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Japan Proceeds With Controversial New US Air Base on Okinawa

Sputnik – 25.04.2017

After years of controversy, Japan has announced its intention to continue building a new air base to house elements of the US Air Force stationed on the island of Okinawa.

Tuesday’s initiation of the construction of seawalls around the new base, a replacement for the 1945-era US Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, continues the steps toward relocating the immensely unpopular foreign military facility.

Though these plans have met with resistance by officials and the public in the local prefecture, due in part to the ongoing environmental destruction required by the new base, Tokyo officials are going ahead with the build, including the dumping of landfill waste into sensitive marine habitats.

Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, citing local resistance to the move, has threatened to withdraw his support, which could hamper the completion of the project. A December 2016 ruling by the Japanese Supreme Court stated that Onaga’s offer to annul the construction of the air base was illegal, although legal grounds to back up the governor’s threat remain in place.

Local protesters have stepped up their actions at the construction site. The call to have the base closed down entirely, not simply relocated, has gained traction in recent years, particularly in light of several grisly crimes against locals, including sexual abuse, rape and murder, at the hands of US servicemembers stationed at the Futenma base.

Tokyo issued a statement in support of construction, as Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said, “I’m convinced that the start of the construction marks a steady first step toward realizing the complete return of the Futenma airfield.”

But the island base, regardless of its location, remains profoundly unpopular with residents.

As protesters held up signs saying “stop illegal construction work!” and “block the new base,” 64-year-old Yumiko Gibo from the village of Ogimi said, “They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [US] bases anymore,” according to the Japan Times.

Senior officials in Okinawa prefecture have slammed Tokyo for what they term the government’s “authoritarian” attitude toward the construction of the new facility, and have accused national officials of poor judgment after they “ignored the local will.”

A 71-year-old Naha resident, Yoshiko Uema, said, “We must not provide the place for war. We will unite and definitely stop the relocation,” according to the Japan Times.

Tokyo has remained unsympathetic to concerns on the island, insisting that the new air base in Henoko is “the only solution,” as the current Futenma site lies in a densely populated residential zone.

Some officials in Tokyo have privately acknowledged that the US Air Force presence in Okinawa is integral to maintaining the US-Japan military alliance.

A completion date for the new US air base, begun in 2015, has not been set.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Okinawans call for U.S. military to go home after further provocations

Xinhua | April 24, 2017

TOKYO – Local residents of Kadena on Okinawa’s main island said the United States military conducting parachute training drills over Okinawa’s mainland on Monday morning was completely unacceptable with the latest provocation coming amid rising anti-U.S. military sentiment on the island.

Local media reported that residents in the area still remember a tragic incident that occurred in 1965 involving an elementary schoolgirl being crushed to death by a trailer being parachuted down to a village during such a drill.

The area hasn’t seen parachute drills by the U.S. military since a drill at the base in 2011, that saw 30 personnel deploy from a MC-130 special mission aircraft, official accounts showed.

The aircraft used to deploy the airmen are designed for infiltration and exfiltration missions and can also be used for resupply of special operation forces.

The large transporter-looking planes can also be configured to be used for air refueling of primarily special operation helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft like the controversial Osprey, also hosted in Okinawa and mainland Japan, and the cause of great condemnation here for its checkered safety record.

The latest drill saw the local residents notified of the parachute exercise less than a day before it occurred, when notice was sent out on Sunday night by the Japanese Defense Ministry.

In 1996, Japan and the U.S. agreed that it would [only] be the Island near Okinawa’s main island that would be used for parachuting drills at a reserve airfield there, with the surprise drill over Kadena baffling and scaring residents in the area.

The town of Kadena plays host to the U.S. Kadena Air Base which itself is home to top multiple air squadrons and accommodates around 20,000 service-members, their families and employees living or working there.

Anti U.S. base sentiment in Japan’s southernmost prefecture continues to rise of late, with regular demonstrations comprising thousands of locals calling for the controversial U.S. Marines Corps Futenma base to be relocated off the island and not to the coastal Henoko region.

At the end of last month, the “prefectural people’s rally calling for immediate cancellation of unlawful land reclamation work and abandonment of the plan to build a new base in Henoko, organized by the All Okinawa Coalition to Prevent Construction of a New Base in Henoko, was held in front of the gate to the U.S. military’s Camp Schwab.

