Editorial: Salvaging of citizens’ rights to be addressed, at last, in fourth Kadena noise lawsuit

January 28, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo


On January 28, citizens living in the vicinity of Kadena Air Base filed the fourth Kadena noise lawsuit, in which they are suing over noise damage from U.S. military aircraft and requesting a suspension of early morning and late night flights. The number of plaintiffs has increased to a new high of over 35,000 people.

The suspension of flights of U.S. military aircraft requested in the third Kadena noise lawsuit was pushed aside as an “act by a third party” that cannot be restricted as it is conduct by a third party (the U.S. military) not under the control of the Japanese government. However, repeated lawsuits are being filed even while coming up against a wall, and, at the same time, the number of residents joining with the plaintiffs is rising.
The expansion of the scale of the plaintiffs’ side is an earnest complaint about the current circumstances in which the residents’ right to live peacefully and safely is being threatened. The residents will feel nothing but anger for the U.S. and Japanese governments unless drastic measures are taken. If the government leaves the illegal noise damage that exceeds allowance limits as-is, the administration of justice must clearly show us the way out.
This time the court will directly confront the residents who are calling out the violation of rights.
The first lawsuit concerning the noise damage in the surroundings of Kadena Air Base was filed in 1982, the second in 2000, and the third in 2011. Although none of these lawsuits was able to achieve a suspension of U.S. military aircraft flights, the courts have acknowledged that the noise conditions “exceed the allowance limits” and are therefore illegal, and have ordered the government to provide compensation.
In the third Kadena noise lawsuit, it was determined that the Japanese government would pay 22,020 people a total of over 26,125,000,000 yen in compensation.
Of course reparations do not fundamentally solve the problem. Even if, initially, reparations are paid by the government, these end up being a tax. Causing illegal occurrences of noise is not made okay if compensation is paid. Also, because the courts do not approve future reparations, residents must repeatedly go to court to get compensation for the damage incurred.
The problem is that no effective measures are being taken to do away with the illegal noise damage. The use of Kadena Air Base has, if anything, become incessant, with the frequent addition of aircraft from off base to the aircraft stationed there. “Exceptions” to the noise abatement agreement that regulates nighttime takeoffs and landings are being allowed, and the agreement is being reduced to a formality.
The plaintiffs are making the humble request that they “want to sleep peacefully.” Article 25 of the Constitution stipulates that, “All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.” Yet there is no relief without a suspension of the flights that are the source of the din.
This year will mark 50 years since Okinawa was returned to Japan. The people of Okinawa believed that the Constitution applied to them and that they had broken free of U.S. military control due to the return. However, the reality is that, even now, the people are oppressed under the dangers and damage caused by the U.S. military bases.
The courts do not consider this to be a problem running contrary to the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the rights of citizens, and has avoided judgment using act by a third party. As long as the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty is in place, Okinawa will unfortunately fall outside the scope of the Constitution. I want Okinawa to have the real sense that the Constitution exists, and an independent decision from the administration of justice.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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