Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Statement on the Futenma Base Transfer Plan

A Statement on the Futenma Base Transfer Plan

The Ryukyu Shimpo
January 19, 2010

To the Governments of Japan and the United States and to the People of Japan:

A Statement on the Futenma Base Transfer Plan

Tension is rising between the Hatoyama government and the United States government over the planned transfer of Futenma Marine Airfield (Ginowan City). Even in Okinawa, where so many US bases are concentrated, this airfield is located in a densely populated residential area and is said to be the most dangerous of all bases. It should be speedily closed and dismantled. The Government of the United Stetes calls for the problem to be solved by transferring the base to Henoko (on the Camp Schwab coastline) in accordance with the agreement reached with the former LDP government. The Hatoyama Government, having called during the election for Futenma to be transferred either outside Okinawa or outside Japan, conscious of the expressions of opposition welling up among the Okinawan people and concerned over the opposition on the part of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, in December 2009 avoided the call for compliance within the year and instead announced it would decide by May 2010 on what steps to take.

This problem is not one to be considered just by the Hatoyama Government and the people of Okinawa. Everyone living in Japan should consider it seriously, pooling knowledge and seeking ways for a solution. We who live in mainland Japan cannot ignore the current moves surrounding the Futenma transfer. Respecting the wishes of the Okinawan people, noting positively the decision of Prime Minister Hatoyama not to simply yield over the Japan-US “agreement,” we call upon the Governments of Japan and the United States, and on the people of Japan, as follows:

(1) We oppose not only the construction of a new base at Henoko but the transfer of the Futenma base functions anywhere within Okinawa. Already Okinawa is made to bear too heavy a base burden and that burden must not be made even heavier. Furthermore, the will of the Okinawan people has been shown by voting in local plebiscite, by many public opinion surveys, by the Prefectural Assembly elections, and by the recent Lower House elections to be saying a clear “No.” Japan is a democracy and the will of the Okinawan people as shown in elections must be respected. Furthermore, Oura Bay, designated site for base construction under the Japan-US “Agreement,” is a naturally rich marine area, home to the dugong and other creatures. Today, as humanity as a whole is called upon to respond to global warming, we are yet to hear any credible explanation as to why this rich nature should be destroyed for construction of a base.

(2) The United States urges the new government to respect and carry out the “Agreement” made with the old government. However, the Henoko transfer plan proved impossible to carry forward for 13 years even under LDP national and prefectural governments. Actually, the Henoko problem goes back to the 1995 incident of the rape of the schoolgirl by US marines, when complete return [of Futenma] within five to seven years was promised as part of easing the burden on Okinawa. Somehow or other, this was turned into a project for the construction of a massive new base in northern Okinawa. This was unacceptable, not just for the people of Okinawa. The Aso government, anticipating a change of government, negotiated with the US the extremely unequal Guam Transfer Agreement and, using the two-thirds majority it still enjoyed in the House of Representatives, rammed it through the Diet and ratified it. The new government should take its time to consider anew the course of events leading up to the “Guam Transfer Agreement,” and while that process is underway the US should not put pressure on it.

(3) The bases provided for the US forces under the Japan-US Security Treaty are too heavily concentrated in Okinawa. Even taking for granted the existing Japan-US security system, the possibility of having these bases either accepted somewhere in mainland Japan or transferred overseas should be seriously considered.

(4) However, the Japan-US Security Treaty system was drawn up on the basis of the Cold War confrontation more than half a century ago between the United States and the Soviet Union (and China). Now that twenty years have passed since the end of the Cold War, the international environment of East Asia has greatly changed, and it is unimaginable that a large-scale military clash of the kind envisioned during the Cold War could occur in East Asia in the near future. It is time to cast off Cold War thinking, build trust with neighbor states, and construct an East Asia without enemies. From such a perspective, the Okinawan bases, above all Futenma, are unnecessary. We should strive to achieve the abolition not just of Futenma but eventually of all the bases. We believe it is necessary to proceed to reconsider the Japan-US Security Treaty system, starting with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the New Defense Guidelines (the Defense Cooperation Guidelines) and going on to consider the implementation of a “security without foreign troops permanently stationed” such as Prime Minister Hatoyama once proposed, and eventually the Security Treaty itself.

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