The demonstration saw the participation of around 3,500 people, the organizers said.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga attended the rally and stated that with all his strength he would absolutely revoke the approval to reclaim land off the shore of Henoko, which is needed build the new base.

Along with the unexpected parachute drill and constant anti-relocation rallies, residents have also been up in arms recently about stray bullets found at the Afuso Dam construction site in the Camp Hansen Marine Corps base on the island.

The base is located in the town of Kin, near the northern shore of Kin Bay, and is the second-northernmost major installation on Okinawa, with Camp Schwab to the north.

Damage from stray bullets was found in water tanks and the cars of dam workers, local media reported, with fears rife that if live rounds were fired and people were in the vicinity at the time, multiple lives could certainly have been lost.

“Stray bullet damage from Camp Hansen has occurred countless times since the end of WWII. It is obvious that this originates from the proximity of Okinawan residents and the base. The practice of live-fire exercises on the narrow island of Okinawa is a mistake,” a recent article from an Okinawa-based publication said on the matter.

“The Marines, who operate Camp Hansen and use it mainly for exercises, are inherently unnecessary in Okinawa. Considering the safety of Okinawan residents, the only option is for the Marines to return to the continental United States. If they truly need to conduct live-fire exercises, they would be better off conducting them on the expansive training grounds in the mainland United States,” the article said.

Officials from Onna, Okinawa, as well as the Okinawa Defense Bureau, both confirmed that water tanks at the construction site were found empty on April 6 and what appeared to be bullet holes were found inside the tanks.

On April 13, similar damage from bullets was found on the cars of workers who had parked at the construction site, much to the continued consternation of local residents.

The local Okinawan residents’ calls for an end to their “occupation” and for all U.S. military personnel to return to the continental U.S. are growing evermore vociferous.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Banned Pollutant Detected in Water Under US Marine Base on Okinawa

Sputnik – 19.04.2017

Japan has revealed that high levels of a banned pollutant have been found in groundwater underneath Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, on the island of Okinawa.

Two recent surveys conducted in August 2016 and January of this year have revealed abnormally high concentrations of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and per-fluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both used as aircraft lubricants, fire-retardant foam and a water-repellant, in the groundwater underneath the US Marine base in Okinawa. Both were banned in Japan in 2010.

Both chemicals are known cancer-causing agents, and exposure has been shown to result in tumors and increases in the weight of organs and the body overall, and to cause death in animals, according to Stripes.com.

Reported by the local Okinawa environmental protection department’s water environments control team, spokesman Yoshinari Mi-yahira affirmed that “High levels of contamination was detected in underground water samples taken from the Oyama and Kiyuna districts.”

During the August survey, researchers with the Okinawa water environment control team noted that of the 35 locations monitored, three downstream of the US military base were found to have measurements that exceeded US drinking water health advisory levels.

“The concentration of the substances is notably high in the vicinity of the downstream area of the air station,” Miyahira said, according to Stripes.com, indicating that the source of the toxins is the US base.

Requests by Japanese authorities to address the hazard, as well as calls for an investigation, have gone unanswered by the base or the US government.

“We have asked the military through the Ministry of Defense to provide us with information on the history of the use of the agents that contained the substances and an [on-base] survey by the prefectural government, the military and the Ministry of Defense,” Miyahira said, cited by Stripes.com.

According to Miyahara, health officials in the region have been stymied. “We received a [Japanese ministry] response that the military handles the agents appropriately and that they see no need to conduct the proposed survey.”

Tons of toxic materials on Okinawa were left to rot after the southern Japanese island came into US possession following the end of World War II. More recently, US military veterans serving in the Vietnam War who were exposed to defoliant Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa have won disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

SEE ALSO :

Okinawa: Forgotten Occupation?

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Okinawa governor hits out at US bases during Washington visit

RT | February 3, 2017

The governor of Okinawa has used a trip to Washington to reiterate his opposition to the heavy presence of US military bases on the island, urging all Japanese citizens to rethink security arrangements between Tokyo and Washington.

Outspoken Governor Takeshi Onaga arrived in the US earlier this week, holding a press conference to convey his discontent with the high number of US military bases in Okinawa, which hosts 74 percent of Japan’s total US military presence.

