitution.”


Mayor Inamine of Nago stressed that, “I have been asked whether the reclamation process will go forward because the Governor approved it. The answer is no.” Explaining the mayor’s authority over construction needed for reclamation in Henoko, he added “There are many things that need to be approved by the mayor before they can move forward.”


Touching on statements in opposition to the Henoko relocation by people overseas with knowledge of the situation, such as film directors Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, Mayor Inamine stated, “When seen by the rest of the world, our claims are common sense. I want to move forward with confidence.” Furthermore, he stated, “I think attempts to force the relocation would trigger a bigger, all-Okinawa movement. When that happens, I’ll stand at the head.” Finally, he said, “Tourists won’t come to places where Ospreys are flying. I’d like to remove Camp Schwab, have the diverse ocean returned to us, and turn the area into a place that could employ 20,000 people.”


Arguments from various viewpoints were raised concerning the Futenma and Henoko relocation issues, and when the symposium was over the assembly hall was filled with uplifting applause. We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the volunteers who helped run the event to all those who helped us publicize and organize it.



ND hopes to continue carrying out proactive discussions of these and many other issues, and we humbly ask for your continued support.

Notes: The ND secretariat is responsible for recording and compiling these speeches. For those who would like to hear exactly what the presenters said, please see the video on our website.