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Japan, Okinawa absolutely on collision course: Commentator

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga (AFP photo)

Press TV has interviewed Michael Penn, a journalist and political commentator in Tokyo, about the Okinawa prefecture filing a lawsuit against the Japanese government over local resistance to a relocation of a US military base within the strategic island.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.


Press TV: The issue of Okinawa is a longstanding one. However what do you make of this suing and countersuing between the government and the Okinawa mayor (sic)?  

Penn: Well this is sort of the final stage of at least the legal battle between the two. A lot of people have known that it is going to come to this point that the courts are going to have to decide this issue because the two governments, the Japanese national government and the Okinawa prefectural government, are absolutely on a collision course. So really it needs to be adjudicated by a court at this point.

Press TV: But in the past we have seen different governors of Okinawa make pledges to get the Futenma base shut down and not have it relocated. However, pressure from the central government has forced them to buckle. Is this a possibility this time around as well?

Penn: I think all indications about Mr. Takeshi Onaga, the current government is that this is a man who is not going to buckle. He is a very experienced politician. He actually comes from the conservative wing of Okinawan politics but he clearly believes very strongly and deeply that this is an issue that at the core of Okinawan identity. I would be shocked if he did back down.  

Press TV: And what about the judicial system in Japan? When this case does go to trial or legal proceedings, will the judicial authorities have the autonomy to make a decision that would consider the plight of the people of Okinawa?

Penn: Well that is the big question. Generally speaking, the Japanese court system tends to back the central government bureaucracy and so you have to say going into this battle that probably the central government is more likely to be in an advantage because judges in Japan rarely have the courage to go against the government. But on occasion it does happen, so it is not a hundred percent one way or the other.

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