Photo/IllutrationOkinawa Governor Denny Tamaki speaks to reporters after his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Nov. 28. (Takeshi Iwashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki pressed his case, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood his ground, and the two leaders again failed to agree on anything concerning a planned new U.S. military base in the prefecture.

Their meeting at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on Nov. 28 ended after about 15 minutes, half the length of their first fruitless talks on Oct. 12 in the capital.

Tamaki won the Sept. 30 Okinawa gubernatorial election on a pledge to stop the central government’s planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan in Okinawa Prefecture to a coastal area in the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture.

He reminded the prime minister that Okinawa voters rejected the candidate who was supported by the Abe administration.

“The administration needs to sincerely respect the will of Okinawan people and continue discussions with the prefectural government toward the goal of abandoning the Henoko relocation plan and quickly reducing the burden caused by the Futenma base,” Tamaki is quoted as saying in the meeting.

The governor also touched on the burden shouldered by Okinawa Prefecture in hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan and dealing with crimes, accidents and noise pollution stemming from the bases.

“Frustration and discontent with the unfair and unequal treatment have long been accumulating in Okinawa,” Tamaki told Abe. “How long will Okinawa have to live with it? How much will Okinawa have to put up with?”

Abe, however, simply repeated the administration’s long-held position that the relocation to Henoko is the only solution under a Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate the Futenma base, which now sits in a densely populated area.

“We will adhere to the schedule made with the U.S. side and proceed with the current relocation plan,” Abe said.

That plan includes land reclamation work in the Henoko district.

In late August, the prefectural government revoked a permit granted by a former governor for land reclamation to build the replacement facility.

That forced the central government to suspend the work of dumping dirt and sand off the coast.

However, the Defense Ministry sought a suspension of the execution of Okinawa’s revocation, and the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism invalidated Okinawa’s decision on Oct. 30.

On Nov. 29, the prefectural government submitted a petition for a review of the land minister’s decision to the central and local government dispute management council, a third-party organization established under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Another issue concerning the relocation plan arose after a typhoon in September damaged Motobu Port in the northern part of the prefecture.

The central government uses the port as a loading dock for dirt and sand in the reclamation work. The Defense Ministry, seeking to resume reclamation work by the end of the year, has repeatedly requested the Motobu town government to issue permits that would allow the continued use of the port.

The Motobu government, however, has rejected the ministry’s requests, saying repair work must first be completed.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita and Okinawa Vice Governor Kiichiro Jahana met four times since Nov. 9 to find common ground on the relocation and other issues. Like Tamaki and Abe, the two sides remain wide apart.

The Okinawa prefectural government plans to hold a referendum on the relocation of Futenma base on Feb. 24.

Asked if the results of the referendum would have any impact on the relocation project, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference on Nov. 28, “Not at all.”