peace action network
Foreign Military Bases in Okinawa Information Sheet
U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa
• Although Okinawa makes up only 0.6% of Japan, it “hosts” 75% of all U.S. military bases in Japan under agreements that were made between government administrations in Tokyo and Washington DC, without consultation with the Okinawan people.
• Once an independent kingdom and prosperous trading nation, Japan annexed Okinawa in the 1800s, setting the precedent for it to be used for the convenience of the rest of mainland Japan.
• U.S. military bases occupy approximately 20% of Okinawa Island.
• During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 (which killed 120,000 innocent Okinawan civilians), the U.S. built many bases for the planned invasion of mainland Japan. After the war, US military forces appropriated Okinawan land using bayonets and bulldozers. The U.S. government ruled Okinawa until 1972, then reverted administration back to the Japanese government. The bases, however, remained.
• The U.S. has used bases in Okinawa to launch attacks during the Vietnam War, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
Futenma Air Base
• 11 kilometers in circumference and significantly larger than Central Park in New York, this base occupies a vast swath of the center of Ginowan City. Its fleet of military helicopters have long been a vexing source of noise pollution to the people of Ginowan, whose homes, schools, libraries and hospitals have been forced to squeeze around the base. (Similar problems exist with the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa). Military aircraft accidents have also endangered the lives of the people of Ginowan.
• Massive, sustained protests in Okinawa to the Futenma Air Base led to the U.S. and Japanese governments agreeing that the burden of this base on local residents should be relieved. The U.S. says it will accomplish by relocating some of the functions of the base elsewhere and sending 8,000 Marines to Guam—nearly one third of which is already occupied by U.S. military facilities. (This is not a satisfactory solution to Okinawans who don't want another island in the world to face yet more military occupation...)
• The U.S. and Japanese governments have made new military construction in Henoko, a district in the northeastern part of Okinawa Island, a pre-condition for returning Futenma to the city of Ginowan. Special interest groups (such as contractors and construction companies) in Japan have been implicated in the decision to build in Henoko...
• Since the 1990s, the Japanese and U.S. governments have planned to start construction in Henoko by inundating Oura, a bay rich in biodiversity located in the Henoko District, with concrete in order to build a helicopter pad and aircraft runways. Local residents—many of them elderly citizens who value the role the sea has played in sustaining them and their ancestors--have thus far successfully fought this construction from commencing, and have recently marked more than 2,000 consecutive days of sit-ins to protest the plan (likely setting a world record in the process).
• Oura Bay is home to the rare dugong (cousin of the Florida manatee) as well as a fragile marine ecosystem. Construction in Oura would likely spell the extinction of the dugong from Japan and the destruction of the Oura Bay ecosystem.
• Although Futenma is primarily used as a training ground for Marines, the new construction in Henoko would serve as a forward base that the U.S. can use to attack other countries.
• Since 1956, the U.S. military has already appropriated 90% of Henoko Village for Camp Schwab. More military construction would further deny local residents access to their traditional lands and waters.
Money, Military Bases and the Economy in Okinawa
• Okinawa is the poorest prefecture in Japan.
• Every year, the Japanese government pays the U.S. government approximately 2 billion US dollars as a “sympathy budget” for “hosting” the bases. Taxpayers in Japan pay 75% of the expenses of the US military bases in Japan, making Japan by far the biggest contributor of all the US “host nations” in the world.
• In 2004, the total base-related income was 5.3% of the total GDP of Okinawa. However, 70% of that income is actually paid by the Japanese government's “sympathy budget”, which lowers the actual GDP value to less than 2%.
• The high density of military bases on the island hampers the expansion of transportation networks, the systematic development of cities, and the acquisition of lands for industrial use. In addition to the land the U.S. military occupies in Okinawa, it also controls 29 sea zones and 15 areas of airspace around Okinawa, thereby preventing the use of this land, air and water for civilian commercial purposes.
• How much income could be generated if this land, air and water were available for use and development by the local government and civilians is not clear, but in cases where bases have reverted back to Okinawa prefecture for civilian use (like the areas now known as “the American Village” in Chatan and “Shin-toshin” in Naha), the post-base development rendered much more income than when the land was being used as a base. (This also happened when the Subic Naval Base in the Philippines reverted back to civilian use).
• Red sweet potato production and traditional weaving in Okinawa's Yomitan village stand out as a successful case of sustainable, community-based economic development, and serve as a positive model for other communities in creating local alternatives to a military-dependent economy.
• The Japanese government is expected to pay for the relocation facility in Henoko (6 billion dollars) and more than 50% of the 11 billion dollars the U.S. will use to transfer Marines and their family members from Okinawa to Guam.
Foreign Military Bases Around the World
Islands around the world have historically been abused by foreign military powers, which see them as globally strategic points on which to base military operations. Thus, big military powers have turned small villages, beaches, farmland, and sacred sites on islands around the world into shooting ranges, housing for military personnel, nuclear dumps, military aircraft runways, entertainment facilities for soldiers, etc. Doing so has typically destroyed economies self-sustained by farming, fishing and manufacturing into economies dependent on service industries, base-related rent, aid and compensations payments.
Island militarization figures include:
• 24% of Oahu is owned by the U.S. military.
• 30% of Guam is in U.S. military hands (this will jump to 40% when Marines are relocated from Okinawa to Guam)
• All of the 2,000 inhabitants of the peaceful, tropical island Diego Garcia were secretly, illegally and forcibly removed from the island in the 1960s so that it could be turned into one of the largest U.S. military bases in the world. These inhabitants were afterward condemned to lives of poverty, depression, alcoholism, prostitution, illness, and premature deaths.