“I think all Japanese citizens should think about the Japan-US security arrangements. US military bases occupy 6 percent of the whole of Japan and 70 percent of those US military bases are in places where the population density is about the same as Tokyo. I don’t like it anymore…” he said in response to a question from RT’s Gayane Chichakyan at a press conference.

He went on to cite jet crashes related to the US bases, as well as sexual assaults which have been linked to US soldiers since World War II.

Onaga and citizens of Okinawa have long protested the heavy presence of US military bases and troops on the island, with mass demonstrations drawing thousands last year.

Of particular concern is the planned relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to the less-populated area of Henoko, in Nago.

Onaga is against the relocation, stating it would destroy the environment of the bay surrounding the new site.

In December, the governor was defeated in a lawsuit filed by the central government regarding the air station, with Japan’s Supreme Court finding that it was illegal for Onaga to revoke the approval granted by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, for land reclamation required to build replacement runways at the new base.

But Okinawans could soon see their hopes answered, if President Donald Trump follows through with a campaign statement in which he said that he wants foreign nations to pay for US presence and protection in those countries.

Instead of seeing Trump’s statement as a threat, Okinawa policy adviser Moritake Tomikawa said a withdrawal of US troops would suit Okinawans just fine.

“Mr. Trump says if Japan doesn’t pay more than he’s going to withdraw the troops from Japan. As far as Okinawa people are concerned, that’s fine…” he said.

It is unclear, however, where Trump stands on the specific Okinawa issue. The new defense secretary, James Mattis, is currently in Japan, though his views on the issue also remain unclear.

Japan spends an estimated $1.5 billion a year on the US bases, while Washington dished out around $5.5 billion in 2016, according to the Pentagon.

VIDEO:

‘No Ospreys in our skies!’ Okinawa governor leads mass protest against US military bases

READ MORE:

Anti-US base activists push for Okinawa protester’s release

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Greenwashing Wars and the US Military

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Protest sign urging global conservation meeting to address the environmental damage from U.S. military bases. (Photo by Ann Wright)
By Ann Wright | Consortium News | September 9, 2016

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has come in for criticism due to its lack of attention to the detrimental effects of wars and military operations on nature. Considering the degree of harm to the environment coming from these human activities, one would think that the organization might have set aside some time at its World Conservation Congress this past week in Hawaii to specifically address these concerns.

Yet, of the more than 1,300 workshops crammed into the six-day marathon environmental meeting in Honolulu, followed by four days of discussion about internal resolutions, nothing specifically addressed the destruction of the environment by military operations and wars.

The heavy funding the IUCN gets from governments is undoubtedly the rationale for not addressing this “elephant in the room” at a conference for the protection of the endangered planet – a tragic commentary on a powerful organization that should acknowledge all anti-environmental pressures.

At a presentation at the USA Pavilion during the conference, senior representatives of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy regaled the IUCN audience of conservationists with tales about caring for the environment, including protecting endangered species, on hundreds of U.S. military bases in the United States.

The presenters did not mention what is done on the over 800 U.S. military bases outside of the United States. In the one-hour military style briefing, the speakers failed to mention the incredible amounts of fossil fuels used by military aircraft, ships and land vehicles that leave mammoth carbon footprints around the world. Also not mentioned were wars that kill humans, animals and plants; military exercise bombing of entire islands and large swaths of land; and the harmful effects of the burn pits which have incinerated the debris of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Each military service representative focused on the need for training areas to prepare the U.S. military to “keep peace in the world.”  Of course, no mention was made of “keeping the peace” through wars of choice that have killed hundreds of thousands of persons, animals and plants, and the bombing of the cultural heritage in many areas around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

Miranda Ballentine, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Installations, the Environment and Energy, said the U.S. Air Force has over 5,000 aircraft, more than all the airlines in the United States — yet she never mentioned how many gallons of jet fuel are used by these aircraft, nor how many people, animals and cultural sites the aircraft have bombed.

To give one some idea of the scale of the footprint of U.S. military bases, Ballentine said Air Force has over 160 installations, including 70 major installation covering over 9 million square miles of land, larger than the country of Switzerland, plus 200 miles of coastland.

Incredibly, Ballentine said that due to commercial development around military bases, military bases have become “islands of conservation” — conservation takes place inside the protected base while there are larger conservation issues outside the fence lines of the bases.

