OKINAWA, JAPAN — Around one hundred and fifty Japanese protesters gathered to stop construction trucks from entering the U.S. base Camp Schwab, after the Ministry of Land over-ruled the local Governors’ decision to revoke permission for construction plans, criticizing the “mainland-centric” Japanese Government of compromising the environmental, health and safety interests of the Islanders.
Riot police poured out of buses at six a.m., out-numbering protesters four to one, with road sitters systematically picked off in less than an hour to make way for construction vehicles.
All the mayors and government representatives of Okinawa have objected to the construction of the new coastal base, which will landfill one hundred and sixty acres of Oura Bay, for a two hundred and five hectare construction plan which will be part of a military runway.
Marine biologists describe Oura Bay as a critical habitat for the endangered dugong (a species of manatee), which feeds in the area, as well as sea turtles and unique large coral communities.
The bay is particularly special for its extreme rich ecosystem which has developed due to six inland rivers converging into the bay, making the sea levels deep, and ideal from various types of porites coral and dependent creatures.
Camp Schwab is just one of 32 U.S. bases which occupy 17% of the Island, using various areas for military exercises from jungle training to Osprey helicopter training exercises. There are on average 50 Osprey take off and landings every day, many next to housing and built up residential areas, causing disruption to everyday life with extreme noise levels, heat and diesel smell from the engines.
Two days ago there were six arrests outside the base, as well as ‘Kayactivists’ in the sea trying to disrupt the construction. A formidable line of tethered red buoys mark out the area consigned for construction, running from the land to a group of offshore rocks, Nagashima and Hirashima, described by local shamans as the place where dragons (the source of wisdom) originated.
Protesters also have a number of speed boats which take to the waters around the cordoned area; the response of the coast guard is to use the tactic of trying to board these boats after ramming them off course.
The overwhelming feeling of the local people is that the Government on the mainland is willing to sacrifice the wishes of Okinawans in order to pursue its military defense measures against China. Bound by Article 9, Japan has not had an army since world war two, though moves by the Government suggest a desire to scrap the Article and embark on a ‘special relationship’ with the U.S., who is already securing control of the area with over 200 bases, and thus tightening the Asia pivot with control over land and sea trade routes, particularly those routes used by China.
Meanwhile, Japan is footing 75% of the bill for accommodating the U.S., with each soldier costing the Japanese Government 200 million yen per year, that’s $4.4 billion a year for the 53,082 U.S. soldiers currently in Japan, with around half (26,460) based in Okinawa. The new base at Henoko is also expected to cost the Japanese Government a tidy sum with the current price tag calculated to be at least 5 trillion yen.
Okinawa suffered devastating losses during the Second World War, with a quarter of the population killed within the 3-month-long Battle of Okinawa which claimed 200,000 lives in total. Hilltops are said to have changed shape due to the sheer bombardment of ammunition.
Local activist Hiroshi Ashitomi has been protesting at Camp Schwab since the expansion was announced 11 years ago, he said: “We want an island of peace and the ability to make our own decisions, if this doesn’t happen then maybe we might need to start talking about independence.”
Maya Evans coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK.
Japan’s Defense Ministry says it will restart work on a land reclamation project, which is vital for a proposed US military base on the site. This is likely to infuriate the local Okinawa prefectural government, who are deeply against the move.
Work is planned to start on Thursday and will create storage space needed to start the landfill work. The Okinawa Defense Bureau will also continue a seabed drilling survey off the coast of Henoko, where an alternative US base could be built.
“An administrative decision to start the landfill work has already been made,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, as cited by the Japan Times.
The Okinawa government says it refuses to accept the notice and has asked the bureau to consult with them before starting the landfill work. Tokyo says these talks have already finished.
On October 13, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga revoked permission granted for the construction of a new US military base to host the US Marine Corps, following their relocation from the Futenma Air Station from the heavily populated city of Ginowan.
“I will continue to do everything in my power to fulfill my campaign pledge of not allowing the construction of a new base at Henoko,” Onaga said, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
However Onaga appears to have been outflanked. Land Minister Keiichi Ishii suspended the landfill approval cancelation on Tuesday, while Tokyo said it would now be giving itself permission to carry out the work and sideline the governor.
The Land Ministry asked Onaga to withdraw his cancelation of the landfill approval by November 6, the Japan Times reports.
“This is like an ultimatum from the government,” Onaga told a news conference on Tuesday. “It’s not just unfair but also insulting to many people in the prefecture. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
The previous Okinawa governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, gave the green light for the relocation of the base in 2013. However, after Onaga won the elections in 2014, he promised to oppose the plan – to the delight of the majority of locals.
There has been tension for years between the local population and US servicemen. This dates back to a notorious crime committed in 1995 when three US marines kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old schoolgirl.
There have also been less-publicized sex crime cases involving underage victims reported in 2001 and 2005, the fatal running over of a female high school student by a drunken US marine in 1998, and other incidents.
Okinawa, home to about one percent of Japan’s population, hosts nearly half of the 47,000 US troops based in Japan.
Southeast Asian elites “forgot” about those tens of millions of Asian people murdered by the Western imperialism at the end of and after the WWII. They “forgot” about what took place in the North – about the Tokyo and Osaka firebombing, about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, about the barbaric liquidation of Korean civilians by the US forces. But they also forgot about their own victims – about those hundreds of thousands, in fact about the millions, of those who were blown to pieces, burned by chemicals or directly liquidated – men, women and children of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.
All is forgiven and all is forgotten.
And once again the Empire is proudly “pivoting” into Asia; it is even bragging about it.
