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Friday, January 22, 2010

A Sit-in Campaign Against US Helipads in Takae, Okinawa 高江の米軍ヘリパッド建設問題に関する署名運動

Scroll Down for information in English.

See YouTube video of an interview with those protesting.

普天間問題に比べてほとんど語られることのない表題の件についてはブログ「やんばる東村 高江の現状」をご覧ください。



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In English, from Brian's Blog

Takae Helipad Campaign in Okinawa

Okinawa is part of a group of Japanese islands situated between Taiwan and Japan. During the Second World War Okinawa was invaded by allied troops destroying nearly 90% of all buildings and killing between 42,000 and 150,000+ civilians. After the war Okinawa was under US administration for 27 years until 1972. During this time the US established many bases on the island. To this day many US facilities still occupy a large part of the island and is home to approximately 23,000 US troops. The troops remain in Japan under a treaty signed in 1952 that was later amended in 1960. This treaty allows the United States to retain their bases, “For the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East”. 75% of the United States military bases within Japan are located in Okinawa.

Residents of Okinawa are spilt in their opinion about the US bases. Some see the economic advantage of hosting US troops. Many residents are employed to work on the bases and others whose business benefits from their trade. However, many residents also oppose the presence of the US military sighting crimes committed on the island by the troops, destruction of the environment, noise and pollution.

There are many campaigns against military bases in Japan. Usually they work independently of each other. However they do join forces for large-scale protests when a major incident occurs. For example, in 1995 when three US servicemen raped a 12-year-old girl.

In Okinawa there is a small campaign based in Takae. Takae is a small village1 surrounded by jungle at the northern end of the island within the district1 of Higashi and has a population of about 150 people. The campaign is against the construction of new helipads that would be used by the US military. Many of the bases in Okinawa are aging and some will be decommissioned. But with the decommissioning, the US also wants to build new helipads in previously untouched jungle. The Japanese government, eager for the construction contracts, are willing to let construction go ahead.

In February 2006 the Takae helipad campaign began. The campaign was formed by a small number of residents none of whom had any previous campaigning experience. Between them they set up 24- hour guard at entrances to the helipad construction sites. They confronted the construction workers and blocked access to the new helipad sites. Once built, the helipads role would be used in the training of mainly US troops in Jungle warfare.

The campaigners concerns about the new helipads are related to the environmental destruction of the jungle, noise and air pollution. As well their concerns for the environment, they are also against the use of their homeland for the training of military personnel, that they will be taught about killing and jungle warfare literally on their doorsteps. There are also safety concerns after one helicopter crashed near Takae close to their elementary school in 1999. And in 2004 a US military helicopter crashed in the grounds of a university in the city of Ginowan.

The US military are planning to replace their helicopters (CH53D, CH46E…) in Okinawa with the new Osprey. The Osprey is a vertical take off and landing aircraft that can fly twice as fast, carry 3 times the current load and travel 5 times further than the helicopters in use at the moment.

The Japanese government are currently trying to apply for a Provisional Disposition against 14 of the main helipad campaigners. Originally the number was 15 and included a child, but after a public outcry the child was removed from the order. A provisional disposition can be viewed in the UK as something between an ASBO and injunction.

The affect of the court case may scare people from continuing the campaign and also to disable the campaign by punishing the main members of the organisation. While the court case proceeds the Okinawa Defence Bureau has promised not to carry out further helipad construction. However, if the court case becomes lengthy, it is possible construction may begin again before a decision is reached in court.

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