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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 May 27 - June 2  >  ‘Peace by force of arms’ is outdated notion: university student in Okinawa
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2015 May 27 - June 2 [PEACE]

‘Peace by force of arms’ is outdated notion: university student in Okinawa

May 28, 2015
In front of the gates of U.S. Camp Schwab in Okinawa, which is located next to the construction site of a new U.S. base in Nago City, local residents have been staging sit-ins every day in protest against the construction. Among the protesters are many young people. Akahata carried an interview with one of them on May 28.

Kohatsu Yoshitaka is a 19-year-old college sophomore living in Nago City. He was born in Nishihara Town in Okinawa and later moved to Shizuoka Prefecture when he became a junior high school student. After six years he came back to Okinawa to enter university. “In my childhood, I often wondered, ‘Why is this place divided by a fence?’ and ‘Who is doing what inside?’” he said.

After entering university, Kohatsu became more aware of the issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa. During a lecture at the university, he learned for the first time the fact that following the end of World War II the U.S. military seized vast areas of farm and residential land with the force of “bayonets and bulldozers” in order to build military facilities. “There were so many things I didn’t know,” he said.

In July last year, Kohatsu went for the first time to the gates of Camp Schwab together with his university teacher and friends. They carefully listened to local elderly people’s stories of how they were deprived of their land by the occupation forces. “I felt sorry indeed to hear their stories. The reality of Okinawa has not changed at all even 70 years after the war ended. I’m sure that Okinawa can change for the better if all the U.S. bases are removed,” he said.

After the visit to the camp, Kohatsu got to take part in sit-in protests there. One day, a group of nearly 50 people came to the camp gates and started to shout, “We need U.S. bases!” and “Welcome Ospreys!”

Seeing this, Kohatsu slowly approached them and asked questions. He said, “Don’t you think the Abe government is not making any effort to resolve international disputes in a peaceful manner?” and “Don’t you feel the necessity to break the vicious cycle of arms buildups among countries in East Asia?” The pro-base demonstrators just said heatedly, “You are brainwashed. Such an idea won’t work to protect Japan from China’s threats!”

Kohatsu is now working with his friends to hold various events to consider Okinawa’s U.S. base issue, including a one-day bus tour to the Henoko protest site. “With the base problem as a start, I began to study Japan’s politics and social issues to take action to change the present situation. Many people in the country must have doubts and concerns about various issues like constitutional revision, the enforcement of the state secrecy law, and the government plan to restart offline nuclear reactors nationwide. I hope our activities will become a place where those people can come to work together for a better future for all,” he stressed.

Past related article:
> Anti-base human chain in Tokyo shows solidarity with Okinawans [May 25&26, 2015]
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