Okinawa Rejects US Military Base Relocation! Referendum Vote Ignored, Tokyo Has No Say!
Over 70% of the population of Okinawa, Japan, is against the relocation of a US military base, as shown by a referendum that was held on the island. This vote is not legally binding, but since a record number of people have cast their ballots, the result has already been reported to Tokyo.
Our correspondent, Sergey Mingazhev, reports on why hospitable Japanese want to kick out the Americans.
This is the second referendum on the US military presence in Okinawa. The first one being 23 years ago, not much has changed since. The vote showed that more than 3/4ths of the population wants to reduce the Pentagon's troops.
Isao Tobaru, Okinawa prefectural assembly member: «70% of the US military facilities are concentrated in Okinawa. It causes us much trouble such as noise from aircraft, road accidents, objects crashing during military exercises».
The American base, Camp Schwab, has seen protests rage for four years. It's here that the Japanese government intends to build a floating heliport for the US aviation, pouring concrete castings on 400 acres of the sea's surface.
«This area was chosen because of its shallow depth due to a coral reef. Here, on the contrary, it's deep, which means that the USA will be able to build a terminal for heavy-tonnage vessels».
The voting took place in schools. The ballot had three options: «for», «against», and «I don't care». The turnout exceeded 50%, which is crucial for the local authorities. Yoshida-San, the Okinawa governor's political advisor, explained that the referendum is an attempt to reach out to the Japanese government and to Donald Trump personally.
Katsuhiro Yoshida, Okinawa governor's political Advisor: «The referendum expresses the opinion of all the voters. The world dominated by democracy must respect it».
Since the temporary moratorium on building another US base was lifted, the embankment works haven't stopped for a day. The construction continues even on the weekends. Okinawa's vote had no legal effect. Thus, unfortunately, procedures, such as referendums can hardly influence the decisions of the Japanese government and the USA.
While we were filming the referendum, the local NHK team was filming us. Our Japanese colleagues' main question was why we were interested in it. The thing is that American bases in Japan concern its neighbors. And Russia is no exception, especially in the light of a new boost given to the peace treaty dialogue. It's crucial to figure out how independent Tokyo is in making decisions.
Sergey Mingazhev, Alexey Pechko for Vesti East Asia Office from Okinawa, Japan.