Japan Press Weekly
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50 years of Japan-US Alliance
Mechanism of US privileges - Part II
Change in course
Okinawa makes up only 0.6 percent of Japan's total land, but 74 percent of U.S. military bases in Japan are concentrated on Okinawa and U.S. forces use 18 percent of mainland Okinawa for their bases.
As of September 2009, about 24,600 U.S. Marine Corps., Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel are assigned to Okinawa. There, the U.S. military can conduct combat exercises day and night and execute sorties to other countries. Okinawa constitutes the forefront of the Japan-U.S. military alliance.
Seeking to perpetuate the use of Okinawa for use by the U.S. military, both governments in May 2006 agreed on a "roadmap" to construct a new U.S. air base in the area off the shore of U.S. Camp Schwab in Henoko (Nago City) as a replacement for the U.S. Futenma base (Ginowan City).
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the present Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. By implementing the "roadmap", the two governments intend to continue the mutual alliance for another 50 years.
However, the possibility of pursuing this course is changing. Ginowan City Mayor Iha Yoichi said, "As long as the United States thinks of Okinawa as its base, we will never stop calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Okinawa."
At present, 133 U.S. bases in total are located in 29 prefectures in Japan. According to the Defense Ministry, there are eight air bases, nine military ports, 16 training sites, as well as communication bases, logistics bases, housing units and barracks, and recreational facilities. The Self-Defense Forces are also present at many of these bases, contributing to a sharp rise in the SDF-U.S. joint base use to 49 from only seven bases in the 1980s.
In addition, Japan provides 23 airspace corridors and 47 sea corridors for operational use by the U.S. military, disrupting and limiting operations of civil aircraft and sea vessels. What is more, the U.S. military repeatedly carry out low-altitude flight exercises even outside designated and approved airspace corridors and frequently use civil airports and harbors for military purposes.
Stronghold for expeditionary forces
About 45,000 U.S. personnel are stationed in Japan. The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty stipulates that U.S. forces are to be deployed in Japan for the purpose of contributing to the peace and safety of Japan and the Far East. In reality, they are forward bases used to dispatch combat forces abroad to counties such as Korea and Vietnam in the past and to Iraq and Afghanistan at present
Related legislation favors the U.S. military interests based on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Japan pays for the U.S. military presence in Japan with the so-called "sympathy" budget, which has no legal grounds even under the SOFA. Furthermore, the two countries have secretly agreed on the bringing in of U.S. nuclear weapons into Japan and on dispatches of U.S. military forces for combat operations abroad from Japan. All these arrangements are to guarantee to the U.S. military freedom of operations in Japan. U.S. forces have enjoyed extraordinary privileges ever since they occupied Japan at the end of WWII.
No! to US base
Attempts to strengthen the functions of and perpetuate the presence of U.S. military bases in Japan based on the U.S. military realignment plan are creating a serious confrontation with local residents throughout Japan.
Apart from the U.S. Futenma base issue, another focal issue is the plan to relocate 59 carrier-borne aircraft presently assigned to the U.S. Atsugi Naval Base (Kanagawa Pref.) to the U.S. Marines Iwakuni base (Yamaguchi Pref.).
Local residents living close to the Iwakuni base are now opposing the relocation plan because if an additional 59 aircraft are assigned there, Iwakuni will be the largest air base in Asia with a total of 140 aircraft.
An Iwakuni resident said, "The problem confronting locals in Okinawa, Iwakuni, and other places with foreign military bases is all the same. Local people do not want their community to host a military base, but the Japanese politicians always give in to U.S. demands."
The Democratic Party of Japan replaced the Liberal Democratic Party-led government in the general election last year, calling for "a review of the U.S. military realignment plan" in its election manifesto. However, the DPJ government once in power broke this promise and allocated a generous budget to construct housing units for U.S. personnel who will move to Iwakuni.
The resident said, "We will never turn over our community to U.S. forces. The government should reconsider the entire nature of Japan-U.S. relations, including the so-called 'sympathy' budget and the SOFA."
Then U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur said in his confidential telegram dated 28/11/1958 to the U.S. Department of State that Japan fully accepts the "basic principle that US use of bases in Japan is most important contribution Japan can make to give required element of mutuality to new treaty." The major advantage for the United States under the Japan-U.S. alliance is this: The U.S. government can place its military bases anywhere in Japan and operate them in any manner they deem necessary.
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