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2018 October 10 - 16 [US FORCES]

editorial  45 years of Yokosuka, the homeport of US aircraft carrier

October 13, 2018

Akahata editorial

It has been 45 years since the U.S. Navy on October 5, 1973 started to use the Yokosuka base (Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Pref.) as a homeport for its carriers, and it has been ten years since a U.S. atomic-power aircraft carrier replaced a conventional carrier and began homeporting at the base on September 25, 2008. The year 1973 marks the first time for the U.S. Navy to have a homeport outside the United States. Nearly half a century has passed since then, and Yokosuka is still the only homeport for U.S. carriers outside their country. This illustrates the fact that Japan, which also hosts the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, has been a haven for U.S. bases. The U.S. can no longer use Japan as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" and forward operation base of operations.

2 gov'ts continuing to deceive Japanese

Starting with the USS Midway, three conventional aircraft carriers and two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, including the present Ronald Reagan, have been homeported at Yokosuka. For Japanese, these 45 years are a history of repeatedly being deceived by both the Japanese government and the U.S. military.

Initially, the government had explained, "The USS Midway and family members of its crew will stay in Yokosuka for about three years" (Okawara Yoshio, Foreign Ministry's American Bureau chief, Upper House Committee on Audit, Dec.19, 1973). The duration of the Midway's deployment to Yokosuka was explained to be "about three years", and "residential planning for families" just for the period of the Midway's port call to Yokosuka, not for crew's permanent stay, was the explanation at that time.

The Japanese government was also claiming that "there is no need for Japan to provide facilities or areas anew" for family members of the crew to reside, according to the Foreign Ministry's document dated November 15, 1972, addressed to the Yokosuka City mayor at that time. In addition, the aforementioned American Bureau chief, Okawara, at a Lower House Cabinet Committee meeting on October 9, 1973, assured, "There is no financial burden on Japan at all." However, Japan later invented the so-called "sympathy budget" and constructed the plush Ikego residences for U.S. sailors in Kanagawa's Zushi City. Japan also helped to fund the Yokosuka base so it could be equipped with more sophisticated functions with this budget. In this manner, the Japanese government used deceitful techniques to expand U.S. military facilities and functions in Japan.

U.S. military at that time repeatedly promised to not conduct field carrier landing practice (FCLCP) exercises at the Atsugi base. However, in 1982, at the Atsugi base, which stretches over Kanagawa’s several municipalities including Yamato and Ayase cities, the U.S. forces broke its promise and began holding night landing practice (NLP) drills.

Based on the planned realignment of the U.S. military in Japan, carrier-borne aircraft stationed at the Atsugi base were relocated in March of this year to the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station (Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture). The Iwakuni base facing the sea has been expanded through the replacement of the existing runway with an offshore runway under the pretext of reducing noise pollution. With the relocation of carrier-borne aircraft, the Iwakuni base is now the largest U.S. air base in Asia. Noise pollution near the base has been aggravated and has become a major problem.

When the homeporting of U.S. aircraft carriers at Yokosuka began, the Japanese government in the abovementioned Foreign Ministry document states that currently, port visits by nuclear-powered U.S. vessels are not being considered. The then Yokosuka City mayor, in a document to the Foreign Ministry dated November 21, 1972, urged the government to make a special arrangement to keep nuclear-powered U.S. warships from making port visits in the future. However, in 1984, a port call by a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was made in defiance of local protests and the port call by such ships has been repeated many times since. In 2008, the U.S. military homeported nuclear-powered aircraft carriers at the Yokosuka base. This situation is tantamount to placing a nuclear power plant in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Block the move to turn Japan into a war-fighting nation

U.S. nuclear-powered carrier vessels homeported at Yokosuka have been sent on operations worldwide, including combat operations in the Afghan War and the Iraq War, and are not specifically tasked to defend Japan. Since the forcible enactment of the national security-related legislation also known as the war laws in March 2016, the government led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been strengthening the framework under which Japan’s Self-Defense Forces will provide full support to U.S. Navy carrier strike groups which include Aegis-equipped ships deployed at the Yokosuka base. In order to block any move to turn Japan into a war-fighting nation, a struggle to put an end to the permanent use of the Yokosuka base as a homeport for U.S. carriers is urgently required.
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