• Of the 9,000 residents of the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, approximately one third are suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses after their island was long used by the U.S. military to test bombs and missiles.
• For approximately 30 years, the French military used Tahiti as a base from which to conduct 45 atmospheric and 134 underground nuclear tests in the Pacific.
• The US has the largest collection of bases in world history—approximately 1,000 (which does not even include the bases it maintains within the 50 states!). This number jumps increases significantly if “Foreign Operating Locations” and “Cooperative Security Locations” are included. FOLs and CSLs basically translate as national military facilities that some countries lease to the U.S. for use.
• Despite great opposition from villagers, the South Korean government is CURRENTLY preparing to pour concrete over the coral reefs of Jeju Island, South Korea in order to construct a new naval base that can accommodate missile-equipped South Korean and U.S. Aegis destroyers. The United Nations has stated that the coral reefs of Jeju are key environmental treasures that should be saved, but this has not stopped construction plans from proceeding.
Why do foreign military bases WEAKEN
rather than STRENGTHEN Global Security?
• Bases abroad often engender grievances, and create antagonistic rather than cooperative relationships between countries. In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan for example, grievances caused by U.S. military bases have helped create breeding grounds for radicalism, anti-Americanism, and attacks on the U.S., thereby reducing rather than improving its national security.
• Countries such as North Korea, which feel surrounded by military bases from which sudden attacks can be launched against them, may resort to trying to obtain nuclear weapons to counteract this threat. Such action generates alarm and compels escalating tension and arms buildup in regions.
• Threats to global security are not limited to extremist leaders or groups brandishing missiles. Threats to global security also include climate change and its myriad of after-effects earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, droughts, etc. By channeling three trillion dollars every year into military budgets, the global community risks not having adequate funding or preparation for these other threats to security. Poor handling of Hurricane Katrina stands as a good example.
• Bases are being used to launch pre-emptive attacks on countries that have not declared war on others, thereby undermining international law and setting ill-advised precedent for other countries to do the same.
What can provide better security?
• Peace Constitutions. After abolishing its army, adopting a peace constitution in 1949, and channeling former military budgets into health and education, Costa Rica became one of the most stable countries in Latin America with one of the highest standards of living in the region. It also helped negotiate ends to conflicts between neighboring countries.
• Peace Constitutions. Article 9 of the Japan’s peace constitution, which renounces war as a means of settling disputes as well as the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential, has ensured that for the past 64 years, no Japanese citizen has died in battle, nor has Japan killed citizens from any other nation. Contrast this to the pre-Article 9 period, when Japan aggression in Asia and the Pacific during WWII inflicted injury or death on millions of people, and Japan itself lost hundreds of thousands of innocent lives during the Tokyo Air Raids and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The presence of military bases in Japan, however, limits Article’s 9 use as an effective mechanism for maintaining and expanding peace in Asia and elsewhere in the world.
• Peace Constitutions. After leasing its domestic military base in the city of Manta to the U.S. for use, Ecuador found itself saddled with problems of local fishermen being denied access to their traditional port waters, increases in prostitution, and failure to realize economic growth that had been promised. In 2008, the country adopted a new constitution that declares Ecuador to be a territory of peace, promotes the peaceful resolution of conflicts, advocates for universal disarmament, and prohibits foreign military bases from occupying its territory.
• Peace Constitutions. The UN Charter is essentially a peace constitution for the planet, and actually implementing the Articles it contains would do much to achieve global security. Article 26 of the Charter, for example, promotes the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources, and makes the Security Council responsible for formulating plans that can be submitted to the members of the UN for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments. Currently, however, the Security Council does not formulate and submit such plans.
• Countries forming alliances and communities. By forming communities, agreeing to end old hostilities, and committing to not behaving aggressively toward one another, countries can stabilize their regions (as has been demonstrated in Europe). The new prime minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, is aiming to do this by working with China and South Korea to form an East-Asia Community.
• Creating Nuclear Weapon Free Zones. After Antarctica, Latin America and the Caribbean helped lead the world in this field by agreeing in 1967 to make the region free of nuclear weapons.
• Shifting old paradigms, such as nations being in conflict and competition with one another, to nations being in co-existence and cooperation. Shifting from “preparing for peace by preparing for war” to “preparing for peace by preparing for peace,” through adopting mechanisms such as peace constitutions, engaging in dialogue and diplomacy, creating Departments of Peace, and re-channeling the world’s three trillion dollars in annual military spending into structures and initiatives that promote peace and address underlying causes of conflict. Recognizing that possessing war potential does not guarantee security—rather it engenders fear of attack and goads others to try to outdo that potential, thereby creating arms races and arms buildups that escalate tensions and hamper constructive, peaceful relations. Universal disarmament offers a way out out of this madness.
For more information about military bases around the world, look to:
• Japan Focus http://www.japanfocus.org/ (Search by Keyword “Okinawa”)
• Peace Philosophy Centre: http://peacephilosophy.com/
• Ten Thousand Things from Kyoto: http://www.tenthousandthingsfromkyoto.blogspot.com/
• ANPO: http://anpomovie.com/en/
• 2010 Okinawa http://www.youtube.com/2010okinawa
• To sign the petition people in Guam are circulating, visit: