On February 26, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda started his first visit to Okinawa prefecture since becoming prime minister. He visited the Peace Memorial Park and the Himeyuri Monument, and paid his respects to the war dead. In addition, during his two-day visit to the prefecture, he was scheduled to meet with Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, and visit various sites, including Futenma airbase. The object of his visit is to advance lightening the burden placed by US bases on Okinawa, and the promotion of Okinawa.
Following his arrival in Okinawa, Noda inspected the site of construction to build a second runway at Naha airport, and heard an explanation from Ministry of Land, Construction and Transport officials regarding plans to build a new runway running parallel to the existing one. He also inspected the new cargo terminal at the airport that was completed in October of 2009, and heard an explanation of how Naha airport has developed a cargo shipping network in which it acts as a hub connecting Narita, Haneda and Kansai International airports and five airports overseas.
At the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman city, Noda visited the tomb of the war dead, and after paying his respects and laying flowers, he also paid his respects and laid flowers at the Cornerstone of Peace, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, and the Himeyuri Monument.
Noda also visited the former command headquarters of the Japanese navy located in Tomigusuku city. After laying flowers at a monument to the war dead, he inspected the inside of the underground air-raid shelter, which was built in 1944, and served as the command centre for the Japanese navy during the Battle of Okinawa. Following this, he visited the JICA Okinawa International Centre, where he laid flowers at a bronze statue of Ichiro Suetsugu, who had played an important role in the movement toward the reversion of Okinawa and in the establishment of JOCV (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers).
After completing the first day of his schedule, Noda commented on the aim of his visit on this occasion, stating, “I intend to meet with Governor Nakaima, and communicate to the residents of Okinawa both an apology based on past events, and my own personal resolve, as well as to give a comprehensive explanation that includes an overview of the current state of measures being taken toward the promotion of Okinawa. In addition, I would like to confirm for myself the current state of US bases, and of the possibilities for developing Okinawa as a gateway to Asia.” With regard to the sites he had visited that day, Noda said, “I selected them with the aim of tracing the history of Okinawa up until the present day. While praying for the souls of the war dead, I was once more made aware of the tragedy of war and of the nobility of peace.”
Regarding the meeting with Governor Nakaima, scheduled for February 27, and the issue of the relocation of facilities at Futenma, Noda commented, “With regard to the relocation of Futenma, I will explain that we will continue to work on concrete measures to speedily lighten the burden on Okinawa, while maintaining a deterrent capability. I would also like to take the liberty of mentioning Henoko from the perspective of the need to eliminate the dangers posed by Futenma as soon as possible.” He also indicated that he would call for understanding of the government position, saying, “I would like to explain that legislation relating to the promotion of Okinawa and the use of land formerly occupied by US bases has been submitted to the Diet, and stress our determination to ensure that it is enacted within this current fiscal year.”