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Yuji Miyamoto, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ambassador in charge of Okinawa affairs, said in a recent interview that he believes a compromise is possible between the need for positioning U.S. troops on Okinawa and the demand of Okinawans to reduce the “footprint” of the U.S. bases on their island.

Yuji Miyamoto, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ambassador in charge of Okinawa affairs, said in a recent interview that he believes a compromise is possible between the need for positioning U.S. troops on Okinawa and the demand of Okinawans to reduce the “footprint” of the U.S. bases on their island. (David Allen / S&S)

NAHA, Okinawa — Yuji Miyamoto believes he’s in a unique position to be Tokyo’s special ambassador to Okinawa.

He said he’s a “country boy” who can sympathize with Okinawans who feel the powers that be in Tokyo don’t understand their feelings concerning the “massive footprint” of U.S. bases on their main island.

He’s also lived and worked in the United States and met with military officials from around the world on armament issues, so he’s comfortable with dealing with the military.

“I like their straight talk,” he said of the military brass during a recent interview at his Naha office. “There’s no dancing around the way you have to do with diplomats.”

Miyamoto, 58, was born in Fukuoka and has a law degree from Kyoto University. He became Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ ambassador to Okinawa in December.

At times, he said, he’s felt the disdain from other Japanese when they hear his Kyushu accent. It’s much the same as the way Okinawans feel they are sometimes treated — like backward cousins — when they are on the mainland.

“I can understand where Okinawans are coming from very easily,” Miyamoto said. “I am a country boy, too.”

He said the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan will be the most important issue for the three parties — the national government, Okinawans and the U.S. military — during the next year.

“This year the focus will be on the transformation of U.S. forces in Japan,” he said. “The realignment gives us the opportunity to review the situation on Okinawa. We have to achieve two goals — maintain our deterrence capabilities while reducing the burden of the Okinawans (in hosting U.S. military bases).

“At first, that appears to be a contradiction,” he said. “But, in my view, we can find a way. I hope both governments will reach a consensus and determine how to implement troop reductions and base realignments on Okinawa.

“We have a very common ground,” he said. “And it’s very easy to find solutions when you have very good, solid common ground.”

Miyamoto said he has talked at length with Gov. Keiichi Inamine and other Okinawa leaders concerning the base issues.

“Still, I am in the process of learning,” he said. “But I am trying to catch up as fast as I can.”

He has met briefly with the leading U.S. generals on Okinawa, but they’ve been busy with humanitarian relief efforts in South Asia.

“We have met already, but have not had enough time to discuss matters in detail,” Miyamoto said.

He said he knows the U.S. troops on Okinawa have done a lot to maintain good relations with the host communities.

“I admire and also appreciate the efforts being made by military leaders on Okinawa,” he said. “There is always a room, however, for further improvement, as nothing that is made by human is perfect.”

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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