Presidents of municipal assemblies call for formation of council to discuss distribution of U.S. bases to mainland

by Osamu Kido, Staff Writer

On October 9, presidents of municipal assemblies met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo and requested that a council be established to discuss distributing the functions of U.S. bases to Japan’s mainland. These officials are from cities and towns surrounding the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and seek to ease the burden of the people of Okinawa with respect to hosting U.S. bases. Mr. Suga shared his ideas for forming such a council, saying, “The government will dedicate all its strength [to easing Okinawa’s burden of hosting the U.S. military bases] and discuss what the government can do.”

In addition to the presidents and members of four municipal assemblies in Yamaguchi Prefecture--Iwakuni, Waki, Suo-Oshima and Otake--officials from Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, and Shintomi, Miyazaki Prefecture, accompanied them. These two municipalities also host U.S. bases or bases for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Toshiyuki Kuwahara, president of the Iwakuni municipal assembly, explained the movement by municipal assemblies to pass resolutions intended to reduce Okinawa’s burden. He said to Mr. Suga, “We request that a council be established for the whole nation to consider the issue.”

Mr. Suga, who serves concurrently as Minister in charge of Alleviating the Burden of the Bases in Okinawa, said, “I hope this movement to share Okinawa’s burdens will spread throughout Japan. The government will consider what it should do in connection to your efforts.”

The Iwakuni city assembly has called on other mainland municipalities which host bases to urge that a council be established by the central government. Mr. Kuwahara and members of the assembly made a similar proposal in July to Shigeru Ishiba, the former secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party.

(Originally published on October 10, 2014)