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Okinawa files new lawsuit to block relocation of US Marines base – local media

RT | July 24, 2017

The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa filed a new lawsuit against the government demanding a halt to construction work for the relocation of the US Futenma base, local media report. The relocation has been the target of protests among locals.

The prefectural authorities say that Tokyo is acting illegally without permission from the Okinawa governor, as seen in a copy of the lawsuit sent on Monday and obtained by the Okinawa Times.

The relocation of the base involves damaging seabed rock, which would harm the fishing grounds, the lawsuit states.
Earlier in July, an Okinawa Prefectural Assembly committee asked for legal action against damage to the fishing grounds caused by the relocation.

“The granting of fishing rights is considered a local government matter and it’s the prefecture that determines how to interpret those local government matters,” Kiichiro Jahana, the head of the executive office of the governor, told the assembly.

The US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station is going to be moved from the densely populated city of Ginowan to the less populated city of Nago in the Henoko coastal area. The city is already home to Camp Schwab, another US Marines camp which has caused numerous protests among the local population.

The base relocation has been repeatedly halted due to resistance from the Okinawa authorities and local residents.

Japanese authorities began the relocation of the base back in February this year, despite stiff opposition from the population. Local residents regularly stage protests with thousands of people, often resulting in confrontation with police.

According to the relocation plan, the flight functions of the Futenma airfield will be transferred to Camp Schwab. Tokyo also plans to reclaim around 157 hectares of land in Henoko waters and build a V-shaped runway.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga is among those who stand firmly opposed to the US military presence on the archipelago, calling for the removal of the Futenma base.

Onaga says that the relocation would destroy the environment of the bay surrounding the new base site.

Around 100,000 US military personnel are currently stationed in Japan, according to the official website of US Forces, Japan. Home to about one percent of Japan’s population, Okinawa hosts almost half of the troops (47,000), according to media reports.

Read more:

Japan ignores protests, begins offshore construction work on moving US base in Okinawa

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Whither Japan’s democracy?

By Daniel Hurst | Asia Times | June 27, 2017

To some observers, protester Hiroji Yamashiro, 65, has become a symbol of modern Japan’s uneasy attitude towards dissent.

The retired civil servant, a long-standing campaigner against the US military presence in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, was detained for five months from October last year before he was released on bail in March.

Yamashiro admitted cutting a barbed wire fence, but pleaded not guilty to subsequent charges of injuring a defense official and obstructing relocation work by placing blocks in front of a gate.

According to his supporters, Yamashiro is a tireless peace advocate whose continued detention was disproportionate to his alleged behavior.

To the authorities who arrested him, his actions went beyond those of peaceful protest and transgressed criminal laws.

Hiroji Yamashiro, 65, a campaigner against the US military presence in Okinawa prefecture, addresses the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Photo: Daniel Hurst

Either way, his yet-to-be-finalized case has attracted so much international attention that he was invited to travel to Geneva earlier this month to address the UN Human Rights Council.

Now Yamashiro is seeking to shine a spotlight on Japan’s new anti-conspiracy law, which according to human rights groups and lawyers risks increased government surveillance and arbitrary arrest.

“The fact that a country like Japan has passed such a terrible law indicates the extent to which democracy is in retreat in this country,” the head of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center said during a press conference in Tokyo late last week.

“It’s something that I feel very sad about and very angry about and I would like the international community to focus upon it.”

Terror justification

Japan’s postwar constitution guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, assembly, association, speech, press “and all other forms of expression” – yet critics say they see a gradual erosion of those rights.

Such concerns grew when Japan’s ruling bloc pushed the anti-conspiracy bill through the upper house in mid-June.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government argued the legislation would help prevent terrorism ahead of large-scale events like the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The law targets two or more persons who, “as part of activities of terrorist groups or other organized criminal groups,” plan to carry out certain criminal acts.

The 277 crimes covered by the law also include planning to steal forestry products or to breach copyright. Jail terms of up to five years are possible depending on the crime.

When a UN special rapporteur warned Japan’s government in an open letter that the vague legislation could usher in “undue restrictions” on freedom of expression and privacy, the authorities reacted angrily.

The criticism was called “one-sided” and “obviously inappropriate,” with government officials saying they had not been given a chance to provide information before the letter was published.

Abe, whose popularity has slipped in recent opinion polls, moved to assure the country that “ordinary people” would not face investigation.

“Although we feel [the law] is essential for strengthening international coordination in dealing with terrorism, we’re aware that some members of the public remain uneasy and concerned about it,” the prime minister said at a press conference last week.

International backlash

The UN special rapporteur for privacy, Professor Joseph Cannataci, highlighted the vague definition of planning and preparatory actions and the “over-broad range of crimes” covered.

He told Asia Times he had felt compelled to write the open letter because of the extremely short legislative deadline that the government had set itself.

Cannataci, an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, described the official response as “disappointing but not surprising.” He said he was “the third UN special rapporteur in a row whom the Japanese government has decided to be confrontational with.”

“I stand by every single word, full-stop and comma in my letter of the 18th May,” Cannataci said in an email this week.

“If anything, the way the Japanese government has behaved in response to my letter has convinced me even further of the validity of its content and the appropriateness of its timing and form.”

He added: “There has been a deafening silence on the part of the Abe government on the privacy safeguards which I have alleged are missing in Japanese law and the Japanese government has failed to explain, in public or in private, how the new law provides new remedies for privacy protection in a situation where it creates the legal basis where more surveillance could be carried out.”

