We, the Network for Okinawa, firmly oppose the Joint Statement of the U.S.-Japan Consultative Committee issued on May 28, in which the two governments confirmed their intention to build a 1,800-meter long runway (or more than one runway portions) at Henoko on Okinawa as a “replacement facility” for Futenma Air Station, and the partial relocation of training to Tokunoshima Island.
The people of Okinawa, after losing 100,000 lives, one quarter of its civilian population in the Battle of Okinawa towards the end of World War II, sacrificed much of their sovereignty, human rights, and freedom during the U.S. military occupation, and still today—38 years after the island’s reversion to Japan. Although Okinawa accounts for only 0.6% of Japanese territory, it hosts 74% of Japan’s U.S. military bases on illegally expropriated land in the prefecture.
The proposed U.S. military base goes against democratic principles, threatens the environment, and does not improve the security of Japan or the United States.
In March, Washington reiterated a pledge requiring local consent before proceeding with construction. Okinawans have opposed and blocked U.S. military expansion on their island in the name of “Futenma relocation” for the past 13 years, and their resistance at present is stronger than ever. In the Mainichi Newspaper poll conducted from May 28 to 30 in Okinawa, 84% of the residents oppose construction of a new base in Henoko. According to this poll, 91% of Okinawans want US bases in Okinawa either reduced or removed and 71% don’t think Marines are needed in Okinawa. On April 25 at the all-Okinawa rally, 90,000 Okinawans; Governor Nakaima; mayors of all the municipalities; members of the prefectural assembly; and all but one members of Parliament representing Okinawa gathered to call for the unconditional closure of Futenma Air Station and to oppose construction of a new base within Okinawa.
On May 16, 17,000 people surrounded Futenma Air Station in a human chain. Villagers have engaged in an ongoing sit-in at Henoko Beach for more than 2,200 days. Even local business leaders, many of whom would profit from base expansion, refuse to sacrifice “Okinawa’s pride, dignity and autonomy” for the economic benefits that the central government would provide to base-hosting communities.
On June 5, Japan’s new Prime Minister Naoto Kan and President Obama held their first phone conference and acknowledged their commonality as former civic activists. In the same conversation, they confirmed their commitment to follow through on the bilateral agreement to build a new base in Henoko, a decision that ignore the overwhelming civic opposition of Okinawa.
We should halt base expansion in Okinawa not only for people’s sake, but for other species and the sea as well. Henoko, where the two countries are planning to build a massive state-of-art military complex to host accident-prone Osprey helicopters, is located on Oura Bay, a unique fan-shaped bay that holds complex and rich ecosystems – those of wetland, sea grass, coral reef, and mangrove that relate to each other and maintain a fragile balance. The combination of forests, rivers and oceans is important to conserving these biodiversity. It is the feeding area of diverse marine animals including the dugong, an endangered marine mammal. In January 2009, a U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had violated the National Historic Preservation Act by failing to “take account” the effects of the base construction on the dugong, as an Okinawan “natural monument” with significant cultural and historic heritage. On April 24, then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said, “Reclaiming land in Henoko’s ocean would be an act of sacrilege against nature.”
The U.S. Marine Corps presence in Okinawa has no strategic value. The Japan-US Security Treaty does not require Japan to provide bases to U.S. Marines. Rather than protecting Japan or Okinawa, the bulk of the U.S. Marines whose home base is Okinawa are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their training in Okinawa is for a mission that has nothing to do with “protecting Japan,” as many Japanese have been led to believe. Likewise, Marines won’t serve a role that justifies the plan for a massive, environmentally and socially destructive buildup in Guam.
The Network of Okinawa calls on the U.S. president and Japanese prime minister to change the bilateral agreement; return the Futenma land to its owners; and cancel plans to build new military facilities. We urge President Obama to “uphold and extend fundamental rights and dignity” to all Asian people, including Okinawans and beyond, as he declared in the National Security Strategy of May 2010.
June 14, 2010
Network for Okinawa