[Editorial]10th anniversary of US chopper crash onto Okinawa International University: Marine Corps should be withdrawn from Okinawa

August 13, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

August 13 marked 10 years since a U.S. Marine CH-53D helicopter crashed into a building at Okinawa International University in Ginowan City. Currently, 24 MV-22 Osprey aircraft are stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma near the university. MV-22 vertical takeoff and landing transport aircraft have repeatedly crashed in the United States and abroad. These aircraft land and take off continuously with roaring engine noises day and night near the base and all over the island. This dangerous situation, in which Okinawan people have been forced to live, has not been improved despite ten years having passed since the incident.

One U.S. aircraft crash for every year since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan
After the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972, 45 crashes involving U.S. military aircraft have occurred. Four mishaps took place after the crash at Okinawa International University. This suggests that U.S. military aircraft have crashed more than once a year in Okinawa since 1972. We wonder how long it will take before we can live with peace of mind.

Ryukyu Shimpo recently carried out a questionnaire on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. chopper crash into Okinawa International University with 41 heads of municipalities in the prefecture. Thirty of them responded to the questionnaire. Among respondents, there was no one who answered, “U.S. Marine Corps is necessary to be stationed in Okinawa.” We would like to say there is no need to allow the U.S. Marines to be stationed in Okinawa, as some heads of the municipalities believe.

Satoshi Morimoto, a former Democratic Party defense minister, said, referring to the relocation site of the Futenma base, that “it may not be best to station the marines within Okinawa from a military point view, but Okinawa is the best place politically.” There was recently a move to test his claim. The government proposed a plan that it would move U.S. marine MV-22 osprey aircraft to Saga Airport from Futenma tentatively. However, this plan could not be carried out because the United States side is reluctant to accept it. The government itself has shown that it is possible to relocate a part of the functions of the Futenma base to places outside of Okinawa.

There is no reason why US Marines should stay in Okinawa
The U.S. military listed some reasons why it is not realistic to move the Osprey aircraft to Saga Airport tentatively. These reasons are, they say, the following: The marines and their family members have housings in Okinawa, and the marines can use the northern training area in the island. However, if you view it differently, it is indeed possible to move the marines from the Futenma base outside of Okinawa, if the government provides housings and training areas. There are candidate places in other prefectures, where the marines can use Japanese Self-Defense facilities with airfields and training areas. Japan and the United States assert that Okinawa is geopolitically superior from the strategic point of view. This is an illusion.

The Ministry of Defense has published a booklet, in which they highlight the role and significance of the U.S. Marine Corps’ presence in Okinawa. In the booklet, they describe Okinawa as located in an appropriate place that is neither too close to, nor too far from potential conflict regions such as the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula. They suggest that Okinawa’s geopolitical superiority is the basis for deterrence in the regions. However, this is a pretense to place U.S. military bases in Okinawa, and their argument has been proven illogical.

The United States intends to rotate the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) in Okinawa to Guam, Australia and Hawaii. The MAGTF consists of forces such as headquarters, ground combat, aviation combat and logistical support teams belonging to Camp Hansen, Futenma base and Makiminato Service Area. Okinawa is within China’s ballistic missile range. Some experts speculate that the United States can reduce risk for the marines by rotating them outside of Okinawa. We would like the United States to withdraw all U.S. forces from Okinawa to a safe place.

Currently, the government is carrying out relocation work for the Futenma base in Henoko, Nago. On August 11, the Okinawa Defense Bureau reinstalled float bridges on the coast near Camp Schwab. They will install buoys and floats to conduct undersea drilling surveys.

According to an opinion poll carried out on April by Ryukyu Shimpo, 74 percent of people are opposed to the Henoko relocation plan for the Futenma base. The government has gone ahead with the construction work in Henoko, ignoring the majority of people who are against it. We will never accept such action because it is not fitting for a democratic nation. The government should stop the construction. This sea and sky belong to Okinawan people. The governments of Japan and the United States have reached a point where they must seriously consider a way to withdraw the Marines from Okinawa.

(English translation by T&CT)

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