Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki inspects a coin he was given during a tour of Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Jan. 31, 2019.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki inspects a coin he was given during a tour of Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Jan. 31, 2019. (Nicole Rogge/U.S. Marine Corps)

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday said he opposes Tokyo's reported plans to position missile batteries capable of striking parts of China and North Korea within the southern island chain.

The plan is contrary to the peace clause in Japan’s Constitution, Tamaki told 300 people attending a conference at Bunkyo Civic Center in Tokyo, marking the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese control.

“If the government deploys in the Nansei region any equipment with the capability to attack enemy bases, I will clearly oppose it because it is against the will of the constitution,” Tamaki said, a spokeswoman from Okinawa prefecture’s Base Countermeasures Department told Stars and Stripes by phone Friday.

Some government officials in Japan are required to speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.

Article 9 of Japan's Constitution states that its people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

In December, Japanese lawmakers approved a record defense budget of about $51.4 billion for fiscal year 2023 that emphasized counterstrike capabilities and strengthened standoff air and missile defense.

Tamaki believes the plan could make Okinawa a target and that it’s “necessary” to “ease tensions and build trust through diplomacy,” the spokeswoman said. He repeated his call to shrink the U.S. presence within the prefecture.

Japan’s Defense Ministry is developing an upgraded version of the high-speed, truck-mounted Type 12 surface-to-ship missile with its range extended from 62 miles to 620 miles, putting potential targets around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and parts of China and North Korea within reach.

Tokyo plans to deploy missile batteries to three Japan Self-Defense Force bases in the Ryukyu Island chain by 2026, the Okinawa Times reported in December.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday that nothing has been decided about where the missiles will be placed, according to a video uploaded to the ministry’s website.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.
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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.

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