Welcome to Okinawa, Madame Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. It is your first visit to Okinawa as the US Ambassador to Japan. Many Okinawans are paying close attention to your visit and the statements you will make.

They are listening closely because they want you to see the real situation here, the real Okinawa that cannot be described in State Department staff briefings or reports from Japanese government officials.

They want you to see USMC Futenma Air Station, located in the heart of the densely populated city of Ginowan. They want you to experience- not from the sky, but with your own feet, your own eyes, your own ears - the ocean at Henoko, in the city of Nago, the proposed location of Futenma’s replacement and designated by our prefectural environmental survey as a Rank 1 site : Urgent Need for Environmental Protection.

In November, 1963, on the day your father, US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, this island was also enveloped in that sadness.

The red light district of Koza dimmed its neon lights as restaurants and bars closed of their own volition. The following day, at schools and workplaces, many residents grieved in silence the loss of the President.

After being appointed as ambassador to Japan, surely you have learned much about the concerns surrounding the US-Japan relationship. As you know, the issue of USMC Futenma Air Station has been a huge strain on that relationship in the 18 years since your government and ours pledged to return it to the Okinawan people in 1996.

Why hasn’t the issue been resolved? Please visit Henoko. Talk to the people in the tent village on the seashore who have for years been sitting in protesting the proposed relocation. You will hear the raw voice of Okinawa, far different from the explanations of our governments’ foreign ministers and defense secretaries. You will quickly come to the heart of the problem.

The mayoral election was a clear expression of the will of Nago city. Residents reelected incumbent Susumu Inamine, who said that the relocation of Futenma to Henoko was in direct contradiction with the regional needs of Nago and its residents. In a prefecture wide opinion survey conducted by the Okinawa Times and another news organization at the end of last year, close to 70% of Okinawans expressed opposition to the proposed Henoko relocation. The majority in Okinawa are still opposed to any relocation of Futenma within the prefecture.

During your visit here, you should meet with Mayor Inamine and listen to the reasons why.

You have expressed “deep concern” about the “inhumaneness” of dolphin hunting on Twitter, saying that “the US government opposes dry hunt fisheries”.

The ocean around Henoko is the habitat of the Dugong, an ocean mammal like the dolphin. The Dugong is a Japanese natural monument and the Ministry of Environment has designated it as an endangered species at high risk of extinction.

If the ocean around Henoko is buried, the Dugong will lose their home and their extinction cannot be avoided. To forever lose the Dugong from the planet for the sake of the construction of a military base would be a great detriment to the human race.

The Japanese government has ignored the result of the Nago mayoral election and continued to move forward on the process of burying the ocean at Henoko. To allow the construction of this base to continue in direct opposition to the will of local residents is completely unacceptable in a democratic society.

To attempt to build a new military airbase in Okinawa after the tragedy of the Battle of Okinawa, the 27 long and difficult years of American occupation that followed it, and the disproportionate burden of military bases shouldered by Okinawa since, is nothing but blatant discrimination against the Okinawan people. Please relay these feelings to President Obama.

社説[拝啓 ケネディ大使]現地訪ね市長と会談を

 キャロライン・ケネディさん、ようこそ沖縄へ。駐日米大使として、きょう初めて来県されるんですね。沖縄の多くの人があなたの発言に注目しています。

 大使館スタッフのブリーフィングや日本政府関係者の情報からはとらえきれない、この島のありのままの姿を見て考えてもらいたいからです。

 宜野湾市の市街地の真ん中にある米軍普天間飛行場。移設先に予定されている名護市辺野古の海は、県の環境保全指針で「自然環境の厳正な保護を図る区域」であるランク1に評価されています。

 上空からではなく、自らの足で、目で、耳で確かめてください。

 1963年11月、あなたの父ジョン・F・ケネディ大統領がテキサス州ダラスで悲劇に見舞われた日、この島も悲しみに包まれました。

 コザの繁華街はネオンを消し、飲食店は営業を自粛しました。哀悼の日には、学校や職場などで多くの住民が黙とうし、哀悼の意を表しました。

 駐日米大使としての赴任に当たって日米間のさまざまな懸案について学んだことと思います。普天間問題は、ご存じのように96年の返還合意から18年にわたって、迷走を続けています。

 なぜでしょうか。辺野古を訪れ、移設反対を訴えテント村で座り込みを続けている人たちとじかに話してみることです。日米の外務・防衛官僚の説明とは違った沖縄の生の声が聞けるはずです。それによって、この問題の深層に触れることができるでしょう。

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 先の名護市長選で、名護市の民意は示されました。普天間の辺野古移設は地域利益に反するという稲嶺進市長の主張に多くの市民が賛同したのです。

 沖縄タイムス社などが昨年末に実施した県民世論調査では、7割近くが辺野古移設に反対でした。沖縄の多数意思は今も、普天間の県内移設に反対しています。

 今回の来県で、名護市を訪れ、稲嶺市長と会い、その考えに耳を傾けるべきです。

 あなたは短文投稿サイトのツイッターで「米国政府はイルカの追い込み漁に反対します」と表明しました。

 辺野古の周辺海域は、イルカと同じ海洋哺乳類ジュゴンの生息域です。ジュゴンは国の天然記念物で環境省は「絶滅の危険性が極めて高い種」に指定しています。

 沿岸域が埋め立てられれば、影響は避けられません。基地建設によってジュゴンを失うことは人類にとって大きな損失です。

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 日本政府は、名護市長選の結果を考慮することなく、辺野古の埋め立て工事に向けた手続きを進めています。民主主義を大切にする社会で、地元合意なしに一方的に軍事基地を建設することは許されません。

 沖縄戦と27年間の米軍統治、その後も過重な基地負担を背負わされている沖縄に、新たな米軍飛行場を建設するのは「沖縄差別」というしかありません。多くの県民の思いをぜひオバマ大統領に伝えてほしいのです。