[Editorial] US and Japan need to investigate Agent Orange in Okinawa

June 19, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Construction workers have unearthed dozens of barrels bearing the words: “The Dow Chemical Company” at a soccer ground on land returned by the U.S. military in Okinawa City. The United States based company is the second-largest chemical manufacturer in the world. During the Vietnam War they produced Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant containing dioxin.

The discovery has increased the possibility that the U.S. military stored the defoliant in Okinawa.

The U.S. government has consistently claimed that no evidence exists of storage of Agent Orange, but will they continue to do so despite this latest find?

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acknowledged that veterans’ health had been affected by exposure to defoliant sprayed in the Northern Training Area.

Claiming that the military exposed them to the defoliant during their stay in Okinawa, in 2011 more than 100 veterans filed claims to the VA for damage to their health.

A report produced by the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency in 2003 said the military stored 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange in the prefecture until its reversion to Japanese administration in 1972. There is a great deal of evidence that Agent Orange was stored on Okinawa.

In March this year the U.S. Department of Defense released the results of an investigation on defoliants in Okinawa. It stated that the military had placed strict controls on the storage of the defoliant, and that no evidence could be found of Agent Orange being transported to Okinawa.

It is suggested that the retired U.S. Air Force colonel in charge of compiling the report received research funding from the manufacturers of the defoliant. We cannot blindly accept the results of such a report.

We also cannot help but wonder about the Japanese government’s attitude on the issue. To date, they have not asked the U.S. government to carry out any joint investigations on the Agent Orange issue in Okinawa, including soil tests.

When U.S. Army veterans alleged that they buried Agent Orange in South Korea in 2011, the U.S. military and South Korean government initiated a joint investigation two weeks after the media reported the allegations.

The U.S. and Japanese governments’ double standards on the issue is unacceptable. More than 100 veterans have stated that Agent Orange existed on military bases in Okinawa.

In the past, construction workers unearthed many barrels in Chatan on land returned by the military. It is clear that the U.S. military did not operate the bases in Okinawa in a proper manner.

No matter how much the U.S. government continues to deny the existence of Agent Orange in Okinawa, the Okinawan people will never trust nor accept their statements.

The U.S. and Japanese governments should move swiftly to carry out a joint investigation. A large-scale investigation is required, including earth excavation on land returned by the military and in the bases where they possibly buried Agent Orange.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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