Friday, December 20, 2013

What I Want For Christmas Is A Train Set, Among Other Things

The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG), in what is looking like an end game move in the longstanding battle over approval of the plan to begin destroying habitat for the critically endangered dugong landfill at the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) site at Henoko, released a wish list on Tuesday of the projects and programs it would want the central government to pay for prior to Governor Nakaima Hirokazu's authorization of the landfill permit.

The list of requests is long and presumptuous:
1) Termination of operations and swift return of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within 5 years;

2) Total return of Camp Kinser within 7 years;

3) Revision of the Status Of Forces Agreement between the US and Japan including
- On-site investigations from the viewpoints of environment and excavating cultural assets by Okinawa, inside the military facilities three years before their returns,

- On-site investigations by experts in the Okinawa Prefectural Government inside both existing and new facilities, in cases where environmental pollution is suspected,

- Application of tighter environmental regulations, those of either the U.S. or Japan, to the US military facilities;
4) Deploying about a dozen of the Ospreys currently deployed in Okinawa out of the prefecture

- Relocating of the majority of Osprey training exercises

- Removal of Ospreys from Okinawa after the termination of operations of MCAS Futenma.

In addition:

1) a budget allocation for FY 2014 of about 340.8 billion yen to be used for enhancing the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) [the fast developing technology center where the honorable Janne of Janne in Osaka hangs his hat], etc.;)

2) 300 billion yen by 2021 for the second runway of Naha airport, etc.;

3) funding for the a railway system and for the recovery for commercial use of the land returned land from the US military bases;

4) the implement tax reform (preferential tax treatments for investments in Okinawa) in FY 2014.

Source: Okinawa Prefectural Government
Demanding sweeping changes, including swift alternations to the Status Of Forces Agreement (Oh, you do so not want to go there!) could be Governor Nakaima's way fending off Abe goverment pressure to OK the necessary permits. More likely though Nakaima is simply following the rule of thumb of negotiating where if you are only going to get 70% of what you ask for, you should ask for 140% of what you want.

The Okinawa list does not include a casino license, despite the rumors that such a license is high on the prefectural list of economic development priorities. Since such a license does not yet exist, seeing as how casino gambling is still illegal, the prefectural government can hardly demand one from the national government.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the U.S. government responded to the Nakaima requests by declaring it will not acquiesce to any changes in the SOFA (Link) -- demonstrating that when it comes to Okinawan face, there is just no stopping the USG's trampling upon it.

Governot Nakaima and his advisors know that Okinawa's options are much more limited now than they were when Nakaima won reelection in 2010. Chinese activities in the Senkakus, which are in the OPG's jurisidiction, have skyrocketed. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's ruling coalition owns whopping majorities in both House of Diet. If Nakaima does not sign the permits by the end of the year -- his time limit on a decision regarding the first phase of construction for the Henoko FRF -- then the Abe government will simply submit a bill to the Diet authorizing the work, bypassing the prefecture's objections. If A Diet vote takes place, Nakaima's capacity to request compensatory action and budget allocations for the presence of U.S. bases on Okinawa will evaporate.

The pressure on the hospitalized Nakaima (the atmospherics of the hospitalization are great: Nakaima is in Tokyo but the prime minister and the chief cabinet secretary can only visit him at his convenience, not theirs) and the OPG is immense. Asking for the construction of a train line (Uh, where are the rights-of-way for a railroad going to come from on an island with such severe land use constraints that the FRF has to be built out over the ocean?) shows that the Okinawans, for all their happy-go-lucky, let's dance libidinous reputations, remain up to the mainland challenge.

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