December 8, 2021

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All CDP leadership candidates seek a halt to U.S. base relocation in Okinawa

All four candidates running for the leadership of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan called for a halt on Tuesday to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station within Okinawa Prefecture.

The four candidates said the base relocation should be suspended, while supporting the Japan-U.S. alliance as the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy.

They were speaking in a policy debate and a press conference in the southwestern city of Fukuoka ahead of the Nov. 30 party leadership election.

Seiji Osaka, former special adviser to the prime minister, said he supports in principle the foreign and security policies of the government of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

But regarding the Futenma transfer, Osaka said the government needs to come to a stand and renegotiate with the United States as the relocation plan is far out of line with the will of local residents.

Junya Ogawa, former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, said he will take a stable and realistic approach on the axis of Japan-U.S. relations. At the same time, he stressed the need to make efforts to enhance the two countries’ equality in the long term, including on issues related to Okinawa, southern Japan.

CDP policy chief Kenta Izumi clearly demanded the cancellation of the Futenma relocation and said he will explore a new way to resolve the issues linked to the Futenma base.

Chinami Nishimura, former state minister of health, labor and welfare, said the relocation to Henoko does not reflect the will of Okinawa residents. If the CDP wins a generation election with a clear policy of calling off the relocation, it would be able to start negotiations with the United States, she said.

The relocation plan, based on a Japan-U.S. agreement, calls for closing the Futenma base, located in a congested area of Ginowan, Okinawa, and transferring its heliport functions to a new facility under construction in the Henoko coastal area of Nago, also in Okinawa. Many Okinawa residents are opposed to the plan, demanding that the Futenma base be removed from the prefecture altogether.

The four candidates were divided over the CDP’s pledge in the Oct. 31 general election campaign to abolish illegal parts of the national security legislation.

Osaka, Ogawa and Nishimura said the party should maintain the campaign promise. But Izumi suggested the possibility of amending it, saying that the CDP needs to review policies after failing to take power in the latest election.

The CDP leadership election will be held after former party chief Yukio Edano resigned this month to take responsibility for the party’s weak showing in the election for the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber of parliament.

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