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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 17 - 23  > 23-year-old agreement to return US Futenma base to Japan should be fulfilled without conditions attached
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2019 April 17 - 23 [POLITICS]

23-year-old agreement to return US Futenma base to Japan should be fulfilled without conditions attached

April 17, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Japanese and U.S. governments in April 1996 agreed on the full return to Japan of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa’s Ginowan City. Twenty-three years have passed since then, but the base, which is considered to be the “most dangerous base in the world” as described by the then U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in 2003, has yet to be returned. It is because the agreement requires the base to be relocated within Okinawa. For nearly a quarter of century, Okinawans have protested against this requirement. Nevertheless, the Abe government, in a high-handed manner, pushes forward with the planned construction of a new U.S. base in Nago’s Henoko district as an alternative to the Futenma base. Meanwhile, it has become obvious that the Henoko base project has reached an impasse.

Okinawan opposition to new US base is evident

On April 12, 1996, Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale at a press conference announced that they concluded an agreement that the U.S. Futenma base should be “returned within five to seven years”.

Three days after the joint conference, the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), which was set up by the Japanese and U.S. governments, released an interim report. The report states, “Return Futenma Air Station within the next five to seven years, after adequate replacement facilities are completed.” Regarding this matter, the report stressed the need for the “construction of a heliport on other US facilities and areas in Okinawa”.

The SACO interim report cited a heliport as a replacement facility. However, what Okinawa is being subjected to with the reclamation work in the waters off Henoko is the construction of a huge military facility which will be equipped with two V-shaped runways, ammunition storage spaces, and deepwater port facilities.

The Abe government has been arrogantly pressing forward with the new base construction. This has only stirred up more anger among local residents. In the gubernatorial election in September last year, anti-base “All Okinawa” candidate Tamaki Denny, by pledging to oppose the Henoko base project, won in a landslide victory. In the prefectural referendum over the Henoko reclamation work in February, more than 70% of voters expressed their opposition to the project. Okinawans’ critical attitude toward the U.S. base construction is unshakable.

The Abe government on April 5 by misusing the Administrative Complaint Review Act, which was originally designed to protect the rights and interests of private individuals, unjustly revoked the Okinawa prefectural government’s cancellation of its approval to the Henoko reclamation work.

The prefecture claims that the nullification of the landfill approval was a matter of course because the existence of a very soft seafloor in the planned reclamation site was recently confirmed and thus the relocation of the Futenma base to Henoko cannot be realized without substantial delay. The Abe government insists that it is possible to carry out the landfill work by making improvements on the seafloor in question. However, it has yet to draw up a new schedule in response to argument that the ground improvement work will take long years to complete.

In addition, an approval from Governor Tamaki is necessary to begin the seafloor improvement work. The governor, who is determined to block the Henoko reclamation in accordance with residents’ opposition, will not give the nod to the additional work.

The Japan-U.S. agreement on the return of the Futenma base was made in 1996 amid Okinawans’ indignation against a gang rape of an elementary school girl by U.S. military personnel a year earlier. The U.S. military-related crimes and incidents keep occurring as shown by the murder of a woman in Chatan Town on April 13.

In the first place, the Futenma base was built on land which the U.S. military seized during WWII in violation of international law. It is imperative that the base site be returned to Okinawa without any conditions attached.

Past related articles:
> Land Minister rules Okinawa’s revocation of Henoko landfill approval to be illegal [April 6, 2019]
> Okinawa confronts PM Abe with overwhelming ‘No’ in Henoko referendum [February 25, 2019]
> Mayonnaise sea bottom will lead Henoko base project to dead end [January 22,, 2019]

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