Okinawa Base Pressures Abe

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister's Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo. Photo by CJCS

Failures of aircraft including Ospreys, Iroquois utility helicopters and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters prompted Japanese defense forces to request an inspection of the aircraft repair facilities at the Futenma marine base in Okinawa, Japan.  This was made because emergency landings and equipment failure in the heavily populated area surrounding the base were considered a significant safety concern to the local populace, including at one point, a window spontaneously detaching from a helicopter in mid-flight and falling onto a school playground, slightly injuring a child.

The request was officially approved on January 29 by both the Japanese and the United States forces.  On February 1,  the day the inspections were due to begin, the US authorities reversed their position and rejected the request.

In a news conference on October 12, the Japanese defense minister admitted that negotiations were still ongoing.

Also on October 12, the new Governor of Okinawa, Denny Tamaki, formally requested Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to scrap the plans for a new base in the area, even though there have been years of production put into the new facility.  The American military presence was the key topic of contention in the recent gubernatorial election.

The position preferred by Abe is to move the base from its current location, thereby maintaining the military presence requested by the United States.  The local populace, swayed by repeated airplane mishaps, a perception of inequitable treatment (in German and Italian bases, local authorities are allowed to do spot inspections for reasonable safety concerns) and anger over a high-profile rape case (reminding people of the 1995 rape case) want the American military presence in Okinawa diminished or removed entirely.

The negative feelings have extended to the Kadena Air Force base, also in Okinawa, although not to the level of large protests like those regarding Futenma.

The U.S. Seventh Fleet and another Air Force base are also situated in Japan, but not in the Okinawa region.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.

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