Adding to the mammoth size of the military base footprint, Dr. Christine Altendorf, the regional director of the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command of the Pacific, said U.S. Army bases have 12.4 million acres of land, including 1.3 million acres of wetlands, 82,605 archeological sites, 58,887 National Historical Landmarks and 223 endangered species on 118 installations.

The U.S. Navy’s briefer, a Navy Commander, added to the inventory of military equipment, saying the Navy has 3,700 aircraft; 276 ships, including 10 aircraft carriers; 72 submarines. Seventy naval installations in the United States have 4 million acres of land and 500 miles of coastline. The Navy presenter said the Navy has never heard of a marine mammal that has been harmed by U.S. Naval vessels or acoustic experiments in the past ten years.

Only One Question

At the end of the three presentations, there was time for only one question — and luckily, my intense hand waving paid off and I got to ask: “How can you conserve nature when you are bombing nature in wars of choice around the world, practicing military operations in areas that have endangered species like on the islands of Oahu, Big Island of Hawaii, Pagan, Tinian, Okinawa and bombing islands into wastelands like the Hawaiian island of Koho’olawe and the Puerto Rican island of Vieques  and now you want to use the North Marianas ‘Pagan’ Island as a bombing target. And how does the construction of the new South Korean naval base in pristine marine areas of Jeju Island that will be used by the U.S. Navy and the proposed construction at Henoko of the runways into the pristine Oura Bay in Okinawa fit into conservation of nature?”

Interestingly, in the large audience of approximately 100 people, not one of them applauded the question indicating that either audience was composed primarily of Department of Defense employees, or that the conservationists are uneasy about confronting the U.S. government and particularly the U.S. military about its responsibility for its large role in the destruction of much of the planet’s environment.

The Navy representative was the only person to respond to my question. He reiterated the national security necessity for military exercises to practice to “defend peace around the world.” To his credit, he acknowledged the role the public has in commenting on the possible impact of military exercises. He said that over 32,000 comments from the public have been made on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the possibility of artillery firing and aircraft bombing of the Northern Marianas island of Tinian — that has only 2,300 inhabitants.

Despite all odds, someone in Hawaii was able to get an exhibit of photographs of the cleanup of Koho’olawe placed on the third floor of the Hawaii Convention Center. There was no sign announcing the exhibition, just a series of photos with some explanation. In five days of attending the conference, I observed that 95 percent of the conference attendees who walked past the exhibition did not stop to look at it – until I stopped them and explained what it was about. Then, they were very interested.

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A crater that was created on the Hawaiian island of Koho’olawe from massive explosions of TNT in 1965. (Photo from Hawaii Archive)

From 1941 to 1990, the island of Koho’olawe was used as a bombing range for U.S. military aircraft and naval vessels. One photograph in the exhibition showed the crater called “Sailor’s Hat” which was made by several massive explosions of TNT in 1965 to recreate and study the effects of large explosions on nearby ships and personnel to simulate in some manner the effects of a nuclear explosion. The crater affected the island’s fresh water aquifer and now no artesian water remains on the island.

After Hawaiians stopped the bombing through their protests and by staying on the island during bombings from the 1970s, the U.S. Navy returned Koho’olawe to the State of Hawaii in 2004 after a 10-year clean-up process. But only 66 percent of the surface has been cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO), and only 10 percent cleared to a depth of 4 feet. Twenty-three percent of the surface remains uncleared and 100 percent of the waters surrounding the island have not been cleared of UXO, putting divers and ships at risk. 

Okinawan Environmental Activists

Environmental activists from Okinawa had a booth at the IUCN at which they told about the attempt of the U.S. military and the national Japanese government to construct a runway complex into Oura Bay, a pristine marine area that that is the home of the protected species of marine mammal, the dugong.

The Deputy Governor of Okinawa and the Mayor of Nago city, Okinawa, both of whom have been key figures in the grassroots campaign to stop the construction of the runways and the lawsuits filed by the provincial government of Okinawa against the federal Japanese government, gave presentations about the citizens’ struggle against the construction of the runways.

However, there was no mention of the environmental effects on the marine environment from the construction of a huge new naval base on Jeju Island, South Korea, the site of the previous IUCN conference four years ago. At that conference, IUCN, no doubt at the request of the South Korean government, refused to allow citizen activists to have a booth inside the convention or make presentations like the Okinawans did this year. As a result, the Jeju Island campaigners were forced to stay outside the conference site.

Four years later in the 2016 WCC conference in Hawaii, the Government of Japan and the Province of Jeju Island sponsored a large multi-media pavilion about Jeju island which did not mention the construction of the new naval base and the destruction of the cultural heritage of the site nor the displacement of women divers who had dived at the location for generations.

On Sept. 3, local groups in Honolulu came to the Hawaii Convention Center with signs to remind the IUCN of the U.S. militarization of Asia and the Pacific. Signs and posters from local environmentalists cited the environmental impact from the huge 108,863-acre Pohakuloa bombing range on the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest U.S. military installation in the Pacific; the Aegis missile test center on the island of Kauai; and the four large U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine bases on the island of Oahu.

Other signs referenced the extensive number of U.S. military bases in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Guam and new U.S. military installations in the Philippines and Australia.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also served 16 years as a US diplomat in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. She was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001.  She resigned from the US Department of State in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

September 10, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Okinawa Residents Stage Sit-In Protest Over US Helipad Construction

Sputnik — 22.07.2016

TOKYO — The residents of Japan’s island prefecture of Okinawa have staged a sit-in protest against the construction of helipads for the US military forces in the region, local media reported Friday.

The construction, which was suspended two years ago, resumed on Friday morning, according to media reports.

The local residents are concerned that helipads could be used by the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, considered to be defective by its opponents.

In exchange for construction of six helipads, the United States agreed in 1996 to return to Japan almost half of the 17,500 acres of land in the Yanbaru jungles, used by the US forces as a training camp. The Japanese government had built two helipads but construction of the remaining four was halted in 2014 due to the protests.

Since becoming operational in 2007, the V-22 Osprey has had three crashes resulting in six deaths and several minor incidents.

July 22, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Anti-US base candidates win local polls in Okinawa

Press TV – June 6, 2016

Japanese local assembly candidates who oppose the presence of a US military base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa have won the majority of seats in prefectural elections.

The anti-US base candidates won 27 of the 48 seats in the Sunday elections, up from the 23 seats that they held previously.

The election results are likely to strengthen the drive against plans to expand the US-run Futenma air base, and to intensify the battle between the central government and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who also opposes the US base.

The Japanese government has been seeking to build off-coast runways for Futenma in the town of Henoko, which is also on Okinawa, as part of a longer-term plan to entirely transfer the base to Henoko.

The relocation has to happen based on a 1996 agreement with the US to move the base to a less heavily-populated area on Okinawa.

Locals, however, oppose both the plans for the airstrip construction and the mere presence of the base on their island. They want it totally removed from Okinawa.

Following the announcement of the election results, Onaga described them as a “great victory.” The central government, however, insisted that it will remain committed to the plans for the relocation of the base.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said the base is crucial to maintaining the alliance between his country and the US.

“There is no change to our stance that the shift to Henoko is the only solution when we think about maintaining the deterrence of the US-Japan alliance and removing the risks of the Futenma airbase,” he said at a press conference.

Public outrage against the base was intensified in May after a former US Marine and a base employee was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old local woman.

The arrest prompted officials to impose a month-long night-time curfew on US forces based on the island, as part of a “period of unity and mourning” over the killing.

More recently, a 21-year-old naval officer from the base was arrested for drunken driving, during which she caused a “serious three-car accident with injuries.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida filed a protest with US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy about the Sunday’s development, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding the American envoy apologized for the incident.

The island, which was the site of a World War II battle, is home to some 30,000 US military and civilian personnel under a decades-long security partnership.

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

Japanese media accuse govt of silencing criticism

RT | March 26, 2016

Senior Japanese journalists have denounced PM Shinzo Abe’s government for its recent clampdown on press freedom after the communications minister threatened to revoke their licenses for biased coverage last month.

Five Japanese journalists called a press conference to express their concerns over the government’s tightening grip on media.

“In Japan today, rather than the media watching the authorities, the government watches the media,” said Shuntaro Torigoe, a former news anchor on Japanese TV Asahi, adding that the Abe government “is most nervously checking what the media say, because what’s said on television affects his support ratings.”

