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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 January 16 - 22  > Iwakuni City’s important struggle against U.S. military realignment in Japan
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2008 January 16 - 22 TOP3 [POLITICS]
editorial 

Iwakuni City’s important struggle against U.S. military realignment in Japan

January 18, 2008
Iwakuni’s mayoral election is the third opportunity for voters to express their opposition to the planned relocation of a U.S. carrier-borne aircraft unit.

Akahata Editorial (gist)

On February 10, a mayoral election will be held in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, where the Japanese and U.S. governments are planning to bring in aircraft from a U.S. aircraft carrier as part of the ongoing U.S. military realignment in Japan.

Iwakuni Mayor Ihara Katsusuke has firmly opposed the relocation because it would compromise city safety and shift enormous burdens such as noise pollution onto the citizens.

The Japanese government has arbitrarily cancelled its promise to subsidize the planned construction of the city hall because of the mayor’s opposition to the relocation. What’s more, local Liberal Democratic and Komei party members of the city assembly, who are in favor of the relocation, have repeatedly voted down supplementary budget bills proposed by the mayor.

Ihara offered to resign in exchange for approval of the budget and expressed his intention to ask for the citizens’ verdict.

Iwakuni citizens oppose the relocation

In the March 2006 referendum, Iwakuni voters clearly rejected the plan to deploy aircraft from a U.S. aircraft carrier. In the subsequent mayoral election, they elected Ihara, the staunch opponent to the relocation.

The upcoming election will be the third opportunity for Iwakuni voters to express their opposition. It will be an important occasion to defeat the government plan to force the residents to accept the relocation plan.

Iwakuni residents’ lives have for many years been imperiled by the U.S. forces stationed at the Iwakuni base. They have been forced to endure various hardships, including severe noise pollution. If many more aircraft are deployed under the realignment plan, residents will be forced to endure even more hardships. It is natural that citizens have repeatedly expressed opposition to the relocation scheme.

Ihara has been consistent in supporting the citizens’ opposition to the relocation.

The Japanese government used various tactics, including threats and verbal attacks, to have the city capitulate to its pressure. In the past, it gave the city a subsidy to rebuild its city hall with earthquake resistance standards in exchange for the city’s agreement to host mid-air refueling planes. But once Mayor Ihara expressed his opposition to the relocation of carrier-borne planes to Iwakuni, the government stopped funding for the construction project.

In a magazine interview, Ihara stated, “I can’t accept subsidies in exchange for shifting unbearable hardships onto the Iwakuni residents (January 2008 issuee of “Sekai” magazine).”

Iwakuni residents successfully held a rally last December, with 11,000 residents attending to express their opposition.

In the mayoral election, the LDP and Komei parties will jointly run a member of the House of Representatives. They are launching attacks on Ihara without any regard for how this look to others.

Stop bullying municipalities

At a news conference that he called to announce his candidacy, Ihara said, “The upcoming election is a struggle against obsolete politicking aimed at dividing the citizens and stirring up fear among them in order to defend the interest of the government and particular business interests.” He also expressed his determination to defend democracy and local autonomy.

The Iwakuni mayoral election thus has an important national political significance.
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