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Friday, March 19, 2010

Listen to the Unequivocal Voice of Okinawa - Once and for All

Okinawa "kenmin taikai" (prefectural citizens' rally) on Novemer 8, 2009 to protest against the construction of a new base in Henoko or anywhere else in Okinawa. Photo from the JCP website.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Hatoyama expressed his thought on the Futenma issue.

"It is difficult to relocate (Futenma Air Station) out of the prefecture, but I would like to pay consideration to the feeling of people in Okinawa, who want it out of the prefecture. We are doing our best." (県外は難しいけれども、沖縄県民の皆さん方の(県外が)望ましいという気持ちを大事にしたい。その中で頑張っているところだ」)(Jiji News, March 19)

When Japanese speakers say something is "difficult," if often means "impossible."

Indeed, the government has been acting as if they had already given up the idea of just returning Futenma to the people of Okinawa without building another base there.

On top of the plan in the 2006 Agreement, which is to build a V-shaped runway over the shore of Henoko, the possible government plans include building a runway and a helipad on the land of Camp Schwab (see the upper part of the right illustration by Yomiuri), and reclaiming off White Beach (there are two plans - off Katsuren Peninsula, or between White Beach and Tsuken Island) to build a new base that could accommodate a military port and ASDF runways as well (see the lower part of illustration). This blog already introduced some details of these plans in the previous posts. There was another plan that Defense Minister Kitazawa referred to when meeting with Okinawa Governor Nakaima on March 17 - the plan to move the base to Tokunoshima Island, another island 200 km north of Okinawa, which belongs to the neighbouring prefecture of Kagoshima.

It seems that the moment the government puts their eyes on one place, the municipality stands up with an opposition resolution. Three town councils of Tokunoshima, including one that hosts Tokunoshima Airport, passed opposition resolutions between March 9 and 17 (Nishinippon Shimbun, March 18). The Council of Uruma City, where White Beach is, also passed a position statement addressed to the central government opposing the above mentioned plan to reclaim off Katsuren Peninsula (Ryukyu Shimpo, March 19). Nago City, which attracted wide international attention at the end of January for electing the anti-base mayor, also passed a resolution opposing the Camp Schwab on-land plan earlier in March.

How many of these elections, plebiscites, resolutions, and mass-scale rallies do the central government and US Government need to hear about in order to REALLY get the message - one simple message that Okinawa (nor any other prefecture) does NOT want another base?

Gavan McCormack, Professor Emeritus of Australian National University and editor of Japan Focus says,"Does Ampo(Japan-US Security Treaty) mean deny/reject/crush all these (expressions of popular will)? ... An alliance that treats the opinion of "natives" with such contempt is not an alliance of or for democracy. The "free world" used to be fiercely critical of Moscow for ignoring/trampling on the opinions of Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians; now in the name of democracy and "freedom:" it is about to act in precisely the same way. Does freedom mean so little to those who pretend they defend it? "

Okinawa Times Editorial on March 19 says that these "new plans" by the government are nothing new. Back in 1999, Governor Inamine Keiichi announced that the Futenma relocation site would be on the coastal region of Henoko, Nago, within the water area of Camp Schwab. " At that time, the prefecture had considered seven different options - 1) Coast of Henoko; 2) Eastern coast of Tsuken Island; 3) North of Takae (where the contentious construction of US helipads are forcefully underway); 4) On the land of Camp Schwab; 5)Coast of Katabaru (South of Nago); 6) Off Yokatsu Peninsula (where White Beach is); and 7) Ie Island. The possible plans that have been suggested by members of Hatoyama Administration are those that have already been considered but did not materialize. Digging up those dead plans itself is a "derisive" act against Okinawans, the editorial argues.

Miyagi Yasuhiro today warns that any decision by Hatoyama Administration to build another base within the prefecture will only lead to a fierce political battle by Okinawa against the central government. Okinawa's dignity will be at stake.

Okinawans are going to get together once again for a massive rally on April 25 at Yomitan Sports Park. This will be the first all-party demonstration against building another base within Okinawa as a "relocation" site of Futenma Air Station. They are aiming for participation of 100,000 people.

Both US and Japanese Governments will have to see and listen, if they haven't already by then.


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