News Archive LAST UPDATE  February 5, 2010
January 31, 2010 New Network Formed to Oppose New Military Base Construction in Okinawa
The banner created for the launch of the US for Okinawa peace action network.
For decades, Okinawans have been objecting to the fact although the region makes up only 0.6 percent of Japanese territory, it “hosts” 75 percent of all US military bases under treaties were negotiated between government officials in Tokyo and Washington, without the consultation of Okinawa. Futenma Air Base in Ginowan City has especially engendered fear, anger and annoyance amongst residents, because it sits in the middle of the city, occupies a vast swath of the best land in the area, and frequently carries out earsplitting flight missions and trainings overhead of residential areas, hospitals, schools, and public offices. In 2004, a military helicopter crashed into a university in the city, prompting massive protests and a promise from both the Japanese and US governments to withdraw the base from the city.

The base, however, remains open still today because the promise to close it was made contingent upon the construction of yet more military facitilies elsewhere on the island. Although promoters of this plan say construction will take place in a “sparsely populated” area, they fail to mention that it means filling in much of a bay in the Henoko region of the island, essentially inundating a fragile marine ecosystem with dirt and concrete to expand the limits of Camp Schwab and create two 1,800 meter runways over what is now coral reefs and one of two important feeding grounds of the dugong, a sea mammal similar to a manatee that is endangered in Japan. This new military construction will likely lead to the exctinction of the dugong from Japan, and destroy much of the rare ecoystem in the region. It will also further deny local residents access to yet more of their tradtional lands and water, and simply shift problems of noise and contamination from one area in Okinawa to another.

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Participants were encouraged to take photos expressing their solidarity with Okinawa – more of which can be viewed at the site linked at the end of this article.

Although a majority of residents in Henoko are fiercely opposed to this new construction plan and have recently elected a mayor who also opposes it, the US government is currently putting enormous pressure on Yukio Hatoyama, the new prime minister of Japan, to ignore local dissent and to start carrying out the construction plan (and incidentally, to pay 6 billion dollars for it, as well). Failing to do so, they argue, will damage US-Japan relations.

Realizing that a majority of US citizens—and others around the world--are unaware of this situation, and recognizing that it is precisely awareness that is needed to help stop this destructive new construction plan, citizens from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK recently came together and formed US for OKINAWA, a peace action network that is calling for the Futenma Air Base to be shut down without any contingent new construction elsewhere. The “US” in the title of the group is a double entendre, and refers to both the shared concern that all of “us” from around the world feel for Okinawa, and to the involvement of the US and US citizens in the matter.
US for Okinawa network members at the peace action in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
The network marked its first public event in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park on January 31, 2010 by reading a statement to the media that called on the US and Japanese governments to listen to the people of Okinawa, holding “art in the park” time, and exhibiting photos and panels that explain the issue. The statement can be read in full at the end of this page. People from Spain, Germany, Australia, India, Pakistan, the US, Japan and elsewhere signed the petition that the group also circulated at the event, many of whom expressed great surprise and dismay to learn about the great burden the US military bases place on Okinawa.

For more information about US for OKINAWA, a network supported by Peace Boat, visit the group's blog at: us-for-okinawa.blogspot.com or contact via email at us.for.okinawa@gmail.com
Pictures of the January 31st event can also be viewed at picasaweb.google.com/us.for.okinawa


US for OKINAWA statement
January 31, 2010

The members of the peace action network, US for OKINAWA, assembled on January 31st to express our concern about the enormous burden that U.S. military bases are placing on Okinawa. Already, U.S. military facilities occupy nearly 20% of Okinawa Island, and even the U.S. and Japanese governments agree that Futenma Air Base poses a great safety risk to nearby residents and agree it should be closed. However, we are appalled that closing Futenma is contingent upon constructing new military facilities in Henoko, another part of Okinawa Island. A majority of local residents in Henoko are strongly opposed to this new construction, and we can understand why. It would simply shift the problems of contamination, noise pollution, and safety hazards from one part of Okinawa to another, and would also destroy much of the fragile ecoystem of Oura Bay. This will likely lead to the extinction of the dugong from Japan, as well as yet again deny Okinawans access to part of their traditional land and water.

It's time for the U.S. to engage more with the rest of the world through diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties rather than military means, and to stop adding to its collection of 1,000 military bases around the world. And it's time for the Japanese government to say loud and clear: “Shut down Futenma” and “No more new military construction in Okinawa.”