It goes without saying that the Empire has no shame and no decency left. It boasts about democracy and freedom, while it does not even bother to wash the blood of tens of millions off its hands.
All over Asia, the “privileged populaces” has chosen to not know, to not remember, or even to erase all terrible chapters of the history. Those who insist on remembering are being silenced, ridiculed, or made out to be irrelevant.
Such selective amnesia, such “generosity” will very soon backfire. Shortly, it will fly back like a boomerang. History repeats itself. It always does, the history of the Western terror and colonialism, especially. But the price will not be covered by the morally corrupt elites, by those lackeys of the Western imperialism. As always, it will be Asia’s poor who will be forced to pay.
After I descended from the largest cave in the vicinity of Tham Pha Thok, Laos, I decided to text my good Vietnamese friend in Hanoi. I wanted to compare the suffering of Laotian and Vietnamese people.
The cave used to be “home” to Pathet Lao. During the Second Indochina War it actually served as the headquarters. Now it looked thoroughly haunted, like a skull covered by moss and by tropical vegetation.
The US air force used to intensively bomb the entire area and there are still deep craters all around, obscured by the trees and bushes.
The US bombed the entirety of Laos, which has been given a bitter nickname: “The most bombed country on earth”.
It is really hard to imagine, in a sober state, what the US, Australia and their Thai allies did to the sparsely populated, rural, gentle Laos.
John Bacher, a historian and a Metro Toronto archivist once wrote about “The Secret War”: “More bombs were dropped on Laos between 1965 and 1973 than the U.S. dropped on Japan and Germany during WWII. More than 350,000 people were killed. The war in Laos was a secret only from the American people and Congress. It anticipated the sordid ties between drug trafficking and repressive regimes that have been seen later in the Noriega affair.”
In this biggest covert operation in the U.S. history, the main goal was to “prevent pro-Vietnamese forces from gaining control” over the area. The entire operation seemed more like a game that some overgrown, sadistic boys were allowed to play: Bombing an entire nation into the Stone Age for more than a decade. But essentially this “game” was nothing else than one of the most brutal genocides in the history of the 20th century.
Naturally, almost no one in the West or in Southeast Asia knows anything about this.
I texted my friend: “What I witnessed a few years ago working at the Plain of Jars was, of course, much more terrible than what I just saw around Tham Pha Thok, but even here, the horror of the US actions was crushing.” I also sent her a link to my earlier reports covering the Plain of Jars.
A few minutes later, she replied: “If you didn’t tell me… I would have never known about this secret war. As far as we knew, there was never a war in Laos. Pity for Lao people!”
I asked my other friends in Vietnam, and then in Indonesia. Nobody knew anything about the bombing of Laos.
The “Secret War” remains top-secret, even now, even right here, in the heart of the Asia Pacific region, or more precisely, especially here.
When Noam Chomsky and I were discussing the state of the world in what eventually became our book “On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare”, Noam mentioned his visit to the war-torn Laos. He clearly remembered Air America pilots, as well as those hordes of Western journalists who were based in Vientiane but too busy to not see and to not ask any relevant questions.
“In the Philippines, the great majority of people is now convinced that the US actually ‘liberated’ our country from the Japanese”, my left-wing journalist friends once told me.
Dr. Teresa S. Encarnación Tadem, Professor of Political Science of University of the Philippines Diliman, explained to me last year, face to face, in Manila: “There is a saying here: “Philippines love Americans more than Americans love themselves.”
I asked: “How is it possible? The Philippines were colonized and occupied by the United States. Some terrible massacres took place… The country was never really free. How come that this ‘love’ towards the US is now prevalent?”
“It is because of extremely intensive North American propaganda machine”, clarified Teresa’s husband, Dr. Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Professor of Asian Studies of University of the Philippines Diliman. “It has been depicting the US colonial period as some sort of benevolent colonialism, contrasting it with the previous Spanish colonialism, which was portrayed as ‘more brutal’. Atrocities during the American-Philippine War (1898 – 1902) are not discussed. These atrocities saw 1 million Philippine people killed. At that period it was almost 10% of our population… the genocide, torture… Philippines are known as “the first Vietnam”… all this has been conveniently forgotten by the media, absent in the history books. And then, of course, the images that are spread by Hollywood and by the American pop culture: heroic and benevolent US military saving battered countries and helping the poor…”
Basically, entirely reversing the reality.
The education system is very important”, added Teresa Tadem. “The education system manufactures consensus, and that in turn creates support for the United States… even our university – University of the Philippines – was established by the Americans. You can see it reflected in the curriculum – for instance the political science courses… they all have roots in the Cold War and its mentality.”
Almost all children of the Asian “elites” get “educated” in the West, or at least in so-called “international schools” in their home countries, where the imperialist curriculum is implemented. Or in the private, most likely religious/Christian schools… Such “education” borrows heavily from the pro-Western and pro-business indoctrination concepts.
And once conditioned, children of the “elites” get busy brainwashing the rest of the citizens. The result is predictable: capitalism, Western imperialism, and even colonialism become untouchable, respected and admired. Nations and individuals who murdered millions are labeled as carriers of progress, democracy and freedom. It is “prestigious” to mingle with such people, as it is highly desirable to “follow their example”. The history dies. It gets replaced by some primitive, Hollywood and Disney-style fairytales.
In Hanoi, an iconic photograph of a woman pulling at a wing of downed US military plane is engraved into a powerful monument. It is a great, commanding piece of art.
My friend George Burchett, a renowned Australian artist who was born in Hanoi and who now lives in this city again, is accompanying me.
