U.S. defense secretary forces Okinawans to endure burden for U.S. bases

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Okinawa on November 16 and told Okinawans to endure the burden of the U.S. military presence, clearly revealing that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the legal foundation of the U.S. bases in Japan, is in conflict with the interests of the Japanese people, reported Akahata on November 19.

At a briefing in Washington on November 10, Rumsfeld explained that the purpose of his visit to Asia, including Japan, was "to visit with U.S. troops and to thank them for the important work they're doing in the region."

A Japanese government official's prediction that the U.S. secretary of defense would not make any significant statements concerning U.S. military bases in Japan was confirmed by his meeting with Okinawa Governor Inamine Keiichi.

Governor's petition rejected

Governor Inamine handed a petition to Rumsfeld regarding the U.S. military presence in Okinawa. Stating that although U.S. bases are crucial to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty setup, the petition calls for the following:

(1) The decisions of the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) to reduce the burden on Okinawans must be implemented (although the SACO decisions are designed to relocate U.S. bases within Okinawa, instead of closing them down -- Akahata);

(2) The 15-year limit on the use of a new Marine Corps air facility to be constructed in Nago as the substitute for the Futenma Air Station must be respected;

(3) The number of U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa must be reduced; and

(4) The Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement must be fundamentally reviewed.

Instead of responding to the petition, Rumsfeld just said that a review is under way as part of a review of U.S. military presence worldwide.

Inamine told Rumsfeld that Okinawa is like a powder keg, an illustration of Okinawans' strong opposition to U.S. bases. Rumsfeld responded to the governor by saying that American soldiers in Okinawa are saying most Okinawans welcome them.

The U.S. defense secretary was highhanded in rejecting the governor's complaint about aircraft noise, saying that U.S. military exercises and noise have been reduced.

Inamine also told Rumsfeld that too many incidents and accidents have been caused by U.S. soldiers stationed in Okinawa during the last 58 years.

Expressing discomfort at the governor's petition, Rumsfeld said that the governor failed to mention the fact that regional peace has been maintained under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Inamine then requested Rumsfeld to study the documents about the situation in Okinawa concerning the U.S. military presence.

The local daily Ryukyu Shimpo on November 18 stated, "Public perception of U.S. bases in Okinawa has changed, but U.S. strategy to use Okinawa as its military stronghold has not."

Comments by Ginowan Mayor

Mayor Iha Yoichi of Ginowan City hosting the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station commented on Rumsfeld's remarks regarding U.S. efforts to reduce aircraft noise, pointing to the fact that the city has found that the number of U.S. military flights has increased by 10,000 ~ 12,000 during the past six years.

"The U.S. defense secretary stated that Okinawa has enjoyed peace under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, but that's not true. About 200,000 lives were lost during the Battle of Okinawa toward the end of World War II, and immediately after the war's end, Okinawans were robbed of their land by the U.S. forces in order to construct their bases. We were driven off our hand and forced to live with the bases."

"If he is in favor of 'peace in Japan', he should stop forcing Okinawans to endure the burden of U.S. bases. True Japan-U.S. partnership calls for every U.S. base to be dismantled as quickly as possible," the mayor stressed. (end)

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