Editorial:Okinawa urges Obama and Abe to halt Henoko ‘injustice’

April 28, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is slated to meet President Barack Obama today, April 28, in Washington DC. They are expected to discuss the new U.S. base in Henoko, Nago. We see action on that project being pushed forward in Okinawa by the Japanese and U.S. governments as a huge injustice and a negation of democracy.

What messages should those two governments be giving to the international community? Needless to say, we want them to convey commitment to universal values such as peace, freedom, human rights and democracy. By ignoring such values, they are driving forward their construction policy in Okinawa in an authoritarian and barbaric manner. If Japan and the U.S. are democratic states, they should respect the will of the people. We want the two leaders to drop the scheme for construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko and fulfill their responsibilities to justice.

U.S. Marines transferred to Okinawa from mainland Japan

They must bear at the forefront of their minds the following truths. Okinawan people have never themselves offered any land for U.S. bases, including U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The U.S. military took the lands over for their own use – from the local people – during and immediately after the Battle of Okinawa in World War II and in the 1950s. The U.S. military deprived the residents, against their will, of all that extensive land by use of violent means. That action violated Article 46 of the Hague Conventions, an international agreement forbidding the confiscation of private property by any occupying powers.

We live in the 21st century, but the United States continues to use Okinawa in violation of international law, despite the elapse of 70 years since the end of that war. The local people have sought the closure Futenma and to achieve the return of the land, arguing that it poses a danger to themselves. But if Okinawa does not accept a new base elsewhere in the prefecture, Tokyo and Washington state they will not restore the base to the landowners. It is nothing other than a scandalous injustice.

In the days of the mainland Japan, anti-U.S. military base movement in the 1950s, U.S. forces, including the U.S. Marines, moved down to Okinawa. During the U.S. occupation of their islands, Okinawans were not allowed to express their opposition to military policy. Indeed, the U.S. Marines had not been stationed in Okinawa prior to that. Their presence on the island, moreover, led to the trampling underfoot of the rights of Okinawa.

It is not only Washington but also Tokyo that has treated Okinawa unfairly. The Japanese government has stressed that the Henoko relocation is the only way to remove the dangers posed by the Futenma base. However, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, based at Futenma, was moved in 1976 from Yamaguchi Prefecture, which happens to be Abe’s birthplace, that is, four years after the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty. The Japanese government found no problem in relocating a U.S. military base from the mainland to Okinawa. However, they claim it is impossible to achieve the reverse.

Tokyo declares that the Okinawan Prefectural Government (OPG) agreed to the Henoko relocation 16 years ago. However, that agreement stipulated the OPG would permit the base to function for a limited period of 15 years. Okinawa has never agreed to host a long-term military base at Henoko.

President Obama should support the application of democracy to Okinawa. Since the plan to move the base to Henoko was proposed, the vast majority of people have opposed the plan, duly reflecting their views in opinion polls carried out in Okinawa. Not only has the mayor of Nago, to which the Henoko district belongs, but also the City Assembly, the Governor of Okinawa, and the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly have all rejected the Henoko relocation. If the same thing were to happen in a U.S. state, Washington would not be able to proceed with the construction of any new military base.

Embody universal values

Okinawa has endured suffering – continuously – for 70 years since the Battle of Okinawa: the lost right of self-determination, sexual violence and suppression of human rights and noise and environmental pollution, all have been prevalent in the prefecture.

There have been 45 cases of U.S. military aircraft crashing over the 43 years since the return of Okinawa to Japan. If the number of accidents involving aircraft parts falling from the sky and landing failures are added, the total number of incidents amounts to 594. If the U.S. and Japanese governments insist on continuing to station the Marine Corps unit in Okinawa and on moving the air base within the prefecture, the situation afflicting Okinawa will continue exactly as before. Everyone is well aware that that will not solve the problems arising from the presence of the U.S. military bases.

This is the time to reinstate justice for the Okinawan people. The Henoko relocation protest movement is nonviolent action similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s methods of nonviolent resistance. An 18-year-long resistance is comparable to the imprisonment and endurance of Nelson Mandela, the late President of South Africa. Okinawa is more entitled to claim and proclaim that it embodies respect for human rights, freedom and democracy than the U.S. and Japanese governments. The two leaders must face at that fact squarely.

Although Washington claims that it stations its military in Okinawa to protect Japan, it never does or would think of allowing itself to be involved in wars for the sake of Japan. It is impossible that the United States will engage in warfare with China because of several uninhabited outcrops in East China Sea, namely the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands. Washington stations the Marine Corps overseas primarily to protect its citizens abroad.

The U.S. military uses and expends arms, ammunition and materiel overseas, much to the benefit of the U.S. military-industrial complex. That is the real reason for stationing the U.S. military in other countries and regions, including Okinawa. We would like to ask the two leaders whether they can tolerate such a vast
injustice for the sake of those long-established vested interests.

(English translation by T&CT)

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