The father of George, Wilfred Burchett, was arguably the greatest English language journalist of the 20th Century. Asia was Wilfred’s home. And Asia was where he created his monumental body of work, addressing some of the most outrageous acts of brutality committed by the West: his testimonies ranged from the first-hand account of the Hiroshima A-bombing, to the mass murder of countless civilians during the “Korean War”. Wilfred Burchett also covered Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, to name just a few unfortunate places totally devastated by the United States and its allies.
Now his books are published and re-printed by prestigious publishing houses all over the world, but paradoxically, they do not live in sub-consciousness of the young people of Asia.
The Vietnamese people, especially the young ones, know very little about the horrific acts committed by the West in their neighboring countries. At most they know about the crimes committed by France and the US in their own country – in Vietnam, nothing or almost nothing about the victims of the West-sponsored monsters like Marcos and Suharto. Nothing about Cambodia – nothing about who was really responsible for those 2 millions of lost lives.
The “Secret Wars” remain secret.
With George Burchett I admired great revolutionary and socialist art at the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts. Countless horrible acts, committed by the West, are depicted in great detail here, as well as the determined resistance struggle fought against US colonialism by the great, heroic Vietnamese people.
But there was an eerie feeling inside the museum – it was almost empty! Besides us, there were only a few other visitors, all foreign tourists: the great halls of this stunning art institution were almost empty.
Indonesians don’t know, because they were made stupid!” Shouts my dear old friend Djokopekik, at his art studio in Yogyokarta, He is arguably the greatest socialist realist artist of Southeast Asia. On his canvases, brutal soldiers are kicking the backsides of the poor people, while an enormous crocodile (a symbol of corruption) attacks, snaps at, and eats everyone in sight. Djokopekik is open, and brutally honest: “It was their plan; great goal of the regime to brainwash the people. Indonesians know nothing about their own history or about the rest of Southeast Asia!”
Before he died, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the most influential writer of Southeast Asia, told me: “They cannot think, anymore… and they cannot write. I cannot read more than 5 pages of any contemporary Indonesian writer… the quality is shameful…” In the book that we (Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Rossie Indira and I) wrote together – “Exile” -, he lamented that Indonesian people do not know anything about history, or about the world.
Had they known, they would most definitely raise and overthrow this disgraceful regime that is governing their archipelago until these days.
2 to 3 million Indonesian people died after the 1965 military coup, triggered and supported by the West and by the religious clergy, mainly by Protestant implants from Europe. The majority of people in this desperate archipelago are now fully conditioned by the Western propaganda, unable to even detect their own misery. They are still blaming the victims (mainly Communists, intellectuals and “atheists”) for the events that took place exactly 50 years ago, events that broke the spine of this once proud and progressive nation.
Indonesians almost fully believe the right wing, fascist fairytales, fabricated by the West and disseminated through the local mass media channels controlled by whoring local “elites”… It is no wonder: for 50 nasty years they have been “intellectually” and “culturally” conditioned by the lowest grade Hollywood meditations, by Western pop music and by Disney.
They know nothing about their own region.
They know nothing about their own crimes. They are ignorant about the genocides they have been committing. More than half of their politicians are actually war criminals, responsible for over 30% of killed men, women and children during the US/UK/Australia-backed occupation of East Timor (now an independent country), for the 1965 monstrous bloodletting and for the on-going genocide, which Indonesia conducts in Papua.
Information about all these horrors is available on line. There are thousands of sites carrying detailed and damning evidence. Yet, cowardly and opportunistically, the Indonesian “educated” populace is opting for “not knowing”.
Of course, the West and its companies are greatly benefiting from the plunder of Papua.
Therefore, the genocide is committed, all covered with secrecy.
And ask in Vietnam, in Burma, even in Malaysia, what do people know about East Timor and Papua? The answer will be nothing, or almost nothing.
Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines – they may be located in the same part of the world, but they could be as well based on several different planets. That was the plan: the old divide-and-rule British concept.
In Manila, the capital of the Philippines, a family that was insisting that Indonesia is actually located in Europe once confronted me. The family was equally ignorant of the crimes committed by the pro-Western regime of Marcos.
The western media promotes Thailand as the “land of smiles”, yet it is an extremely frustrated and brutal place, where the murder rate is even(on per capita basis) higher than that in the United States.
Thailand has been fully controlled by the West since the end of the WWII. Consequently, its leadership (the throne, the elites and the military)have allowed some of the most gruesome crimes against humanity to take place on its territory. To mention just a few: the mass murder of the Thai left wing insurgents and sympathizers (some were burned alive in oil barrels), the murdering of thousands of Cambodian refugees, the killing and raping of student protesters in Bangkok and elsewhere… And the most terrible of them: the little known Thai participation in the Vietnam invasion during the “American War”…the intensive use of Thai pilots during the bombing sorties against Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as handing several military airports (including Pattaya) to the Western air forces. Not to speak about pimping of Thai girls and boys (many of them minors) to the Western military men.
The terror that the West has been spreading all over Southeast Asia seems to be forgotten, or at least for now.
Let’s move on!” I heard in Hanoi and in Luang Prabang.
But while the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people are busy “forgiving” their tormentors the Empire has been murdering the people of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, and all corners of Africa.
It was stated by many, and proven by some, particularly in South America, where almost all the demons have been successfully exercised, that there can be no decent future for this Planet without recognizing and understanding the past.
After “forgiving the West”, several nations of Southeast Asia were immediately forced into the confrontation with China and Russia.
When “forgiven”, the West does not just humbly accept the great generosity of its victims. Such behavior is not part of its culture. Instead, it sees kindness as weakness, and it immediately takes advantage of it.
By forgiving the West, by “forgetting” its crimes, Southeast Asia is actually doing absolutely nothing positive. It is only betraying its fellow victims, all over the world.
