Okinawans got some bad news Wednesday when they learned that the central government's 96.34 trillion yen budget allocated less for the prefecture's economic development than last year.
According to the budget, the Okinawan government will receive 333.9 billion yen, which is 4.6% less than last fiscal year, NTV reported. It is the first budget cut in five years for the prefecture.
Japanese media speculated in late December that Okinawa's budget would be cut due to opposition by new Okinawan Gov Takeshi Onaga to the proposed plan to relocate a U.S. military base from Futenma to Henoko in Okinawa. During a visit to Tokyo from Dec 26-28, Onaga was unable to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe or Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Following the announcement of the budget cutback, Japanese media once again reported on Wednesday that the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party was showing its displeasure with Onaga's stance on the Futenma issue.
However, Suga told a news conference that it was natural for the government to reexamine all budget outlays given the tight fiscal situation, NTV reported. He said there had been a substantial sum unused in previous years' budgets for Okinawa.
Meanwhile, the budget allocates 173.6 billion yen for the relocation of the Futenma base.
Onaga was back in Tokyo on Wednesday but the highest official he could meet was Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita.
Onaga has promised to veto the landfill work needed for a new base to be built.
After his election in November, Onaga said he would "act with determination" toward retracting approval for the landfill work.
Years of deadlock on the planned base relocation have frustrated the Americans and been a thorn in the side of successive Japanese governments.
Okinawa is home to more than half of the 47,000 U.S. service personnel stationed in Japan, and strategically key to the U.S.-Japan security alliance at a time of simmering tensions in East Asia.
But there is widespread local hostility to the military presence, with complaints over noise, the risk of accidents and a perception that the presence of so many young servicemen is a source of crime.
There have been plans for years to move the Futenma air base from a crowded urban area to a sparsely populated coastal district elsewhere on Okinawa -- some 50 kilometers to the north of the current location.
But opponents like Onaga say Okinawa already hosts a disproportionate share of the U.S. military presence in Japan, and the U.S. base should be moved outside the islands altogether.© Japan Today/AP