Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa on Friday apologized to Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima for “rape” remarks made by a defense ministry official last week in explaining the government’s controversial plan to relocate the Futenma base in Okinawa.
Ichikawa met Nakaima in a meeting open to the media, NHK reported. He said that he understood how much the remarks hurt the feelings of a Okinawan people, but Nakaima called the controversry extremely disappointing and ended the meeting after only 8 minutes.
Satoshi Tanaka, chief of the defense ministry’s branch in Okinawa, told reporters during a casual drinking session in Naha last Monday night: “Do you declare, ‘I am going to rape you,’ when you rape someone?”
The 50-year-old Tanaka used the word “okasu,” a word meaning “violate” but often used to imply sexual assault of women. Japanese media took it to mean “rape.”
Tanaka was answering a question on why the government has never given a clear timetable for submitting to Okinawa an environmental assessment report, which might help move the relocation plan forward.
The island group, where fierce battles were fought in the closing days of World War II, is especially sensitive to such a comment after the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995.
Regarding the rape case, Nakaima asked Ichikawa to explain his remarks in the Diet on Thursday when he admitted that he didn't know the details about the incident. Ichikawa replied that because the incident happened 16 years ago, he had thought that it wasn't necessary to go into all the details during a Q&A session in the Diet, NHK reported.
Nakaima said he has dealt with eight different Japanese defense ministers during his time in office, and expressed frustration that the central government failed to understand Okinawan people's feelings on the U.S. bases issue.© Japan Today/AFP