It is also, pragmatically and selfishly, hoping for some returns. But returns will never come! History has shown it on many occasions. The West wants everything. And it believes that it deserves everything. If not confronted, it plunders until the end, until there is nothing left – as it did in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Iraq or in Indonesia.
Renowned Australian historian and Professor Emeritus at Nagasaki University in Japan, Geoffrey Gunn, wrote in this essay:
“The US wields hard power and soft power in equal portions or so it would appear. Moving in and out of East Asia over the last four decades I admit to being perplexed as to the selectivity of memories of the American record. Take Laos and Cambodia in the 1970s where, in each country respectively, the US dropped a greater tonnage of bombs than dumped on Japanese cities during World War II, and where unexploded ordinance still takes a daily toll. Not so long ago I asked a high-ranking regime official in Phnom Penh as to whether the Obama administration had issued an apology for this crime of crimes. “No way,” he said, but then he wasn’t shaking his fist either, just as the population appears to be numbed as to basic facts of their own history beyond some generalized sense of past horrors. In Laos in December 1975 where I happened to be when, full of rage at the US, revolutionaries took over; the airing of American crimes – once a propaganda staple – has been relegated to corners of museums. Ditto in Vietnam, slowly entering the US embrace as a strategic partner, and with no special American contrition as to the victims of bombing, chemical warfare and other crimes. In East Timor, sacrificed by US President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Indonesian generals in the interest of strategic denial, and where some 30 percent of the population perished, America is forgiven or, at least, airbrushed out of official narratives. Visiting the US on a first state visit, China’s President Xi Jinping drums up big American business deals, a “new normal” in the world’s second largest economy and now US partner in the “war against terror,” as in Afghanistan. Well, fresh from teaching history in a Chinese university, I might add that history does matter in China but with Japan as an all too obvious point of reference.”
“China used to see the fight against Western imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism as the main rallying cry of its foreign policy”, sighs Geoff, as we watch the bay of his home city – Nagasaki. “Now it is only Japan whose crimes are remembered in Beijing.”
But back to Southeast Asia…
It is all forgotten and forgiven, and the reason “why” is clear, simple. It pays to forget! “Forgiveness” brings funding; it secures “scholarships” just one of the ways Western countries spread corruption in its client states and in the states they want to draw into their orbit.
The elites with their lavish houses, trips abroad, kids in foreign schools, are a very forgiving bunch!
But then you go to a countryside, where the majority of Southeast Asian people still live. And the story there is very different. The story there makes you shiver.
Before departing from Laos, I sat at an outdoor table in a village of Nam Bak, about 100 kilometers from Luang Prabang. Ms. Nang Oen told me her stories about the US carpet-bombing, and Mr. Un Kham showed me his wounds:
“Even here, in Nam Bak, we had many craters all over, but now they are covered by rice fields and houses. In 1968, my parents’ house was bombed… I think they dropped 500-pound bombs on it. Life was unbearable during the war. We had to sleep in the fields or in the caves. We had to move all the time. Many of us were starving, as we could not cultivate our fields.
I ask Ms. Nang Oen about the Americans. Did she forget, forgive?
“How do I feel about them? I actually can’t say anything. After all these years, I am still speechless. They killed everything here, including chicken. I know that they are doing the same even now, all over the world…”
She paused, looked at the horizon.
“Sometimes I remember what was done to us… Sometimes I forget”. She shrugs her shoulders. “But when I forget, it is only for a while. We did not receive any compensation, not even an apology. I cannot do anything about it. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and I cry.”
I listened to her and I knew, after working for decades in this part of the world: for the people of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and East Timor, nothing is forgotten and nothing is forgiven. And it should never be!
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may enjoy a sense of triumph in having succeeded to push through the country’s new military law. Both chambers of Tokyo’s parliament have now cleared the legislation expanding Japan’s military power, despite widespread public opposition and even scuffles among lawmakers.
For Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the historic amendment to the constitution allowing for overseas military deployment, thus overturning the country’s 70-year-old pacifist commitments, no doubt, in their view, marks the emergence of a “strong” Japan, asserting its “independence” in the modern world.
Ardent nationalists among Abe’s party have been earnestly seeking to rewrite the country’s constitution, going back several years in their efforts. They argue that Japan must have greater freedom to use its military forces if the country is to claim equal standing among modern powers. The postwar constitution forbidding any overseas’ deployment of Japanese troops was seen by the nationalists as a demeaning constraint on Japan’s modern-day esteem.
The nationalistic LDP perceives the pacifist constitution as an insult to the country’s independence, and a humiliating fetter imposed by the victors of WWII. The constitution was largely written by the US occupying-army administration following the defeat of Imperial Japan in August 1945.
The bitter irony is, however, that the expansion of military power sought by Abe and his government is not a mark of independence, as they claim. Rather, in truth, it is a sign of Japan’s deepening subservience to the US. The new legislation is heavily conditioned by US strategic interests, albeit in a modern context where Japanese military is perceived now by Washington as bestowing an advantage.
The Abe administration claims that the new military options afforded by the amended constitution will allow Japan to better protect its people and its national interests.
The paradox is that the new military laws and posture pushed through the Japanese parliament by Abe will lead to more insecurity for Japan, and will increase the danger of future conflict.
This is because Japan’s adapted military legislation is framed by the geopolitical perspective of Washington. The deployment of Japanese troops and other military assets is said to be mandated “in defense of foreign allies.” That means Washington.
In effect, Japan is placing its military forces as hostage to Washington’s capricious geopolitics. That is hardly a hallmark of “independence” as Abe and his supporters so fervently claim.
