Okinawa governor: U.S. military land should be used for local development
Huang Yue
Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, in an interview With CGTN in Beijing, China. /CGTN
Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, in an interview With CGTN in Beijing, China. /CGTN

Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, in an interview With CGTN in Beijing, China. /CGTN

"Okinawa Prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of the total area of Japan, but 70.3 percent of the U.S. military bases in Japan are deployed in Okinawa," Denny Tamaki, governor of Okinawa Prefecture, told CGTN in an exclusive interview in Beijing.

"That's why our people hope to reduce the presence of U.S. military bases, asking for the return of the land. We would use the returned land economically and effectively, which we have in fact done. And by doing this, we have developed the economy and increased employment," said the governor.

The local Okinawa and central Japanese governments have long been at odds over the relocation of the base, with local Okinawans feeling the post-World War II U.S. occupation has continued long beyond 1972 when Okinawa was officially returned to Japanese control.

Tamaki added that in addition to the U.S. military bases located in Okinawa, expanding the deployment of Japan's Self-Defense Forces would only make Okinawa a more likely target of external attacks, which he said should never happen.

"We, as Okinawa Prefecture, call on the Japanese government to promote peace and economic exchanges, and make efforts toward the stable development of the Asia-Pacific region," said Tamaki. "Instead of prioritizing deployment for deterrence, we should think carefully about what's necessary, and what efforts can be made in order to maintain peace and prevent emergencies."

Tamaki, 63, was born to a Japanese mother and an American father who was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and left Okinawa before he was born.

The politician is known for his vocal opposition to the U.S. military presence in Japan, especially the Japanese government's plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, which had secured him more than half the votes in the gubernatorial election last September.

Explaining why Okinawa Prefecture established a "Regional Diplomacy Office" in April, the governor said region-to-region diplomacy can help the country's diplomacy.

"Creating more stable relationships by promoting academic, cultural, and economic exchanges between regions will lead to the building of mutually beneficial relationships as countries," added Tamaki.

As "an island floating in the middle of the crossroads of the seas of Asia," Okinawa will promote exchanges with China and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Tamaki said.

The governor is visiting China with the Japan Association for the Promotion of International Trade from Monday to Friday.

"I'm very happy to be back in Beijing after four years. Through the visit, I hope to continue to promote exchanges in tourism, economy and culture between Okinawa and China," said Tamaki. "I hope to facilitate the visa procedure for travel from Okinawa to China and promote more direct flights."

In addition to meeting with Chinese officials, the governor visited a cemetery in suburban Beijing's Tongzhou District where people from the Ryukyu Kingdom are buried, a place symbolizing friendly exchanges with China hundreds of years ago. (The Ryukyu Islands were annexed by Japan and renamed Okinawa in 1879)

"I really appreciate the great job of the cemetery staff. I was able to see the gravestone of a Ryukyu person who died in 1888. I think the efforts of preserving that part of history really teaches us many things today," said the governor.

Tamaki will also visit southeastern Fujian Province for its significance to students who were sent by the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom to study in China.

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