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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Letter to President Obama: Cancel the Henoko Base Project! オバマ大統領への手紙ー辺野古基地計画を中止してください!

On Februry 2, a group of seventeen writers from US, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan sent a letter to President Obama to demand candellation of the new US base construction in Henoko, Okinawa.  2月2日に発送された、ブラウン大学名誉教授スティーブ・ラブソン氏ら17人連名によるオバマ大統領への手紙です。
    
 
Writers for Democracy and Human Rights in Okinawa
1400 Kenmore Avenue, No. B-3
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
 

                                                                                                             February 2, 2015

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear President Obama: 

We are an international coalition of scholars, journalists, and filmmakers deeply concerned about violations of democracy and human rights in Okinawa. Voters there have expressed overwhelming opposition over many years, in elections, referenda, public opinion polls and demonstrations, to construction of a U.S. Marine air base at Henoko. As a small island prefecture, Okinawa comprises only 0.6% of the nation’s land area and less than 1% of its population yet bears 70% of the total U.S. military presence in Japan. We view this disproportionate burden as a violation of human rights, especially since it affects an ethnic minority that has long suffered discrimination imposed by both the Japanese and U.S. governments.

Imperial Japan forcibly abolished the five-hundred-year-old Ryukyu
Kingdom and annexed it as Okinawa Prefecture in 1879.
For the seven decades that followed, residents paid higher taxes and received fewer social services than those in other prefectures, and Okinawa has remained the nation’s poorest to this day. Okinawans also encounter personal job and housing discrimination in mainland Japan.  Signs in front of employment offices there announced “Okinawans prohibited” before 1945, and could be found in front of apartment buildings as late as the 1970s. Prejudice against people racially and culturally distinct from majority Japanese is perpetuated by a prevalent ideology, repeatedly stated by government officials, that Japan is a “uniquely homogeneous nation.”

Toward the end of the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-52), the United States agreed to restore Japanese sovereignty to the mainland only on condition that U.S. military occupation of Okinawa continue. For the two decades that followed, Okinawans lived under U.S. military rule which routinely denied them basic legal, property, and political rights. The number of crimes and deadly accidents involving U.S. forces, continuing to this day, soared during the Vietnam War when the American military used Okinawa as a base for training, supply, and B-52 bombings.

The air base at Henoko would have a devastating impact on local residents’ safety, their quality of life, and the environment. Numerous crashes recently of U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa and elsewhere attest to the risks of personal injuries and property damage. The greatly increased noise, especially from helicopters, would disturb the residents. Fuel and smoke pollution would contaminate the air and water. Plans to dump thousands of tons of cement in pristine Oura Bay to build runways would foul the bay, destroying Japan’s sole unblemished coral fields as well as algae vital to the bay’s waters which are the feeding grounds for fish and other animal life, including the dugong, an internationally protected species of sea mammal. Aside from devastating Henoko’s fishing industry, a significant sector of the village’s economy, this would damage the delicate marine ecology, already threatened in many places, on which all life depends. 

The U.S. government has long pressured the Japanese government to move ahead with construction at Henoko, rejecting proposals to locate the base outside Okinawa. This despite the fact that leading members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Chairman John McCain and former Chairman Carl Levin, have expressed their strong opposition to building an air base at Henoko. Other committee members called the project “unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable.” 

Current Governor Onaga Takeshi won his election this month on a platform opposing construction of the base, which was the central issue of the gubernatorial campaign. He received 360,820 votes easily defeating incumbent Nakaima Hirokazu, a belated supporter of the base, who received 261,076 votes. Mayor Inamine Susumu of Nago, in which Henoko is a subdivision, was recently reelected as an opponent of the base’s construction. For the Japanese and U.S. governments to ignore election and referenda results and proceed with construction is a violation of democracy. 

Meanwhile, protest demonstrations, ongoing for more than a decade, have now escalated to major confrontations, including large round-the-clock gatherings outside the gate to Camp Schwab blocking the late-night passage of trucks carrying air base construction materials.  As the enclosed photographs show, a physical encounter resulted last week in which two people were injured by Japanese riot police, a young woman and an eighty-five year-old grandmother. In the bay a convoy of protestors’ canoes confronts Japanese government construction vessels seeking to enter the proposed site. So long as the United States presses forward with construction, these protests are bound to continue with unpredictable human casualties, but certain damage to U.S.-Japan relations at a time of heightened international tensions in the region. 

We urge you respectfully to cancel this project.


Sincerely,

 

Herbert P. Bix
Emeritus Professor, History and Sociology, Binghamton University
 

Shin Chiba
Professor of Political Thought, International Christian University (Tokyo)
 

Alexis Dudden
Professor of History, University of Connecticut
 

Mark Ealey
Translator of Battle of Okinawa-related materials


Norma M. Field
Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor in Japanese Studies in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago


Laura Hein
Professor, Department of History, Northwestern University


Paul Jobin
Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, Paris Diderot University

 
John Junkerman, Film director and Professor, Waseda University (Tokyo)
 

Peter J. Kuznick
Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University, Washington, DC

 
Gavan McCormack
Emeritus Professor, Australian National University

 
Katherine Muzik
Research Associate in Marine Biology, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai Bay, Kauai, Hawaii
 

Koichi Nakano
Professor of Comparative Politics, Sophia University (Tokyo)

 
Osamu Nishitani
Professor of Philosophy, Rikkyo University (Tokyo)
 

Satoko Oka Norimatsu
Director, Peace Philosophy Centre, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
 

Steve Rabson
Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University
Veteran, United States Army, Henoko, Okinawa

 
Lawrence Repeta
Professor, Meiji University (Tokyo)

 
Mark Selden
Senior Research Associate, East Asia Program, Cornell University and Coordinator, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

**********************************************************************************

(Signed after February 2)

Yu-cheng Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Law, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan

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