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Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine Interview

SNA (Nago) — Excerpts from SNA Japan’s exclusive interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine as he reflects on US military bases, economic development, and the state of democracy in Okinawa. Filmed on location at Nago City Hall in Okinawa Prefecture.


Susumu Inamine: This election is about the ideas of the citizens of Okinawa, whether they can be heard in Tokyo and Washington or if only the ideas about bases in those two governments will be accepted quietly by the next governor.

Why are both some conservatives and progressives supporting Mr. Onaga?

Susumu Inamine: I believe there are two reasons. First, the governor is a politician who must honor promises. Clearly Governor Nakaima did not do what he promised to do. Second, in Okinawa both conservatives and progressives agree that the damage from military bases must now end. The hearts of conservatives and progressives are united and in this election they have come together with one voice.

How did Mr. Nakaima lose so much of his support after eight years in office?

Susumu Inamine: First, as I said, he violated his campaign promise. Also, he views development as separate from the military bases that the economic progress is related to accepting the military bases. That is different from Okinawa’s stance in the past.

Is there a connection between this election and the fundamental issue of democracy?

Susumu Inamine: That can be said, I believe. More than 80% of Okinawans oppose the building of Henoko base. In a democracy, you can’t just ignore the voices of the people. If you do ignore them, it’s a very big problem. It’s something that cannot be allowed in a democratic society.

What about the connection between the US bases and economic development in Okinawa?

Susumu Inamine: Conservatives and progressives divided in the last elections. But this time some business leaders back Mr. Onaga. Tourism is the leading sector of Okinawa’s economy. Military bases account for less than 5% of Okinawa’s economy. The idea that Okinawa needs the bases to survive economically is just a myth widely spread throughout main island Japan. Tourism is the industry that can put Okinawa on its own feet.

Do you have any concern that Mr. Onaga might change his his policies after the election?

Susumu Inamine: I think Mr. Onaga is very different from Mr. Nakaima. Mr. Onaga has put his political life on the line in this election and the main issue in this election is the Henoko base issue. So if you ask will Mr. Onaga tone down his opposition… you have to realize that he has put everything on the line. I have faith that Mr. Onaga will not betray our expectations.

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