Henoko residents want protest to end
May 27, 2007
NAGO, Okinawa — It’s all about the money.
Anticipating that subsidies for communities hosting U.S. bases will hinge on cooperation with a 2006 troop realignment plan, residents of Henoko last week requested that the mayor of Nago evict protesters who have been camped out in their fishing port the past three years.
Henoko is a district of Nago, located on the rural northeast shore of Okinawa and adjacent to the Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab. A major part of the realignment plan is to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on a new air facility to be built on Camp Schwab and the shallow waters of Oura Bay.
The plan replaces a failed project to relocate Marine Corps air operations to a sea-based airport some two miles from Henoko. Anti-base protesters set up a camp at the Henoko fishing port in April 2004 and have remained since.
The Henoko District Administrative Board last week filed a request with Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro to take an action to clear the port area.
Nago city officials said that the request is being reviewed.
“The path along the seawall where the tents stand is a popular place where residents enjoy walking in the morning and the evening,” said Futoshi Kohagura, a member of the administrative board. Residents often complain that the tents are blocking their way, he said.
Earlier this month, the village unanimously agreed to revoke its 1999 resolution opposing move of the Futenma replacement into their community. Board members said the community is “ready to start an open dialogue with Tokyo” on receiving subsidies for accepting the move.
On Wednesday Japan’s House of Councillors passed a bill to implement the realignment agreement, hinging subsidies to communities hosting U.S. bases on their support.
However, Kohagura said that the demand to remove the tents was not solely based on the village’s decision to support the move of Marine air operations to Camp Schwab.
“It is also out of a concern that the presence of the tents there interrupts our daily life,” he said, adding that 90 percent of protesters are from outside Henoko.
“We want to see the tents are taken down as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s a nuisance.”
A spokesman for the protesters declined to comment on the board’s decision.