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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 May 23 - 29  > Abe Cabinet trampling on environment assessment law to construct new U.S. base in Okinawa
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2007 May 23 - 29 TOP3 [US FORCES]

Abe Cabinet trampling on environment assessment law to construct new U.S. base in Okinawa

May 26, 2007
The Abe Cabinet is resorting to unlawful means for evading the requirements under the environmental impact assessment law in order to construct a new U.S. Marine Corps base on schedule.

Mobilizing a 5,700-ton Maritime Self-Defense Force minesweeper tender, the Defense Ministry is conducting an “environmental condition survey” in the sea off the Henoko district of Nago City (Okinawa Pref.).

The Abe Cabinet is attempting to use this unlawful survey as a pretext for evading the requirements under the environmental impact assessment (EIA) law in order to construct a new U.S. Marine Corps base on schedule.

On December 25, 2006, a governmental council on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station held its third meeting in the main conference room at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

The attendees were: (Government side) Chief Cabinet Secretary Shiozaki Yasuhisa, Defense Minister Kyuma Fumio (then Defense Agency director general), Foreign Minister Aso Taro, and Environment Minister Wakabayashi Masatoshi; (Okinawa side) Okinawa Governor Nakaima Hirokazu, Nago City Mayor Shimabukuro Yoshikazu, and several other municipal heads of northern Okinawa.

In this meeting, Defense Ministry Administrative Vice-Minister Moriya Takemasa gave an explanation about the application of the EIA to the base construction and said, “Coral spawning reaches its peak in early June every year. So, the failure of starting assessment surveys by early June of 2007 would cause a one-year delay to the whole project.”

Delay in the base construction is something that the Japanese government must avoid because in the 2005 agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, it gave the U.S. a commitment to complete the base construction “by 2014.”

At this meeting, the government adopted a plan to set about the EIA survey in early 2007. According to the plan that the Defense Ministry submitted to the meeting, the “EIA process” was to start in January 2007 and end in July 2009.

The plan, however, soon came across an obstacle. In order for U.S. aircraft to not fly over residential areas, the Okinawa prefectural government demanded that the planned location of the V-shaped runway of the base be shifted slightly more offshore. The prefecture has been insisting that it will refuse to accept the application for the assessment survey procedures unless the central government changes the runway location.

The Environment Impact Assessment Law requires the state to assess the impact of construction projects on the environment beforehand, publish the documents specifying the assessment method in order to make them available for public scrutiny, and listen to the opinions of residents and local governments based on the principles of openness, transparency, and accountability.

It generally takes about three years to complete the EIA process, including a few months for the public inspection of the assessment method documents, about one year for conducting the environmental condition surveys, and time to draw up the preparatory documents to be used in public hearings on the assessment, in addition to proposed measures to be taken in order to protect the environment.

However, the Okinawa Prefectural Government continues to reject the acceptance of the assessment method documents.

A prefectural government official said, “The deadline for the prefectural government to accept the assessment method documents was mid-January.”

At that time, the Defense Ministry realized that it was impossible to start the assessment procedures. The ministry decided to conduct a preliminary environmental survey on its own not based on the Environment Impact Assessment Law. This is in violation of the law.

The Naha Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau produced written material to be used in bidding for the survey, but there is no mentioning of the “preliminary survey.” Instead, it describes the survey as an “environment condition survey” and the bureau invited bidders for works based on the assessment law, such as gathering opinions on assessment methods and drawing up a position paper in response to the Okinawa governor’s opinion.

The government is actually conducting environment condition surveys before the prefectural government accepts the survey method documents.

While cheating Okinawans with such a preliminary survey in violation of the assessment law, the government is intimidating Okinawans with the use of the MSDF warship. In dispatching the warship, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo reportedly took the lead. Abe’s high-handed and arrogant policy is illustrating the nature of his scheme to turn Japan into a war-fighting nation.
- Akahata, May 26, 2007
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