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    Still seeking understanding from Nago mayor

    The head of the Japan Defense Agency is still trying to get Nago residents to agree to a slightly adjusted proposal for relocating the helicopter facilities from Futenma:

    JDA chief Fukushiro Nukaga met with Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro of Nago, the site to which US military facilities now at the Futenma base (Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture) are slated to be moved, on 4 April. Nukaga once again sought Shimbukuro’s understanding, conveying once again that, while [the government] will not make broad changes to the relocation to the coastline of Camp Schwab that has been agreed upon by Japan and the US, he is of a mind to respond flexibly to proposals for limited changes, such as in the orientation of runways. The focus was on the mayor’s advocating that the runways be shifted more than 400 meters offshore [from their proposed location].

    It had been hoped that an agreement would be reached by the end of last month.

    On a not-entirely-unrelated note, the Yomiuri took a poll that found that 71% of those who responded believe that the constitution should be revised to clarify the role of the SDF:

    Seventy-one percent of people think the Constitution should clarify the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, an organization that protects the nation yet is not mentioned in the supreme law, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

    Fifty-six percent of respondents said the basic law should be revised, marking the ninth straight year since 1998 that a majority of pollees in similar surveys have favored revising the Constitution.

    The interview survey was conducted on March 11 and 12 on 3,000 eligible voters in 250 locations across the country, with 1,812, or 60.4 percent, of them responding.

    However, 32 percent of pollees opposed constitutional revision, the survey said.

    Regarding the war-renouncing Article 9, a focal point of the constitutional amendment, 39 percent–the highest figure for five consecutive years–said it should be rewritten because there was a limit to interpreting the article and putting it into practice, the survey said.

    Thirty-three percent said the article should be handled as it has been so far, but 21 percent said Article 9 should be strictly upheld and that its spirit should not be watered down through changing interpretations, the survey said.

    Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the top law should be revised to allow the country to exercise the right to collective-defense and 23 percent said interpretation of the basic law should be changed to allow for the right to be exercised. This meant 50 percent favored exercising this right, the survey said.

    Of course, you can’t cite polls without the usual avalanche of disclaimers, but those results ring true to me. People like the way Article 9 makes Japan’s involvement in NGOs seem more saintly (to those who pay attention to such things), and besides, this is, despite the economic upheavals of the last decade and a half, an extraordinarily prosperous country. Most people have little incentive to approach defense issues with a real sense of urgency. But they know, at the same time, that Japan is a resource-poor country with nearby enemies. There’s almost always some current reminder–a little skirmish between a Japanese and a North Korean ship, news about the expansion of a Chinese military program of some kind–of the delicacy of its position.

    It’s interesting that 1998 was the first year the Yomiuri reports having a majority supporting the revision of the constitution. I wonder whether the poll was first conducted that year or, maybe, the DPRK’s missile test over Japan jolted a lot of people. Of course, if the poll is always in the spring, that wouldn’t explain anything, since the test missile was launched in summer.

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