The Japanese government supposes that the new military power is to be strictly enforced with three criteria.
First, it will only be used if Japan or an ally (most probably the US) is attacked or threatened. Second, the military option can only be used if diplomacy has been exhausted. And third, any military force used will be only at a minimum level.
Japan’s expanded military power has to be interpreted in the context of gross historical revisionism under Abe’s LDP. The Japanese leader and his ruling circle have repeatedly sought to absolve Japan from its horrendous war legacy.
The denial of Japanese aggression against China, costing up to 30 million Chinese lives, or the denial of “sex slavery” of Chinese and Korean women under Japanese colonial rule, are disturbing indicators that the present leaders in Tokyo have rekindled a militaristic mind-set.
Therefore, in the context of malleable criteria for deployment of military force and under the sway of an increasing US belligerence in the Asia-Pacific region, the Japanese security laws are cause for deep concern.
Abe’s repeated regurgitation of provocative US allegations against China, from cyber theft to territorial expansionism, only further emphasizes the cause for concern.
China’s often-stated policy is one of friendly regional dialogues to resolve disputes. Disputes should primarily be resolved by Asian neighbors, acting autonomously, independently and free from outside interference.
Japan’s newfound militarism is regrettable and does not bode well for regionally resolved peaceful relations, because Tokyo’s agenda is beset by atavistic nationalist sentiments, and more worryingly, because it is subordinate to Washington’s hegemonic geopolitics.
The people of Japan are right, and they deserve much credit, to be indignant over Abe’s pursuit of expanded military power. His claims of patriotism and to be serving to defend Japan’s interests are in fact the inverse.
Abe is actually serving the US interests and in so doing he is militating against the real interests of the Japanese people.
The author is a freelance journalist writing on international affairs based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. firstname.lastname@example.org
The relocation process of a US military base in Japan’s Okinawa has been resumed, even though month-long talks between Tokyo and local authorities angered by the “troublesome neighbour” still haven’t broken the impasse.
The “concentrated discussions” on the project that faced fierce opposition of the locals ended in vain on Saturday and the construction works in Henoko, Okinawa, have now resumed, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reports.
The decision has sparked a wave of indignation among residents who demand the base to be shut down and rebuilt elsewhere in Japan or overseas. They took to the streets of Henoko, a small coastal area in Okinawa.
Their claim was backed by Takeshi Onaga, the outspoken governor of Okinawa, and other local officials.
“It was extremely regrettable. I will not let [the central government] build a new base in Henoko by any means,” the governor said.
The plan to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to Henoko, which is the southern island of Okinawa, was first announced in 1996 and has since disturbed the local population.
During a meeting with Onaga in April Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that “the relocation to Henoko is the only solution,” though it had been voiced more than once that the base posed a hazard to nearby residents’ lives and needed to be moved.
Japan has already been shaken by a number of protests against the relocation plan earlier this year. Thousands of protesters from as far as Hokkaido to Nagasaki condemned the Japanese government’s policy on the matter and demanded their voices to be heard.
Washington doesn’t plan on closing the facility in Ginowan, which is currently located in a crowded urban area, until it is replaced by a new one.
Meanwhile, Shinzo Abe’s ratings keep on going down as the situation with the US airbase is intensifying and parliament is discussing a bill aimed at promoting Japanese military’s role in the world’s geopolitics.
VLADIVOSTOK – The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is turning to currency swaps as using the US dollar in transactions is difficult because of the Western anti-Russia sanctions, the bank’s senior managing director said answering a question from Sputnik.
“We’re now studying that [the effects of ruble devaluation]. We need some of the swap arrangements with the local banks. We are elaborating opportunities with Russian banks such as Gazprombank, VTB, VEB… Because of the US sanctions, we cannot use the US dollar anymore, we have to switch to other currencies,” Tadashi Maeda said on Thursday, speaking after a conference at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in the Russian city of Vladivostok.
Commenting on the usage of the ruble in swaps, he noted that its interest rate is very high at the moment and this could “hinder” the swaps.
China launched swaps and forwards between the yuan and the Russian ruble in December 2014, making the ruble the 11th currency in the yuan swaps trading.
In October of last year, the Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China reached a three-year agreement on currency swaps worth more than $2.4 billion.
In April, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that he expected the overall trade turnover between China and Russia to reach $100 billion in 2015.
Russia is currently holding the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in the city of Vladivostok.
This is the first time that Russia has decided to hold a forum in the Far East since the introduction of Western sanctions over Moscow’s alleged involvement in Ukraine’s internal conflict, something that Russia has repeatedly denied.
China is sending an official government delegation and members of its business community to the EEF.
RT |August 4, 2015
70 years after the US dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the real reasons behind the decision still divide historians. Recently declassified documents from the time suggest that the nuclear strikes may have been performed not out of military necessity but to intimidate the USSR. RTD’s Peter Scott travels to the two Japanese cities that were devastated by the attacks, where he visits a victims’ memorial and meets nuclear blast survivors still haunted by their memories. He also interviews President Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, on the subject of his grandfather’s controversial legacy.
Japan is set to suspend preparation work for the construction of a new US military base on the southern island of Okinawa, a government official says, amid widespread local protests against the facility’s relocation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Tokyo had decided to halt the work for a month starting August 10, Japanese Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.
Suga further said that during the month-long period, Tokyo plans to hold “intensive consultations” with the regional government in Okinawa Prefecture in an attempt to settle the standoff over the controversial plans to relocate the military base.
The official made the announcement ahead of a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga in the capital, Tokyo, on Friday.
