Japan to extend special Okinawa development law for another 10 years

Kosaburo Nishime, the minister in charge of issues related to Okinawa Prefecture, has announced a plan to extend a special law for the development of the prefecture by 10 years.

He unveiled the plan at a news conference Friday. The government plans to submit a bill to revise the law to next year’s regular session of parliament. The amendment is expected to come with an additional clause stipulating that a review should be made within five years of the revised law’s entry into force.

The law, which constitutes the basis for implementing central government projects to promote the development of Okinawa, is currently scheduled to expire at the end of March.

It came into force in 1972, when Okinawa returned to Japanese rule following the postwar U.S. Occupation, and has been renewed every 10 years. Infrastructure development had been insufficient in Okinawa at the time.

At issue this time is the length of extension. While Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki has demanded a 10-year extension, some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have called for a shorter extension in light of “changes of the times.”

The central government has decided to allocate ¥268.4 billion for Okinawa development in fiscal 2022 under its draft budget for the year from next April although Okinawa had called for at least ¥300 billion.

The plan to extend the special law by 10 years in line with Okinawa’s demand is apparently intended to ease the prefecture’s frustration as the central and local governments remain at odds over issues related to U.S. bases in the prefecture. Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan.

“I’m very relieved” about the planned 10-year extension of the law, Tamaki told reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

Meanwhile, the governor expressed concern over the cut in the fiscal 2022 Okinawa development budget. “It’s very tough. I wonder to what extent Okinawa’s development can be promoted with this budget,” he said.

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