Last month, Japan’s minister of internal affairs and communications, Sanae Takaichi, repeatedly warned broadcasters that they must produce “politically neutral” news coverage in compliance with the country’s broadcast law if they didn’t want to lose their licenses.

Despite growing concerns that such remarks can have an adverse effect on the press freedom, Takaichi’s words were reiterated by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who supported the ministry’s stance, calling her comments “common sense.”

Following the remarks, Hiroko Kuniya, a prominent Japanese journalist, was ousted after 23 years of working as a popular primetime show host for public broadcaster NHK [Japan Broadcasting Corp]. After her last appearance on the show she commented on the departure by saying that “expressing things has gradually become difficult.”

Among other victims of the government`s crusade on media were veteran anchors Ichiro Furutachi, 61 (TV Asahi Corp), who stepped down last December and Shigetada Kishii, 71 (Tokyo Broadcasting System). Kishii announced he would leave the channel on March 31. He believes the broadcasters are being pressured by the government to sack outspoken anchors to stem the flow of criticism.

Last year, Kishii publicly opposed the government’s security policy legislation, which stipulates that Japan’s armed forces will be able to engage in the military operations overseas in defense of an ally, including the US, under attack. Despite being labeled “war legislation” by the public, it was approved by Abe’s government, triggering mass protests.

Article 174 of Japan’s broadcast law allows the minister of internal affairs to suspend operations of any station that fails to comply with the neutrality clause. However, media professionals didn’t see the minister’s words as a simple reminder, but rather a dangerous attempt of suppressing the media.

“It sounds as if the government can suspend the activities of broadcasters or remove newscasters just because they criticized the government,” said Soichiro Okuno, an MP for the Democratic Party of Japan.

“It was a remark that could even topple the government in a Western democracy,” wrote Akira Ikegami in a newspaper column last month.

Japan’s remilitarization has become the center topic of the national agenda under Abe’s government with many opposing the authorities’ efforts to broaden the mandate of Japan’s self-defense force and relocate a US military base on Okinawa. Nearly 30,000 people joined the mass rallies against the government’s plan to relocate the base, while hundreds of students marched through the streets of Tokyo protesting “war legislation” in February.

READ MORE: Up to 30,000 flock to Japan parliament to protest US base relocation in Okinawa

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Decides to Stop Works on US Airbase Relocation in Okinawa

Sputnik | March 4, 2016

TOKYO  — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to halt landfill work on the Henoko coastal area of Nago city in Okinawa for the relocation of a US airbase under a court-mediated settlement plan, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Friday.

“The government has decided to accept the court-mediated settlement plan,” Nakatani said as quoted by Kyodo news agency.

Litigation between the authorities of the Okinawa prefecture and the central Japanese government is due to be completed under the settlement plan. The parties are expected to hold consultations to work out an acceptable final solution.The relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was agreed on in 2006. Current plans envision the base to be closed by February 2019 and relocated within the Okinawa prefecture.

The relocation decision has met resistance from Okinawa’s local authorities, with many Okinawa residents wishing to see the base gone rather than relocated. Okinawa Prefecture Governor Takeshi Onaga convinced the central government to temporarily halt construction in August 2015.

Elected in 2014, Onaga ran on promises to oppose the airbase’s construction. In mid-November, the Okinawa government was sued by the central government over the dispute.

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Documents Point to US Base for Polluting Okinawa Water Supply

Sputnik – 11.02.2016

Documents obtained by Muckrock under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that chemical leaks at the US Kadena Air Base in Okinawa may be the culprit behind the contamination of local drinking water.

Not content with poisoning just their own citizens with contaminated water, it seems that an array of accidents and acts of “vandalism” at the US base over the past 15 years have deployed at least 21,000 liters of fire extinguishing agents — some of which are toxic.

The Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau announced last month that from February 2014 through November 2015, high levels of toxic Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) — an ingredient found in many fire extinguishing agents — was found in waterways that supply drinking water to seven municipalities. They reported finding levels of 80 nanograms per liter (ng/L) at its Chatan Purification Plant and 1,320 ng/L in the Dakujaku River.

PFOS have a half-life of up to nine years and is easily absorbed orally and accumulates in the blood, kidneys, and liver.

