"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by the Prime Minister regarding His Visit to Okinawa Prefecture

[Date] May 15, 2022
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

(On the mitigation of the impact of military bases and the vulnerability of the economic base)

As I mentioned earlier today during the ceremony (marking the 50th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan), the people of Okinawa Prefecture still bear a heavy impact of military bases, and the Government must continue to take this issue seriously and make efforts. Also today, I visited the Lower Plaza Housing area, which is among the areas in the central and southern parts of the prefecture that we plan to have returned going forward based on the Consolidation Plan for Facilities and Areas in Okinawa. Such sites have high potential for land use and we are determined to strive to deliver one result after another. In addition, the Government has so far taken various measures, such as the development of social infrastructure and the promotion of industry, but there are still major issues to resolve. Okinawa's per capita income is among them. There are also many other issues, such as child poverty and the need to improve productivity. We must address these issues by taking advantage of Okinawa's various possibilities, such as its geographical feature of being the gateway to Asia still growing, and its potential or advantage of enjoying the highest birth rate in Japan. The Government must continue to make the best use of various systems based on the revised Act on Special Measures for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa and other frameworks to realize a robust economy of Okinawa. I have come to recognize once again the importance of making such efforts. Today, I strongly feel the need for the Government to make continued efforts to address the two major issues of promoting the development of Okinawa and lessening the impact of military bases on the prefecture.

(On the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and the construction work for the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma to Henokoto)

The Japanese Government's basic approach to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is determining the appropriate response to each of the issues and problems one by one that have been pointed out until today. When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was involved in formulating supplementary agreements on two occasions. The SOFA is a very large legal structure and therefore, we need to constantly examine what we should specifically do in order to promptly and accurately respond to specific issues. The Government will continue to consider the future direction of the SOFA based on this approach as well. Regarding the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko, as I have said in the past, we have explained to the people of Okinawa that the relocation to Henoko is the only viable solution in terms of both maintaining the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. alliance and removing the danger of continued use of MCAS Futenma, and we have asked for their understanding. Today again, I visited MCAS Futenma. It was my first visit to the base as Prime Minister and I had not seen the area for a long time, but I realized that the dangerous situation has not changed at all, while people concerned are still making efforts as before. I strongly felt that this dangerous situation must be eliminated as soon as possible, and that we must advance efforts toward the total return (of MCAS Futenma) at the earliest possible time. The Government will continue to make efforts while carefully explaining the basic approach I have just mentioned and carefully listening to the opinions of the people of Okinawa as to what should be done in order to move things forward in a realistic manner.