The relocation of the U.S. Futenma airbase in Okinawa continues to be a pressing issue in Japan’s political discourse. The government has been criticized for its sluggish pace and lack of definitive decisions. But there’s criticism, and then there’s something else altogether: During a recent “off-the-record” interview, Satoshi Tanaka, who was the director-general of Okinawa’s Defense Bureau at the time, expressed criticism of the long-drawn-out relocation in a manner that drew public outrage rather than approval.
According to The Ryukyu Shimpo, an Okinawan paper, Tanaka juxtaposed the government’s slow response on the relocation to “warning a woman about being raped.” Specifically, the former director-general was quoted as saying, “Would you say, ‘I will rape you,’ before you rape someone?” The island prefecture has had a history of sexual assaults committed by American officers stationed at Futenma.
The alleged quote was published the following day, despite Tanaka’s request for an “off-the-record” interview, and led to his dismissal. In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second leading daily, Hitoshi Fukuhara, deputy managing editor of The Ryukyu Shimpo, stated that Tanaka’s remarks were deemed too egregious to remain “off-the-record.” In common practice, such interviews have the sole purpose of providing a journalist with background understanding on an issue. However, according to Japan’s Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, newspapers should “refrain from easily accepting this condition if it restricts the people’s right to know.”
Currently, the government reemphasizes its plans to follow through on the relocation. A definitive time frame remains elusive
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The Asahi Shimbun- Okinawa Paper Defends Off The Record Remark
The Asahi Shimbun- Okinawa Furious Over Defense Official’s Rape Remark