People cannot live with wartime U.S. Futenma Base -- Akahata editorial, October 26

Asked by Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Ichida Tadayoshi to comment on an Okinawan newspaper editorial stating that U.S. forces are always preparing for war and cannot co-exist with Okinawa residents living in peace, Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro in the House of Councilors Budget Committee said, "That's true." It is the first time the prime minister acknowledged that U.S. military bases cannot co-exist with local residents. However, the prime minister only talks of the need for discussion with the aim of reducing the residents' burden of the bases on the grounds that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is important.

If he thinks that the Futenma base cannot co-exist with the people, there is no alternative but for the base to be withdrawn, as Ichida stated.

Okinawa still is at war

Even after its administrative rights were returned to Japan from the United States, Okinawa was used by the U.S. forces as their logistical base during the U.S. war of aggression against Vietnam, and is now being used as an indispensable base for the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. With U.S. forces carrying out activities under the premise that they will fight in wars, there is no real "postwar" period for Okinawans.

Okinawa-based combat squadrons and airborne control squadrons left last year for Iraq to carry out air strikes. This year, 5,200 out of the 20,000 U.S. Marines, along with many CH53E transport helicopters have left Okinawa for Iraq. Preparatory activities for expeditions abroad have nothing to do with defending the lives and properties of Oikinawans. Rather, the severe training and stress drive many U.S. soldiers into committing crimes. The CH53E transport helicopter that was transferred from U.S. Iwakuni Base crashed onto the campus of Okinawa International University during flight training. The helicopter fell because an emergency order for departure allowed no sufficient time for adequate maintenance before its training flight.

To begin with, there can't be "co-existence" between U.S. forces operating to meet "wartime" needs and Okinawans hoping to live in peace.

By stating that the "military burden in Okinawa must be reduced," Koizumi is actually trying to water down Okinawans' demands for the withdrawal of U.S. bases from Okinawa. Instead, the prime minister is pushing forward with the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station offshore Henoko district in Nago City, Okinawa, and to shift part of the U.S. troops in Okinawa to Japan's mainland. He must not continue to ignore the call expressed by 30,000 Futenma residents at the recent rally for the immediate closure and return of the Futenma base site.

Koizumi's promise to "reduce Okinawans' burden" does not mean that he is concerned for the Okinawans. He is only trying to keep in step with the U.S. government call for the removal of obstacles to effective overseas deployment of U.S. forces as part of its military "transformation" plan.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on June 23, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith referred to "lightening our footprint, eliminating unnecessary irritations" that arose from the stationing of U.S. forces in Okinawa. At the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on September 23, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that U.S. troops should be "in places where they're wanted, places where they are welcomed and where they're needed."

The prime minister's statement on the need to "cut burdens" and his enthusiasm for the relocation of U.S. bases from Okinawa to mainland Japan is only in line with U.S. policies.

The need now is for the Japanese government to end its subservience to the U.S. and demand that the U.S. get its bases withdrawn from Okinawa.

For solidarity to dismantle U.S. bases

Reportedly, U.S. units to be relocated from Okinawa to mainland Japan are chiefly composed of U.S. Marines Corps artillery units. However, ground and air units, the core of the Marines, will continue to be based in Okinawa, and the U.S. Air Force will continue to be stationed there. Nothing will change in that Okinawans are being threatened everyday with U.S. "wartime" operations. If U.S. troops are relocated to bases in mainland Japan, danger to near-by residents will be intensified.

Let us now make every effort throughout Japan to get the U.S. Futenma Air Station removed from Japan. (end)

Copyright (c) Japan Press Service Co., Ltd. All right reserved.