The prospective outpost, which is planned to be constructed in the Henoko district of the city of Nago in the north of the island, would take over the functions of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, also known as MCAS Futenma.
MCAS Futenma, which is based in the city of Ginowan in Okinawa Prefecture, houses several thousand US military personnel.
Okinawans have been calling for the base to be closed and American troops to be moved completely off the island.
The plan for the construction of a new military base for the United States is a key part of a bilateral agreement to realign the US military presence in Japan.
US presence in Japan has been embroiled in controversy, with American military personnel having reportedly been involved in more than 1,000 sex crimes between 2005 and 2013 in the country.
Onaga, the Okinawa governor, has said he will rescind his predecessor’s approval of land reclamation work off Nago, which is required to get the construction work off the ground. By so doing, Onaga would eliminate the legal basis for the central government’s project to build the outpost.
A third-party committee, set up by Onaga, compiled a report on July 16, pointing to “legal defects” in the processing of the central government’s application for reclaiming the area.
TOKYO — Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture Governor Takeshi Onaga is expected to revoke his predecessor’s approval for a US military base, local media reported Friday, citing sources.
Construction plans for the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma to a less populated area in the prefecture are part of a 2006 intergovernmental agreement. In recent months, there have been renewed clashes between the local population and police over environmental concerns and opposition to the US military presence.
An advisory panel is due to submit a report to Onaga by the end of July, outlining the flawed nature of the previous governor’s approval, providing grounds for its cancellation, sources told Kyodo news agency.
Onaga, governor since December 2014 and former mayor of a coastal area near MCAS Futenma’s new location, has previously voiced opposition to the project.
In December 2013, his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, approved a Japanese government application to reclaim land in the Henoko coastal area to enable construction at the site of the new base, 30 miles northeast of its current location in Ginowan.
Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and his US counterpart Ashton Carter reaffirmed the relocation plan this April.
Over half of the 47,000 US troops deployed in Japan are based in Okinawa. Military sites are estimated to account for nearly 18 percent of the prefecture’s entire land mass.
A forest fire near Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear site may cause problems for communities a long way from the area as the dispersal plumes can transport radiation further to the north, nuclear safety expert John Large told RT.
RT: How dangerous is the situation in your opinion? Do you agree with ecologists who say the smoke will spread the radiation?
John Large: I spent some time in Ukraine in 2006 and I assessed the Chernobyl situation interviewing about 30 scientists and engineers who were working on the aftercare of Chernobyl. Brush fires and forest fires were the greatest concern in terms of the means by which you can disperse a secondary radiological impact from the original dissipation that occurred in 1986… What you have in Chernobyl in the exclusion zone and the further way you have an area that has been abandoned for farming, abandoned for management. That means you’ve got lots of brush and young wood growing out of control. Let me assess that – a big fuel load to have a fire. That means that the biological load is very high, so the radiation particles can be dispersed. Take down the chemistry as well. The chemistry is the way in which the strontium and cesium from the radioactive strontium and cesium from the reactor are bound here, and of course the elevated temperature of the fire and plus all the plume and aerial dispersion – means that could transport it hundreds of kilometers, particularly to the north, to Belarus. So there are more problems here for communities that are long way away from the site. What I had hoped was that the Ukrainian officials would have had in place firefighting capacity greater than they normally would have at any other area of Ukraine, because it certainly needs to be protected not just now but in the longer term as well.
We know that Ukraine is cash-strapped. There was a responsibility for its neighbors, Russia, the EU, not Belarus as much because it’s in an even worse financial situation, but there was a general responsibility to protect this area from another bout of radioactive dispersion.
RT: What lessons can be learned from this particular incident then to make sure that the brush and the forest doesn’t catch light again, or if it does, to make sure that site is secured?
JL: It is not the reactor, it is not the location of the reactor that is the problem – it is the dispersal plumes from the original accident – that is the problem. If there are radioactive materials on the ground now and then it’s engulfed by forest fire maybe 40-50 km away from the reactor. But that deposited radioactivity is re-suspended into gas, blown high into the atmosphere by the heat of the flames, and then of course it settles somewhere else. And it may be those communities to the north that are not prepared to have this new radiation plume and deposition and fallout come down on their communities.
RT: Do you think there should be a common international strategy and response for situations like this?
JL: We’ve seen recently with Chernobyl, with Windscale in the 1950’s in the UK, and particularly now with Fukushima that the radiation doesn’t respect any international boundaries. So an international effort is required for this type of catastrophe, all potential catastrophes. I would have thought that the EU or Russia would have healed their scars over this and got together and put some efforts and resources into controlling this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Guaranteed profits—at any price
Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama told beltway bullhorn Chris Matthews that Senator Elizabeth Warren was “wrong” about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade deal in American history, linking United States and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in a pervasive and binding treaty. The president was referring to Warren’s claim that the trade treaty will license corporations to sue governments, and her contention that this was, to put it mildly, a bad idea.
Warren isn’t wrong, Obama is. And he knows it. The entire TPP, as understood, is based on a single overarching idea: that regulation must not hinder profiteering. This is a fundamentally anti-democratic concept that—if implemented—would effectively eliminate the power of a demos to make its own law. The final authority on any law’s validity would rest elsewhere, beyond the reach of popular sovereignty. From the TPP point-of-view, democracy is just another barrier to trade, and the corporate forces behind the draft treaty are intent on removing that barrier. Simple as that.
