[Editorial]Dear US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy: We want the US government to change its Futenma replacement policy and cancel Henoko landfill

Dear US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy

We sincerely welcome you to visit Okinawa. Japan and the United States have faced many challenges in negotiating on the areas of foreign, security, defense and economic policy. However, we hope that you as the US ambassador to Japan will exert your ability with exceptional insight and in the spirit of humanism to reconstruct the US-Japan relationship. We want multi-layered and sustainable relations backed up by mutual trust between both peoples, without overemphasis on military. We have a strong desire to share the universal values of freedom, democracy and mutual respect for basic human rights with American people.

Negative examples
During the 68 years since the end of World War II, the United States has been a teacher of democracy for the people of Okinawa both through positive and negative examples. Young people of the time, who had studied in the United States after the war, praised the democracy. Many of their generations were inspired to become ‘militarism boys’ through education. However, after completing their study in the United States inspired by the hope of democracy, they made use of their knowledge and experience to promote higher education and reconstruct Okinawan society. Meanwhile, it was the United States that captured their land from the residents at Isabama and Iejima “by bulldozers and bayonets” to construct the base in the early postwar period. Such conduct violated Article 46 of the Hague Convention stating that private property cannot be confiscated.

Before the war, people lived their lives in the place where U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station is located. There were schools, a village office and agricultural land. We want the ambassador to understand this abnormal history and accept the reality that the U.S. government operates a military base in an area where it drove out civilians.

The governments of Japan and the United States say they will move forward with the plan to relocate the Futenma base to Henoko, Nago, under an agreement reached in 2006. MV-22 Osprey aircraft plagued with a history of serious accidents will station permanently at the new base and fighter aircraft will regularly use it, if it completed.

Okinawan people are concerned that the human rights, life and property of residents living in the northern region, will forever be compromised as they will be exposed to noise pollution and the risk of an accident.

Believed to be the origin of the mermaid legend, Dugongs live in the sea where coral reefs spread, off the Henoko district. The dugong is listed “1A” as critically endangered in Japanese Red List published by the Ministry of Environment. The US ambassador to Japan tweeted recently, commenting that the U.S. government opposes drive hunt fishing. While most readers responded favorably with grateful hearts to you on Twitter in English, there were many dissenting voices tweeting in Japanese that said dolphin fishing is a part of the life and tradition of residents in their community. You expressed that you were deeply concerned by the inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. Then is it not inhumane to pose a threat to the habitat of the dugongs by destroying their feeding grounds?

Currently, in your nation and many other regions, American organisations are providing shelter and sanctuary for manatees, which are internationally protected members of the Dugong family. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helps rescue manatees and transports them to rehabilitation facilities in Florida. They have a network of expert organizations, including biologists, to save manatees. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has made recommendations to protect the dugongs of Henoko three times. We hope you will accept the recommendations to save this endangered species.

Open the door to create new friendship
Ryukyu Shimpo wrote an editorial published on November 24, 1963, to mourn the death of your father, the 35th President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy, after he was tragically killed by an assassin’s bullets. It reads: “President Kennedy struggled mightily to resolve both the international and internal issues such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Limited Test Ban Treaty and racial discrimination. He showed his ability to take action, determination and contribution to resolve the problems as the greatest leader of our age with passion and wisdom.” The death of the standard-bearer of the New Frontier spirit was a great shock for the people of Okinawa.

With the sense of responsibility coming from your father, would you open the door to create new friendship between the U.S. and Ryukyu, and put an end to the military colonial rule in Okinawa? We hope that your visit to Okinawa will help change the policy and allow the government to abandon the relocation plan to Henoko and to move the Futenma base outside Okinawa.

(English translation by T&CT)

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