New U.S. base construction plan must be completely withdrawn -- Akahata editorial, February 21
It is reported that the United States told the Japanese government that the planned return of the U.S. Futenma Air Station site in Okinawa Prefecture might be without the construction of a substitute as the condition of return.
This U.S. move has something to do with the fact that the Japan-U.S. agreement to return the Futenma base in exchange for a new base to be built conflicted with the wishes of Okinawans and thus failed.
The need now is to put an end to the policy of "relocating" U.S. bases within Okinawa.
No new bases
It is also reported that the United States has informed Japan of its intention to consider the return of the Futenma base as part of the U.S. base reorganization process without linking it to the construction of a new base in Nago City. Although the Japanese government has said it has no knowledge of the report, it involves an important issue concerning U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
According to reports, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his trip to the Futenma base last November stated that the base location is accident-prone and that the plan for the substitute facility is also dead (Mainichi Shimbun, Feb. 13).
Some of the reasons for no longer making a substitute facility condition for returning the Futenma base are said to be the gloomy perspective about a new base construction due to the Okinawa prefectural government's call for a limited "15-year lease" and the possible destruction of the coral reef, in addition to the planned realignment of U.S. forces now under way worldwide.
The real issue involved is that the U.S. Futenma base is actually endangering the lives of residents, making its continued existence no longer tolerable. In fact, nearby residents and Okinawans want the base to be withdrawn unconditionally.
The U.S. Futenma base is located in the middle of the heavily populated district of Ginowan City. Citizens are threatened by U.S. soldiers' crimes such as murder, rape, and arson, as well as the continuous sounds of helicopters and the fear of possible crashes.
The United States had to respond to the request for the return of Futenma base because of the anger that erupted among Okinawans against the U.S. base that was triggered by the 1995 gang rape of a school girl by U.S. servicemen.
The rape incident brought to light the reality of Okinawa where the police cannot capture or question U.S. servicemen because of the extraterritorial rights given to the U.S. forces in Japan. It also revealed that Okinawans can hardly be safe as long as U.S. bases exist perpetuating accidents, noise, crime, and environmental destruction. So it was natural for the 1.3 million islanders to share the call for the withdrawal and reduction of U.S. bases in Okinawa.
However, the U.S. and Japanese governments, taking advantage of relocation demands, pushed ahead with the plan to construct a state-of-the-art military base under the "Futenma relocation plan" that will destroy Nago's coral reef, a rare habitat for dugongs.
The relocation plan involves abandoning the Futenma base which is too small for large Osprey helicopters and fighter jets.
The U.S. plan is to reinforce military bases it uses as stepping-stones to fight wars throughout the world under the U.S. preemptive attack strategy.
Okinawans, including Nago citizens, are not supporting the construction of a new U.S. base. Make no mistake about it.
Toward the end of World War II, Okinawa became a battleground that killed more than a hundred thousand people. How can Okinawans tolerate the new base plan that would bring about further hardships to their lives? This is precisely what most Japanese people are thinking about regarding the new base.
Dismantle U.S. bases instead of relocating or dispersing them
By clinging to the new base plan, the Koizumi Cabinet goes against the wishes of Okinawans and the rest of the Japanese people.
A number of plans are reported by the press concerning the "Futenma relocation" formula, including "consolidation and relocation" and "dispersing to another location."
The need now is to close down the Futenma base immediately and unconditionally.
Removing U.S. bases will help reduce the suffering of Okinawans and will directly contribute to securing Japan's safety and world peace.
Let's heighten public awareness and increase the movement in opposition to U.S. military bases. Let's encircle the Koizumi Cabinet so that the U.S. Futenma base will be withdrawn immediately without any conditions. (end)
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