April 12th marks 20 years since former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and U.S. Ambassador Mondale agreed to return MCAS Futenma on April 12, 1996. Regardless of the political positioning, principles or policies, this agreement should have been a great joy for all prefectural residents. Nevertheless, 20 years later, MCAS Futenma still stands in the center of an urban area, and Osprey aircraft, whose safety has been questioned, continue to train in the skies over prefectural residents.
The return of MCAS Futenma is blocked by the idea of constructing an alternative facility in Okinawa Prefecture according to terms set by the governments of both the United States and Japan. Protests by residents opposed to construction of a new base at Henoko in Nago City have continued since immediately after Japan and the United States agreed on the construction plan. Governor Takeshi Onaga and Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine, who both oppose the new base, have called for construction to be halted.
However, neither the Japanese nor United States government has altered its plan for a new base at Henoko in Nago City, calling it the “only solution.” This has led to an extraordinary situation in which the central government is suing Governor Onaga, who revoked approval for land to be reclaimed off the coast of Henoko. Under a settlement proposed by the court, construction at Henoko has been suspended, and the central government and Okinawa Prefecture continue to hold discussions on the matter.
In the 2014 gubernatorial election, which Governor Onaga won, the will of the people opposing the new base at Henoko was clearly manifested. Since 2006 when both the United States and Japanese governments agreed on the current V-shaped runway plan, not one candidate who has publicly pledged his or her approval of the government’s proposal has been elected to serve as governor, Diet member, or municipal mayor.
That the governments of both the United States and Japan have disparaged popular will and continued to cling to their idea of relocating MCAS Futenma within Okinawa signifies that they refuse to address the dangers posed by MCAS Futenma, which has been called the greatest hazard in the world.