That’s why the entire deal has been negotiated in conclave, deliberately beyond the public purview, since the president and his trade representatives know that exposing the deal to the unforgiving light of popular scrutiny would doom it to failure. That’s why the president, like his mentor President Clinton, has lobbied hard for Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track, which reduces the Congressional role in the passage of the bill to a ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’
Cracks have begun to show in the formidable cloak behind which the deal has been structured. A coalition of advocacy groups advanced on the U.S. Trade Representatives office this week. Wikileaks has obtained and released chapters from the draft document. Senator Harry Reid declared his position on Fast Track as “… not only no, but hell no.” Warren has proved to be a persistent thorn in the side of White House efforts to smooth over troubling issues with the deal. But the monied interests that rule the beltway have all pressed for passage. And as a Fast Track draft makes its way through Congress, stakes are high. The TPP is, in the apt estimation of political activist Jim Hightower, a “corporate coup d’état.”
Not for the first time, the president and his Republican enemies are yoked by the bipartisan appeal of privilege against this faltering fence of protest. The marriage of convenience was described in last Friday’s sub-head to a New York Times article on TPP: “G.O.P. Is Allied With President Against His Own Party.”
All The Usual Suspects
Who else supports the TPP? Aside from this odd confection of neoliberals, the corporations that rule the beltway feverishly back the TPP. From the leak of Sony digital data we learn that it and its media peers have enthusiastically pressed for the passage of the deal. Sony is joined by major agricultural beneficiaries (Monsanto), mining companies like Infinito Gold, currently suing Costa Rica to keep an ecology-harming mine pit active, as well as pharmaceutical coalitions negotiating stiff intellectual property rights unpopular even in Congress, and various other technology and consumer goods groups. And don’t forget nicotine kingpins like Philip Morris.
Obama reinforces the corporate line: “We have the opportunity to open even more new markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America.” Perhaps he isn’t aware that our leading export is the workforce that once took pride in that moniker. We’ve exported five million manufacturing jobs since 1994, largely thanks to NAFTA, the model on which the TPP is built. The TPP will only continue that sad trend. The only jobs not being offshored are the ones that can’t be: bartenders and waitresses and health care assistants. That’s the Obama economy: a surfeit of low-wage service jobs filled by debt-saddled degree holders. As Paul Craig Roberts argued in The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, between 2007 and 2014, some eight million students would graduate from American universities and likely seek jobs in the United States. A mere one million degree-requiring jobs would await them. The irony of Obama’s statement is that the TPP would actually move to strip the use of labels like, “Buy American,” since they unduly advocate for local goods.
In truth, the authors of the treaty already know all this. The bill concedes as much, with Democrats building in some throwaway provisions of unspecified aid to workers whose jobs have been offshored, and a tax credit to ostensibly help those ex-workers purchase health insurance. Cold comfort for the jobless, as they are exhorted by the gutless paladins of globalization to ‘toughen up’ and deal with the harsh realities of a globalized economy. As neoliberal stooge Thomas Friedman has said, companies in the glorious global marketplace never hire before they ask, “Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer?” Of course, the answer is invariably no, so the job goes to Bangladesh or a robot. No moral equation ever enters the picture. Just market discipline for the vulnerable and ingenious efforts by a captive state to shelter capital from the market dynamics it would force on others.
The Investment Chapter
Despite Obama’s disingenuous clichés about “… fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open Internet,” the trade deal makes it clear that labor law and environmental law are both barriers to profitability. We know this thanks to Wikileaks, which once again proved its inestimable value by acquiring and releasing another chapter from the cloak-and-dagger negotiations. This time it was the investment chapter, in which so much of the treaty’s raison d’etre is expressed.
As Public Citizen points out in its lengthy analysis of the chapter, any domestic policy that infringes on an investor’s “right” to a regulatory framework that conforms to their “expectations,” is grounds for a suit. Namely, the suit may be pressed to “the extent to which the government action interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations.”
Here’s what the TPP says about such legislation as it relates to investor expectations:
For greater certainty, whether an investor’s investment-backed expectations are reasonable depends, to the extent relevant, on factors such as whether the government provided the investor with binding written assurances and the nature and extent of governmental regulation or the potential for government regulation in the relevant sector.
Try putting that tax on financial transactions. Forget it. Barrier to a reasonable return. Don’t believe it? Just read the TPP investment protocols that would ban capital controls, which is what a financial tax is considered to be by TPP proponents. Try passing that environmental legislation. Not a chance. Hindrance to maximum shareholder value. Just ask Germany how it felt when a Swiss company sued it for shutting down its nuclear industry after Fukushima. Try enacting that youth safety law banning tobacco advertising. Sorry. Needless barrier to profits. Just ask Australia, which is being sued by Philip Morris for trying to protect kids from tar and nicotine.
Public Citizen has tabulated that, “The TPP would newly empower about 9,000 foreign-owned firms in the United States to launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government, while empowering more than 18,000 additional U.S.-owned firms to launch ISDS cases against other signatory governments.” It found that “foreign investors launched at least 50 ISDS claims each year from 2011 through 2013, and another 42 claims in 2014.” If these numbers seem small, recall that for a crucial piece of labor legislation to be struck down, only one firm need win in arbitration in order to financially hamstring a government and set a precedent that would likely ice the reformist urge of future legislatures.
As noted earlier, the text also appears to suggest to ban the practice of promoting domestic goods over foreign—another hurdle to shareholder value. This would effectively prohibit a country from implementing an import-substitution economy without threat of being sued. Governments would be relieved of tools, like tariffs, historically used to protect fledgling native industries. This is exactly what IMF prescriptions often produce—agricultural reforms, for instance, that wipe out native crop production and substitute for it the production of, say, cheap Arabica coffee beans, for export to the global north. Meanwhile, that producer nation must then accept costly IMF lending regimes to pay to import food it might have grown itself.
