Government has lost premise on which to construct a new U.S. base in Okinawa: Akahata

Akahata's editorial of March 30 urged the government to cancel the plan to construct a new U.S. military base in Okinawa, saying that the premise on which the Japanese and U.S. governments are planning to construct it in Okinawa has been lost. Following is the gist of the editorial:

In his recent talks with Japan's Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro, U.S. President George W. Bush stated that it is difficult to accept a 15-year limit on the use of the new U.S. base in Nago City, Okinawa. This means that the major premise that the new U.S. base will be used for no more than 15 years has completely collapsed.

Japan's government plans to decide on a basic design for the new base next summer. But, the Bush remarks, which the Defense Agency director general described as 'serious,' caused confusion within the government.

All know that Okinawa's Governor Inamine Keiichi called for a 15-year term limit to be imposed on the new U.S. base as a public promise he made during the gubernatorial election. The Liberal Democratic Party, which supported Inamine, is responsible for this.

If the LDP-government still wants to push ahead with the new base plan even after the U.S. president's rejection of the limited use-term, it means reneging on the public promise, and a grave betrayal of the prefectural people.

In answer to questions in the Diet on the LDP's breach of its election pledge, the government said that it would continue consultations with the U.S. on this issue by "taking developments in the international situation into account."

In Asia, the ASEAN Regional Forum was organized to help solve regional disputes through peaceful means, and the tide for peace is making steady progress. On the Korean Peninsula, North-South exchanges are making headway following the successful summit talks.

These changes are reflected in what is taking place in Okinawa. The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and many local assemblies have adopted resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. Marine Corps from Okinawa.

Also, a rare species of dugongs have been spotted in the sea off the planned new base site. As the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has recommended, to preserve dugongs is an international duty. Even a U.S. Department of Defense report designated the dugong as an endangered species that must be urgently protected.

Recently, a minor helicopter collision occurred at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. This shows how dangerous a base located in the densely populated area is.

Now, the government has lost every reason to push ahead with the new base plan. It is high time for the government to completely withdraw the plan.

The Japanese government must call on the U.S. for the complete and unconditional return of the Futenma base and the withdrawal of the U.S. Marine Corps from Okinawa. (end)