Okinawa-based U.S. Forces increasing their role in antiterrorism wars

U.S. Marine Corps units on Okinawa have been deployed to Afghanistan to engage in U.S. retaliatory wars, and also to the Philippines with similar purposes. Reinforced U.S. military bases will all the more make Okinawa a stronghold for new U.S wars.

Akahata's reporter Toyota Hidemitsu in the July 21 issue of the Akahata Sunday edition reported on recent moves of the U.S. Forces in the Philippines and Okinawa as follows.

The initial target of the U.S. antiterrorism war was Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic armed forces in the Philippines based at Basilan Island in southern Philippines. Engaging in sweeping operations for this group are units of U.S. forces in Okinawa.

Triggered by the operation against Abu Sayyaf, the U.S. Forces are attempting to launch antiterrorism wars against Islamic extremists dotted in the South East Asian region, and to establish military links with Indonesia and Malaysia.

Code-named "Balikatan 02-1," the military operation started on January 31 at Basilan Island as U.S.-Philippino joint military exercises and will last till July 31.

About 1,200 U.S. soldiers took part in the joint drill with about 3,800 from the Philippine Army. The former is allowed to use force only in case of "self-defense."

U.S. Army Special Corps "Green Beret" with 160 personnel led "real combat exercises" on the island. Most of them are from the U.S. Torii Communication Station in Okinawa.

Another unit of a 340-membered Navy Engineering Brigade was sent from U.S. Camp Shields in Okinawa to the island to engage in constructing roads and an airport to support operations.

The remaining forces were deployed on Philippine bases on Mindanao Island and another tiny island.

Engaging in battle with guerrillas

The Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Pacific Forces' paper, reported on battles with the guerrilla forces on March 15, March 19,and June 17.

The facilities built up by the Navy engineering units on Basilan Island indicate that the U.S. Forces are remaking the island into a second Okinawa, an island of military bases.

According to the July 2 issue of the Stars and Stripes, they have constructed 50 kilometer-long roads, two wells 100 meters deep, 45 helipads, a provisional airfield, and three bridges (one is 43-meter long).

The temporary airfield is designed to have at least a 1,400-meter runway, on which C-130 transport aircraft will be able to land, according to the website of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa.

Now that another bilateral exercise is to start from October at other sites, continued antiterrorism war operation in the Philippines by U.S. Forces will mean that Okinawa must continue to endure being used as sortie bases for such operations.

New training facilities designed

We must see that the role of U.S. Forces on Okinawa has been increasing in the light of on-going antiterrorism wars. This is endorsed in May by former Japan Desk Robin H. Sakoda of the U.S. State Department who has suggested that there is no hint of reduction in Okinawa's U.S. military personnel and that they are engaging in many tasks in their fight against terrorism.

Budget approved for reinforcing Okinawan bases

A plan to build up Okinawa's U.S. military bases, which already occupy 20 percent of all Okinawan land, requires constructing an urban-style "antiterrorsim" combat training site in U.S. Camp Hansen to be chiefly used by Torii Communication Station-based Green Beret.

Approval for budget accounts totaling 460 billion yen or 3.8 million dollars has been already given, according to a local newspaper last December. The U.S. Forces announced that this will take place as a replacement of old facilities.

Observed from outside, the old facilities seem as if a movie set, including a church building. This is to meet the requirement of the operation assuming the recapturing of buildings taken by guerrillas.

Perpetuating military bases

Two urban-model of training sites were constructed in 1990 within U.S. Camp Hansen. One site in Onna Village was removed in 1992, and the other in Ginoza Village remained. In both villages, residents have launched a mass opposition struggles.

How is the central government responding to this problem? Compared with active responses made by local papers and the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, gravely regarding the plan to construct new training facilities, there is little response from the central government.

The Naha Defense Facilities Administration Office said, "We've contacted the U.S. Forces on this issue, but have had no answer. We are just waiting for an answer because whenever we request them to answer within a set period of time, we receive no response."

At his memorial speech for the June 23 ceremony of the bereaved families of the Battle of Okinawa, Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro stated, "The presence of the U.S. Forces on Okinawa is greatly contributing to the peace and stability of Japan as well as the whole Asia-Pacific region."

He must take note that Okinawa has been turned into sortie bases for U.S. antiterrorism wars and that another Okinawa is being made in the Philippines. We must emphasize that the prime minister is outstanding in his slave-like submission to the U.S. (end)