December 18(Saturday)

My second visit to Okinawa since assuming office

 

I visited Okinawa for two days, yesterday and today, for the first time in half a year.  I am writing this on the airplane as I head back to Tokyo.

 

The focal points of my inspection visit this time were the military base issue and measures to promote Okinawa's economy.  While both of these feature elements that interlink, such as the utilization of military base sites to be returned to Japan, it is imperative to address each of them as an important issue in its own right.

 

During this trip, in addition to the meeting I had with the governor, I visited the new cargo terminal building in Naha Airport and the Okinawa IT Shinryo Park, among other sites.  They are generating employment through efforts that make use of Okinawa's special geographical and historical characteristics that connect Japan with the rest of Asia.  I was able to encounter Okinawa's vitality and potential.  I came to have an even stronger conviction that it is important to go beyond the conventional approach of public works projects focused simply on the construction of community buildings and instead move forward by supporting "development appropriate for Okinawa," in which people and information come together in Okinawa.

 

I again confirmed the current state of burden sharing of military bases, including by inspecting the area from a helicopter.  The dangerous situation of the Futenma military base, which is entirely surrounded by urban areas, simply cannot be left as it is.  I felt this very strongly.

 

I do not yet feel by any means that through just my apology and explanation during this visit I was able to obtain the understanding of the Okinawan people surrounding the issue of military bases.  I consider this visit to have been one step in looking ahead, and in the future I will continue to move forward seeing with my own eyes the various efforts for carving out the future of Okinawa while continuing to hold discussions with the governor and various other persons on a wide number of fronts.

 



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