Last May, a drunk US Marine reportedly activated a fire fighting system, filling a hangar with 1,500 liters of JET-X 2.75 percent — a foam classified by the U.S. government as hazardous, the Japan Times reports. Despite the fact that the agent ran into waterways, officials mistakenly labeled the chemical as nontoxic and the military did not report the incident to residents or the Japanese government.

“Okinawa Prefecture and municipalities near the base should conduct an independent investigation into the leaks. Moreover the Japanese government should require the U.S. military to notify it of any potentially harmful leakage — regardless of the amount. To decide the significance of a leak should not be left up to the U.S. military,” Manabu Sato, a political science professor at Okinawa International University, told the Japan Times.

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Guam, Marianas brace for massive US military redeployment

RT | November 23, 2015

Thousands of American military personnel are expected to arrive in the Mariana Islands over the next several years, as part of the US strategic “pivot” to East Asia. Many will come from Okinawa, Japan, where many local residents want US bases closed.

Military facilities in Guam, the archipelago’s largest island and a US possession since 1898, have been reinforced and updated in anticipation of almost 5,000 Marines, as well as new aircraft, submarines and patrol boats. The infrastructure upgrades will “elevate the tiny Pacific island into a maritime strategic hub, a key element laid out by the Pentagon in the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy,” according to the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

“We have two 11,000-foot concrete runways, both rebuilt within the last 10 years,” Steven Wolborsky, director of plans, program and readiness at the Andersen Air Force Base told Stars and Stripes, adding that roughly 19 million pounds of explosives are now stored across the facility’s 4,400 acres.

“We have enough parking for more than 155 aircraft, with a robust in-ground refueling infrastructure,” Wolborsky added. “We have the largest capacity of jet fuel in the Air Force at 66 million gallons ‒ coupled with an equal amount down south with the Navy.”

The construction has been driven primarily by the plan to move thousands of Marines to Guam from Okinawa, Captain Alfred Anderson, the base commander, said. The redeployment is expected by 2023 or so.

More than a third of the estimated $8.7 billion cost of building the new facilities for the Marines is being funded by Japan, according to McClatchy reporter Adam Ashton. The Japanese residents of Okinawa have complained for years about the impact of US military presence, ranging from drugs, alcoholism, and sexual abuse to environmental damage.

Originally the Pentagon envisioned a shift of 8,600 Marines and some 9,000 dependents from Okinawa, raising alarm among some residents of Guam that their island, with an area of only 212 square miles (549 km sq.) and a population of 160,000, would be overwhelmed.

Pressure from the activists representing the native Chamorro people, organized in a group called We Are Guahan, compelled the Pentagon to trim that number down to 4,800. Two thirds of that number would be there on rotation, without their families, reducing the pressure on the island even further.

The activists are not resting on their laurels, however, and are pressing on against the Pentagon’s plans to install firing ranges on the islands of Tinian and Pagan. The new facilities are supposed to integrate with the US Navy’s underwater training range in the nearby Mariana Trench.

While Guam is an unincorporated US territory, Pagan and Tinian belong to the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth, a US possession with the same status as Puerto Rico.

The island of Pagan is uninhabited at the moment, although the island’s inhabitants still make claims to the land after they were forced to evacuate due to volcanic eruptions in 1981. Tinian has an area of 39 square miles (101 km sq.) and just over 3,000 residents. US Marines seized the island from a Japanese garrison after a weeklong battle in July 1944. A year later, the massive airbase built on the island was used to launch the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Joining the residents in opposition to the Marine firing range plan is Alter City Group, a Chinese company based in Macau that wanted to invest $500 million to build a casino complex on Tinian. The firing range would “significantly alter the island as we know it in dramatically irreparable ways,” and impose burdens on the island both “significant and unsustainable,” the ACG said in a statement, as quoted by McClatchy.

Some political and business leaders in Guam, however, fear the military may drop its plans altogether if the Marines are barred from using Tinian and Pagan for live-fire exercises. They have established the Guam-US Security Alliance to push for the military buildup.

“This is so big that people are going to have to learn to get along,” John Thomas Brown, director of the Alliance, told McClatchy. “It can be done. It should be done. Time is wasting.”

Most of Guam’s income comes from Japanese tourism, followed by US military spending.

November 23, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Henoko Takes on U.S. Imperialism

By Maya Evans | Dissident Voice | November 7, 2015

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.

HenokoThe 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.

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment