Japan's ambassador to Okinawa notes challenges of job ahead
NAHA, Okinawa — Japan’s new ambassador to Okinawa realizes he’s in the hot seat.
“I assumed the post at this crucial time and I am fully aware of the weight of the tasks at my hand,” Toshinori Shigeie, Tokyo’s sixth ambassador in charge of Okinawan affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Friday.
Shigeie was holding his first news conference in Naha after taking office Wednesday. A major part of his job description involves acting as a middleman between the Okinawan and U.S. military communities at a time when U.S. and Japan officials have said they’re negotiating final details of a plan to realign U.S. forces in Japan.
He took over from Yuji Miyamoto, who is Japan’s new ambassador to China. Shigeie’s last post was as ambassador to South Africa. Before that, he directed the U.S. Japan Security Treaty Division of the ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau.
“The bilateral security arrangement has contributed to the peace and stability of Japan,” Shigeie said. “Meanwhile, it is a fact that a heavy military presence on Okinawa has placed a burden on its people.”
From these standpoints, he said, both governments are intensively working to “reduce the burden.” A plan to disperse military training is a part of the effort, he added.
Shigeie said he wears two hats on Okinawa.
“One of my major roles here is to convey the true voices of Okinawa to Tokyo and give appropriate advice,” he said. “My other role is to negotiate with the military here as a representative of the government of Japan. … I will make my utmost effort.”