U.S. bases still expanding 47 years after Okinawa reversion, 2,000 rally in strong opposition

U.S. bases still expanding 47 years after Okinawa reversion, 2,000 rally in strong opposition

On the afternoon of May 19 at Ginowan Seaside Park in Ginowan City, participants of the prefectural citizens’ rally shout "Let's do our best" in regard to goals including the prevention of Henoko base construction.

May 19, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo online edition

It has been 47 years since Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty after its period of U.S. military occupation, post-war. On the afternoon of May 19 the 5/15 the Peace March Action Committee and the Okinawa Peace Movement Center organized a prefectural citizens’ rally to protect peace and life, held at Ginowan Seaside Park’s Outdoor Theater in Ginowan City. According to the organizers about 2,000 people thronged to the site on May 17 for the beginning of the peace march and rally. The functional enhancement of military bases is being advanced, which acts as a rejection of the call to restore Okinawa to the state it was in prior to being sacrificed in war.

Hiroji Yamashiro, chairman of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center and of the Peace March Action Committee, delivered a greeting from the organizers. He emphasized, “In three years’ time, it will have been 50 years since the return [of Okinawa]. I want to do my best for the future of Okinawa, and the future of Japan.”

Representative Hiroshi Ashitomi of the Helicopter Base Objection Association made a statement about House of Representatives member Hodoka Maruyama’s inquiry to a former islander about Japan reclaiming the northern territories via war. Ashitomi expressed a sense of impending crisis with the words, “It’s up to us to force Diet members fanning the flames of war out of office.”

The rally declarations pointed out that contrary to strong calls for the “prompt and unconditional restoration of all of Okinawa to a peaceful island,” the U.S. military bases remain in place under the the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the U.S. and Japan, and even “continue to be strengthened and expanded.” These declarations also brought to attention the problem of the Self-Defense Forces being deployed to Yonaguni Island, Miyako Island, and Ishigaki Island, among others, on the pretense of defending the islands. This declaration stated, “[The deployment] is equal to returning to the atrocious Battle of Okinawa 74 years ago, when [Okinawa] was sacrificed.”
These declaration also brought to attention that, “The U.S. and Japanese governments are forcing through the strengthening and expansion of U.S. military bases as we demonstrate our strong oppostion, and firmly demand a drastic revision of the unjust U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.”

On the morning of May 19, the final day of the 5/15 Peace March, people departed from the Ginowan City Office and divided to walk north and south courses, surrounding Futenma Air Station on their march. Marchers converged at the meeting place for the prefectural citizens’ rally. Over three days, May 17 through May 19, about 3,590 people in total participated in the peace march, along the central north region “base” course or southern “old battlefield” course.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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