Why can't the Japanese government put residents' lives before U.S. forces? -- Akahata editorial, August 18

A crash of a U.S. military transport helicopter at Okinawa International University in Ginowan City, Okinawa, clearly showed how dangerous it is for U.S. bases and their aircraft to be located in the center of densely populated areas.

Residents and U.S. base cannot coexist

The occurrence of an accident of this kind had been predicted. Occupying the central part of the city, U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station has conducted flight drills over urban areas. The Japanese and U.S. governments have been fully aware that the Futenma is a most dangerous base.

U.S. aircraft stationed at the Futenma base have frequently caused accidents. However, the U.S. forces have ignored local residents' protests about such accidents, and their call for the base to be removed as well as its flight drills over populated areas to be halted.

Although no civilian was injured by the latest chopper crash, it could have been a major disaster. An accident worse than this case could happen anytime if the base situation is left as it is. Residents cannot coexist with such dangerous bases.

The Japanese and U.S. governments stick to their plan to relocate the Futenma base by constructing a new base in Okinawa's Nago City. Infringing on residents' demands for an early return of the Futenma base site, they have kept the site to be used by the U.S. forces. Both governments must be held responsible for the helicopter crash.

By removing the Futenma base, the Japanese and U.S. governments must stop imperiling Okinawa residents' lives. A relocation of the base to the Henoko district of Nago City will only maintain and increase the danger of the base. The plan should be withdrawn.

It is unacceptable that the U.S. forces already resumed flights of aircraft other than CH-53D helicopters, the craft that caused the latest accident, at a time when local residents are still suffering from the shock of the crash. How do the U.S. forces view residents' lives and security?

In order to prevent similar accidents, flight drills should be halted, the operation of the Futenma base as a heliport be immediately suspended, and the Futenma base site be unconditionally returned to Ginowan City.

Okinawans are particularly angry because the U.S. forces have sealed off the crash site, refused an on-site-inspection by the prefectural police, and even removed the wreckage of the helicopter even though the accident occurred outside of the U.S. base. This anomalous situation makes residents wonder "Does the United States have extraterritorial rights here?" Such a state of affairs in Okinawa cannot be possible in a sovereign state.

It is absurd that the Japanese government accepts such a state on the pretext of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The Foreign Ministry explains that Article 23 of SOFA provides for Japan-U.S. cooperation in taking necessary steps to "ensure the security of the United States armed forces, the members thereof, ... and their property."

The truth is that accidents involving U.S. forces are threatening the lives, well-being, and property of the Japanese people. The Japanese government has the responsibility to protect the lives and property of the people.

The U.S. forces are allowed to exercise its police power only in such cases as maintaining order and discipline among U.S. soldiers. The need now is for the government to review the SOFA that is absolutely incompatible with a sovereign state.

Without filing any protest at the serious accident caused by the U.S. forces, the Koizumi government has even given the U.S. forces a free hand to deal with the accident. Japan is nothing but a vassal state that gives priority to the U.S. forces and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty before the lives of its own people.

Return Futenma base site to Okinawans

As long as U.S. military bases continue to exist in Okinawa and the U.S. forces are stationed there, the lives and safety of the residents will remain under constant danger. The accident this time showed that reduction and withdrawal of the U.S. bases and the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is indispensable to eliminate accidents caused by the U.S. forces and the damage they involve.

The Japanese and U.S. governments must sincerely respond to the requests made by the prefectural people, Ginowan City and other local municipalities for a complete return of Futenma Air Station, a halt to flight training over residential areas, thorough investigation into the cause of the accident, complete investigation of the damage, and corresponding compensation. (end)

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