Why can't Japan control its skies?: Akahata on U.S. military training -- Akahata editorial, April 17, 2001

The Naha Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau director stated that U.S. military aircraft training in general is subject to no geographical limitations. This means that Okinawans should reasonably accept low-altitude flights all over Okinawa Prefecture. Of course, the statement has infuriated Okinawans who are suffering under the presence of U.S. military bases.

The bureau director's view is supported by the government, in particular the Foreign Ministry as a pretext to give the U.S. Forces the freedom to conduct low-flight training not only in Okinawa but throughout Japan.

How irresponsible it is of the Japanese government to condone such outrageous actions by the U.S. Forces which are causing pain to residents. This is a matter of Japan's national sovereignty.

The Naha Regional Defense Facilities Bureau director's statement has shown that the government's plan to construct a new U.S. military base in Nago City is a failure. Nago citizens now realize that damage from a new base would be limitless, although they are already suffering from the sonic booms of military aircraft.

An influential Nago City Assembly member who is in favor of the construction of a new base had to say that discussion of relocation (of Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City to Nago City) would need to start from scratch.

Taken aback by such a response, the central government has made desperate efforts to hush up the matter. The bureau director apologized for his disturbing remark; the Defense Agency director general and the foreign ministry's ambassador in Okinawa said that the explanation was inadequate and that they would ask the U.S. Forces to "be attentive to public safety."

The actual conditions of training show that these explanations are completely useless.

Far from "being attentive to public safety," U.S. military aircraft in their fierce attack exercises make power stations and child care centers mock targets. Citizens are fearful of a possible crash. Damage caused by sonic booms is making their living conditions unbearable.

The government has neither withdrawn nor retracted the remark that their exercises are subject to no geographical limitations.

The Japanese government invented this sophistry in 1987 following a U.S. military aircraft crash that occurred during a low-altitude flight that cut cables for forestry use over Totsukawa Valley in Nara Prefecture. This made the fact of U.S. military low-attitude flights known to the public, and news of similar damage and complaints came from many places. Since the Japanese government concocted the sophistry to suit U.S. military convenience, the U.S. forces began to behave more outrageously than before.

Low-altitude flight exercises by U.S. Forces are illegal; they are not based on any treaty. Both the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which provide the USFJ with many extraterritorial privileges, do not allow U.S. military aircraft to carry out exercises anywhere in Japan's air space.

Why are only U.S. aircraft allowed to conduct exercises in the air space over residential areas without restrictions, while the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are asked to conduct their exercises in the designated training areas?

The Japan-U.S. special arrangements act on aviation provides that Japan's aviation law, the law to regulate aviation, is not applied to U.S. aircraft, and they are exempt from the lowest permissible altitude, etc. But, Japan's government has never shown the reason.

The special law was enacted in July 1952, just after the end of the total occupation of Japan. It was intended to give the USFJ freedom to use Japan's air space just as before. The Liberal Democratic Party government has maintained this unilateral system for almost half a century.

Clinging to the relic of total occupation, Japan's government rejects the demand for the abolition of the special law.

In fact, the government has tried to invent a pretext to justify reckless exercises by the U.S. Forces, and plans to increase people's danger by establishing a new U.S. base.

As we have entered the 21st century, an era in which military alliances and the stationing of foreign forces should be anachronistic, what is taking place in Japan is quite abnormal.

Japan's politics must fulfill its responsibility to recover national sovereignty over its air space and the people must become able to enjoy their living in peace.

Holding fast to the demand for the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the Japanese Communist Party is urgently calling for efforts to be made to stop low-altitude flight exercises and other occupying forces-type activities of the U.S. Forces. (end)