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Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Statement from JALISA for a Japan Free From Foreign Military Bases

This is a statement by JALISA, The Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association, to call for the return of Futenma Air Station to Japan. See here for the Japanese version. JALISA is a group of progressive lawyers in Japan, also active in the Global Article 9 Campaign.

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Statement on the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station Issue
In Solidarity with the Okinawa People's Rally on November 8, 2009


1. The US military maintains large military bases on Okinawa Island, and in particular has not returned Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, a helicopter base which is right in the middle of a residential area with educational facilities. The tranquility of the residents’ daily lives is threatened, and their right to live in peace is egregiously infringed by the roar of aircraft and by a helicopter crash on a university campus.

2. An atrocity committed against a girl in September 1995 triggered a rally by Okinawans which made resolutions including the downsizing and contraction of US bases and revision of the Status of Forces Agreement. This intent was confirmed by a prefectural referendum in September 1996. In April of that year the US government itself had promised to return Futenma Air Station. However, in exchange the US government made demands including the construction of an offshore heliport near Henoko, Nago City, and the shouldering of costs by the Japanese government to relocate 8,000 Marines. The US government has therefore been refusing to quickly return Futenma Air Station.
The Henoko coastal zone is habitat for the dugong, which is a designated endangered species and is protected internationally. Hence heliport construction is a serious matter in terms of environmental protection as well. On January 24, 2008 (local time), the US Federal District Court in San Francisco rendered a decision in the “Okinawa Dugong Lawsuit” filed by Japanese and US environmental organizations against the US Department of Defense, and ruled that the Defense Department violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by not assessing and considering factors including impacts on the dugongs. Additionally, the start of construction for the new base has been delayed over 10 years because of a tenacious opposition movement by locals.

3. Japan’s government changed in the general elections this August. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which became the new ruling party, showed its understanding of the feelings of Okinawans and made a campaign pledge that it would relocate Futenma Air Station to another prefecture or outside of Japan. But US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Japan this October and vigorously pressed Japan to build the new base, using as his justification the accord made between the Japanese and US governments when the Liberal Democratic Party held the reigns of government. In response, the defense minister of the new Hatoyama government announced that Japan will sanction the construction of the new offshore base at Henoko, while the foreign minister stated that the government would consider consolidating Futenma Air Station with Kadena Air Base, also in Okinawa Prefecture. Once again, the right of Okinawans and other Japanese to live in peace is being treated with contempt.

4. Against worldwide calls for peace, the US government reaction to the voice of public conscience demanding peace without resorting to force has been to carry on with the military forces realignment program of the previous administration, and seek to maintain and reinforce US military power. Reinforcing US military bases raises military tensions in Asia and entrenches the Cold-War structure in Northeast Asia, which is the only place in the world were it remains. At the root of this problem is the Japan-US Security Treaty, which recognizes Japan’s obligation to provide the US with bases. This military alliance is a relic of the Cold War era and must be cancelled immediately.

5. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) Congress held in Hanoi this June also resolved to oppose the construction of new military bases in Okinawa, and confirmed implementation of the Global Article 9 Campaign, which strives for dispute resolution that does not rely on military force.

6. We align ourselves in solidarity with the November 8 prefectural rally for opposition to base construction, and seek the speedy return of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. Additionally, we call for international solidarity to oppose construction of new US military bases in Okinawa, the rest of Japan, and the rest of Asia.

October 30, 2009
Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association Executive Board
Osamu Niikura, President
Jun Sasamoto, Secretary-General

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