The Peace Studies Association of Japan (PSAJ) has long concerned about the situations in Okinawa. Okinawa has hosted a majority of the US military bases in Japan. This situation has not been changed. Last year PSAJ held the emergency meeting, “Message from Okinawa” on May 11, 2015 at the Shirokane campus of Meiji Gakuin University to examine the issue on the construction of a new U.S. military base in the Henoko area in Okinawa from the perspective of peace studies. PSAJ also released a statement claiming the immediate revocation of the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko (see below) signed by many Council members of PSAJ at the PSAJ Fall Conference held at University of the Ryukyus on November 28 and 29, 2015. We have also obtained endorsements of the statement from the general members of PSAJ. PSAJ officially published the statement on January 17, 2016 signed by endorsing Council members and general members of PSAJ. From the perspective of the research group of peace studies, we hereby appeal to the Japanese government and its people assuring to take the content of the statement below seriously.
Both the Okinawa Prefectural government and the Japanese government filed lawsuits concerning the construction of a new US military base to Naha District Court and Fukuoka High Court’s Naha Branch. As of February 2016, both sides accepted an out-of-court settlement proposal by Fukuoka High Court’s Naha Branch. But it seems that the settlement is gaining time and both sides have not changed their positions.
The Statement on the Immediate Revocation of the Construction of a New U.S. Military Base in Henoko
We hereby state our strong opposition to the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko that has been pushing through by the Japanese government. From the perspective of the researchers of peace and its conditions, we have come to realize that this is the serious issue that we should never overlook.
The U.S. military base in Okinawa was established on the site that was requisitioned by bayonets and bulldozers during the U.S. military occupation after the World War II. Even after Okinawa was “returned” to Japan in 1972, the number of U.S. bases keeps on growing. Currently 73.8% of the facilities of the U.S. Forces are located in Okinawa which accounts for 0.6% of the total land area of Japan. Despite the fact that forty three years have passed since the “reversion” of Okinawa, Okinawans have been forced to suffer from the extravagant burden and the serious damages caused by the U.S military such as accidents, crimes or environmental pollution. As for the construction issue of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, Nago City, the Japanese government argues that Henoko is the only choice for the relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station that had been labeled the most dangerous base in the world. However, this national security policy itself is no longer acceptable due to its structural discriminations. Takeshi Onaga, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture attended the United Nations Human Rights Council held in Geneva on September 2, 2015, appealing that people in Okinawa have been denied their right to self-determination and human rights. Considering the history and the status quo in Okinawa, obviously there is no reason to refute his appeal. People in Okinawa have experienced the ground battle which made them feel like abandoned by the government, and yet they have been forced to bear the unfair burden. That is, the U.S. military base issue in Okinawa represents the issues not only of the military or the national security but of the fundamental principles of human rights, the local autonomy or democracy. The U.S. and Japan, particularly the Japanese citizens who have discriminated Okinawans must listen to the appeal of Okinawa very seriously.
The relationship between the Japanese government and Okinawa has been at a stalemate over the U.S. military base issue in Henoko since Governor Onaga revoked the relocation permit on October 13, 2015, shifting to another stage for law suits. First of all, the Japanese government should correct its attitude of ignoring the public opinions of Okinawans which are shown in the previous elections. Furthermore, the Japanese government should stop exercising the law arbitrarily against the principle of the local autonomy and the excessive power using the riot police or the Japan Coast Guard in Henoko. The government should make political efforts toward the fundamental solution on the military base problem. Constructing a new U.S. military base in Henoko serves no solution to the current problems, which results in the delay in solution and the transfer of the suppression only. It is a consequence of a lack of long-term idea for the national security policy or peace policy for the future.
The issue in Okinawa does not mean the issue that only Okinawans are facing. We should deal with them as the issue of Japan and the bilateral issue of the Japan and the U.S. as well. Japan marked the seventieth anniversary of the end of the war. Therefore, learning from the voice of Okinawans, Japan is tested for its effort to forge the principal of the pacifism and the democracy, and to bring about the real pacifism and democracy. We should never overlook the government’s actions with no dialogue which use the power again that tread on the Okinawans’ earnest hope to live on the peaceful island with no military base.
Translated by Mineko Ogura