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said last month: “It is not at all the case that the legislation would be implemented arbitrarily so as to inappropriately restrict the right to privacy and freedom of speech.”

‘Chilling effect’

Cannataci’s concerns are shared by a number of non-government organizations.

Hiroka Shoji, an East Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said the definition of an organized crime group was not limited to terrorist cells.

“Civil society organizations working on areas around national security can be subjected to this category,” Shoji said in an email.

Kazuko Ito, secretary general of the advocacy group Human Rights Now, said in an email: “Even if the judiciary narrowly determine and exonerate the targeted people in the end of the day, they are already targeted for arbitrary surveillance, wiretapping, arrest or detention – these are enough to smash civil society activities and will cause a significant chilling effect.”

Justice minister, Katsutoshi Kaneda, denies that the legislation is vague, arguing it is “expressly limited to organized criminal groups, the applicable crimes are listed and clearly defined and it applies only once actual preparatory actions have taken place.”

Anti-base protester Yamashiro, who was charged under pre-existing laws, views the new legislation as “a great threat”.

“I was arrested for obstruction of a public official, but under the new legislation even if you don’t do what it is that is against the law – if you’re just planning it or discussing it with other people – that is enough basis for an arrest to be made,” he said.

Press freedom concerns

The concerns come against a backdrop of claims that press freedom is deteriorating in Japan. The country declined in the global press freedom rankings issued by Reporters Without Borders, from 11th in 2010 to 72nd in the most recent review.

However, the reliability of that ranking is questioned by some observers.

The academic and consultant Michael Thomas Cucek, for example, has previously pointed to the “astonishing” volatility in Japan’s ranking and raised the possibility of the surveyed experts exaggerating the extent of repression in their own country.

Methodology questions aside, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, has identified what he called “significant worrying signals” in Japan.

“The direct and indirect pressure of government officials over media, the limited space for debating some historical events and the increased restrictions on information access based on national security grounds require attention lest they undermine Japan’s democratic foundations,” Kaye wrote in a report published in May.

Kaye called for safeguards to be added to the state secrets law enacted in late 2013, which allows bureaucrats to be jailed for up to 10 years for revealing specially designated information.

Under Article 25 of the state secrets law, journalists could potentially face a prison term of up to five years under a provision targeting “a person who conspires with, induces or incites another person” to release such secrets.

However, the law offers protection to news reporting “as long as it has the sole aim of furthering the public interest and is not found to have been done in violation of laws or regulations or through the use of extremely unjustifiable means.”

The Japanese government has said it “does not intend to apply Article 25’s harsh penalties to journalists.” And in a broader rebuke to Kaye, it said most of his arguments were based on hearsay or assumptions.

“It is hard for the government of Japan to avoid expressing sincere regret concerning those biased recommendations,” the government said in a formal response.

It cited the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and added that “there is no such fact that government of Japan officials and members of the Japanese ruling party have put pressure on journalists illegally and wrongfully.”

Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan, said officials were unlikely to act on previous comments by some lawmakers about the possibility of suspending broadcasting licenses for bias.

“But just making noises about doing so sends a chilling message, a shot across the bow of an already cowering media that may constrain coverage,” Kingston wrote in the book Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan, published earlier this year.

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan wants US parachute drills grounded amid Okinawa anger

RT | May 30, 2017

Japan is opposed to a two-day parachuting drill that the US plans to conduct near the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Local residents have protested such drills in the past, and this would be the third in two months.

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said the US military failed to notify the Japanese authorities seven days ahead of the exercise, as they are supposed to. In fact, Japan learned of the Americans’ plans from a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) filed with the aviation authorities, which is meant to keep civilian aircraft out of airspace where US military planes are flying during the exercise, NHK reported.

“We asked [the Americans] not to conduct the training and to delete the NOTAM. So far we have not received a response from the US site,” Inada told reporters on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting.

The parachuting exercises, which are planned for Wednesday and Thursday, would be conducted off the coast of the city of Uruma. Similar drills were conducted off the Kadena Airbase on the night of May 10 and on April 24.

The previous two drills sparked protest among Okinawans, who have not seen such exercises since 2011. After the second training, Deputy Okinawa Governor Moritake Tomikawa filed a protest with Japan’s Defense Ministry, expressing outrage and saying that such exercises cannot become routine.

Defense Minister Inada called the US move “regrettable,” saying the US should observe a 1996 bilateral agreement under which parachuting exercises should be conducted on the remote island of Iejima, off Okinawa’s main island, with the Kadena base used only as an exception.

“The United States did not offer sufficient explanation on why the exercise conducted (Wednesday) amounted to an exceptional case,” Inada said at a regular news conference. “It is extremely deplorable that it took place at Kadena Air Base without Japan and the United States able to share the same perception in advance,” she stressed.

The Kadena Airbase is one of several US military installations on Okinawa, a southern Japanese island that hosts some 70 percent of the US troops in Japan and is home to some 20,000 US service members, contractors, and their families.

During a parachuting drill in 1965, a trailer airdropped into a local village inadvertently landed on a schoolgirl, killing her.

The protest over the latest planned drill comes a day after Okinawa police arrested a US airman assigned to the Kadena base following a drunk hit-and-run. Staff Sergeant Miguel Angel Garza allegedly hit a car on Monday and fled the scene. The female driver of the second vehicle sustained minor injuries, Japanese authorities said.

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

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