Japanese officials pleased with U.S.-Okinawa communications
NAHA, Okinawa — Tokyo’s representative to Okinawa says he’s pleased to see how the U.S. military on Okinawa is working with Okinawa officials and community organizations.
Being sensitive to host-community sensitivities is the key to building better relations with the Okinawan people, said Yuji Miyamoto, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ambassador for Okinawa Affairs, to reporters Monday. He emphasized that the American and Okinawa leaders should meet face-to-face on a regular basis.
In that regard, he praised the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team, which decided last week to meet twice a year to review crime by Americans on the island connected with the U.S. military and the services’ efforts to reduce the number of incidents.
“I am particularly pleased with the agreement they reached so that the meeting would be held regularly, not only when a problem arises,” he said. “I am glad because it is a step forward.”
The Working Team is made up of representatives of the U.S. military, Japanese national government, Okinawa prefectural government and police, municipalities hosting the U.S. bases and local chambers of commerce and entertainment district associations.
At last week’s meeting they discussed the continuing decrease in crimes committed by Americans on Okinawa — a 25 percent decrease in the number of Americans arrested during the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2004.
“Communication is a key to share the common perception on situations surrounding the military on Okinawa,” he said.
“It is on that shared understanding, we can discuss individual issues,” he said.
Miyamoto said he didn’t know how this month’s special election for Japan’s Lower House would affect bilateral talks on realigning U.S. forces in Japan. If the ruling Liberal Democratic Party fails to retain its majority, the negotiations could go back to square one, some Japanese officials say.
“It is still premature to say that a final report on realignment will be postponed until next year,” he said, refusing to say if a delay would be a disadvantage to Okinawans who want a sharp cutback on the number of troops stationed on the island.
“The situation still remains fluid,” Miyamoto said.
U.S. and Tokyo officials have agreed that something should be done to lessen Okinawa’s “burden” — the prefecture hosts more than half the troops and 75 percent of the U.S. bases in the country. However, they also maintain that the presence of troops on the island is vital to maintaining stability in the region.
In related news, in Tokyo on Sunday, about 700 people formed a human chain in front of the Japan Defense Agency to demand the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Okinawa.
The demonstration marked the 10th anniversary of the abduction and gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by two Marines and a Navy medic, a crime that revived the anti-base movement on Okinawa. After months of massive demonstrations, the bilateral Special Action Committee on Okinawa agreed on a plan to gradually reduce the amount of land occupied by U.S. bases on the island by 21 percent.