Tokunoshima Island mayors plan to send anti-base statement straight to Obama
By DAVID ALLEN AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 17, 2010
GINOWAN, Okinawa — Upset with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, mayors of tiny Tokunoshima Island plan to take their opposition to the possibility of hosting a new Marine air station directly to President Barack Obama.
Although Hatoyama hasn’t publicly announced his candidates for possible alternate sites for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, air units and assets, Japanese media — citing unnamed officials — reported that his focus is narrowing on Tokunoshima, located about 125 miles north of Okinawa in Kagoshima Prefecture.
“We, all the islanders, protest against the Futenma air base relocation to Tokunoshima,” the mayors of the three towns on the island of 26,000 residents said in a written statement. They intend to send Obama their statement as a letter, along with photographs of a protest rally scheduled for Sunday.
“The letter is to deliver to him our united will to oppose a military base,” Akira Okubo, the mayor of Isen Town, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.
Hatoyama has been struggling since he took office in September to keep his campaign promise to close Futenma and find an alternative location for Marine air operations, preferably outside Okinawa. A ministerial committee studying the issue has rejected a 2006 U.S.-Japan agreement to build a new Marine air facility on Camp Schwab and reclaimed land in adjacent Oura Bay on the rural northeast coast of Okinawa.
Okubo expects more than a third of the island’s residents to attend Sunday’s rally.
“Tokunoshima is an island of longevity and enjoys the highest birth rates in the country,” he said. “The rich, natural environment is something the island residents take pride in.”
Okubo said he rejects the suggested influx of subsidies the community could expect from Tokyo if it accepts a base.
“Easy money will deprive people of their self-reliance,” he said. “We don’t want subsidies that will bring no benefits and will divide the community.”