Of course, it is rarely mentioned that protectionism is how the United States and Britain both built their industrial economies. Or that removing competitor market protections is how they’ve exploited developing economies ever since. The TPP would effectively lock in globalization. It’s a wedge that forces markets open to foreign trade—the textual equivalent of Commodore Perry sailing his gunships into Tokyo Harbor.
The bill’s backers point to language in which natural resources, human and animal life, and public welfare are all dutifully addressed in the document. The leaked chapter explicitly says that it is not intended to prevent laws relating to these core concerns from being implemented. So then, what’s the problem? The problem is that these tepid inclusions lack the teeth of sanctions or punitive fines. They are mere rhetorical asides designed to help corporate Democrats rationalize their support of the TPP. If lawmakers really cared about the public welfare, they’d move to strip the treaty of its various qualifiers that privilege trade over domestic law. By all means, implement your labor protection, but just ensure “… that such measures are not applied in an arbitrary or unjustifiable manner, or do not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade or investment.”
If lawmakers cared about national sovereignty, they wouldn’t outsource dispute settlement to unelected arbitration panels, more fittingly referred to as, “tribunals.” (Think of scrofulous democracy hunched in the dock, peppered with unanswerable legalese by a corporate lawyer, a surreal twist on the Nuremberg Trials.) Just have a glance at Section B of the investment chapter. Suits will be handled using the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) model, itself predicated on the tribunal precedent. And in the event a government lost a suit or settled one, legal costs would be picked up by taxpayers, having been fleeced by an unelected committee whose laws it has no recourse to challenge.
Perhaps investor protections like ISDS were once intended to encourage cross-border investment by affording companies a modicum of reassurance that their investments would be safeguarded by international trade law. But the ISDS has been used for far more than that. The ISDS tribunals have a lovely track record of success (first implemented in a treaty between Germany and Pakistan in 1959). Here’s Public Citizen:
Under U.S. “free trade” agreements (FTAs) alone, foreign firms have already pocketed more than $440 million in taxpayer money via investor-state cases. This includes cases against natural resource policies, environmental protections, health and safety measures and more. ISDS tribunals have ordered more than $3.6 billion in compensation to investors under all U.S. FTAs and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). More than $38 billion remains in pending ISDS claims under these pacts, nearly all of which relate to environmental, energy, financial regulation, public health, land use and transportation policies.
New Era, New Priorities
Now the ISDS is a chisel being used to destroy the regulatory function of governments. All of this is being negotiated by corporate trade representatives and their government lackeys, which appear to have no qualms about the deleterious effects the TPP will have on the general population. But then the corporations these suits represent have long since discarded any sense of patriotic duty to their native nation-states, and with it any obligation to regulate their activities to protect vulnerable citizenries. That loyalty has been replaced by a pitiless commitment to profits. In America, there may have been a time when “what was good for Ford was good for America,” as memorably put by Henry Ford. But not anymore. Now what’s good for shareholders is good for Ford. This was best articulated a couple of years ago by former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, who bluntly reminded an interviewer, “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.” Those decisions usually include offshoring, liberalizing the labor market, practicing labor arbitrage, relocating production to “business friendly climates” with lax regulatory structures, the most vulpine forms of tax evasion, and so on—all practices that ultimately harm the American worker.
Apple says it feels no obligation to solve America’s problems nor, one would assume, any gratitude to the U.S. taxpayer for funding essential research that Apple brilliantly combined in the iPod and iPhone. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich finally admits corporations don’t want Americans to make higher wages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce encourages shipping American jobs abroad. World Bank chiefs point to the economic logic of sending toxic waste to developing nations. Wherever you look, there seems to be little if any concern for citizenry.
The Financial Times refers to ISDS as, “investor protection.” But what it really is, is a profitability guarantee, a legal bulwark against democracy expressed as regulation. Forgive me for thinking that navigating a fluid legislative environment was a standard investment risk. Evidently the champions of free trade can’t be bothered to practice it. Still the White House croons that it has our best interests at heart. If that were true, it would release the full text, launch public charettes to debate its finer points, or perhaps just stage a referendum asking the American people to forfeit their hard-won sovereignty. No such thing will ever happen, of course. As it turns out, democracy is the price of corporate plunder. After all, the greatest risk of all is that the mob might vote the wrong way. And, as the language of the TPP makes explicitly obvious, there are some risks that should be avoided at all costs.
Jason Hirthler can be reached at: email@example.com.
A court in Japan has issued a landmark ruling against the resumption of activities by two atomic reactors at a nuclear power plant, overturning an approval by the country’s nuclear watchdog.
The district court in the central prefecture of Fukui issued the injunction on Tuesday to prohibit the restart of the number 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant.
Last December, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave the green light to switch the reactors back on, saying they met tougher safety standards introduced after Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Disputing that ruling, a court official said, “The safety of the reactors hasn’t been secured,” adding that the watchdog’s new standards were “lacking rationality.”
Kansai Electric Power Company, which operates the plant, called the ruling “extremely regrettable and utterly unacceptable” and said it would appeal it.
Another court is slated to rule on the restart of two other reactors in southern Japan later this month.
Public sentiment over nuclear energy in Japan has been badly scarred following the country’s worst nuclear accident at Fukushima in 2011, when multiple reactors experienced meltdown after their cooling systems were disrupted by a magnitude-9 earthquake, which also triggered a devastating tsunami. The destroyed reactors have leaked radiation into air, soil and the Pacific Ocean ever since.
The incident, which is regarded as the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, also led to the evacuation of 160,000 people from areas near the power plant.
All of Japan’s 48 reactors went offline following the Fukushima disaster.