Kono Faces Tests for Post-Abe Credentials


Tokyo, Sept. 30 (Jiji Press)--The spotlight is on Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono to prove his credentials as one of the potential successors to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, since taking on the defense portfolio in the Sept. 11 cabinet reshuffle.

Formerly a foreign minister, Kono is now charged with handling many difficult issues facing the Abe administration, including those of military bases in Okinawa Prefecture, southernmost Japan, and of deploying the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system to planned sites in the northeastern prefecture of Akita and Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan.

Kono met with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki on Sunday during his first trip to the prefecture since becoming defense minister, and called on the local leader to accept the relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base in the Okinawa city of Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area of Nago, another Okinawa city.

"As a way to realize a full return of the Futenma base site (to Japanese control) while maintaining deterrence power, we must achieve the relocation as early as possible," Kono told the governor.

But Tamaki reiterated his opposition to the base transfer within Okinawa, asking the national government to "immediately stop reclamation work (at Henoko) and engage in dialogue with the prefecture."

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press