Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New resources uploaded!

We have just added two new resources to this blog - please feel free to read, download and use our information fact sheet and powerpoint presentation about foreign military bases in Okinawa, and keep checking our Media and Resources page for more information and resources in the future, as well as links to media reports on US for Okinawa actions!

How would YOU spend $14 billion U.S. Dollars? Idea Campaign

US for OKINAWA, a peace action network based in Tokyo and Kyoto, announces its "How Would YOU Spend $14 Billion U.S. Dollars" Idea Contest!

Our network is joining residents of Ginowan City, Okinawa in asking the U.S. government to shut down the dangerous Futenma Air Base located in the middle of their city. The U.S. and Japanese governments have agreed the base poses safety risks to Ginowan City, but the U.S. government insists it will close Futenma only if new military facilities are constructed in Henoko on Okinawa Island under an ill-conceived and undemocratic agreement made with the previous Japanese administration in 2006. The plan entails expanding a big U.S. military base in Henoko and constructing two 1,800 meter runways over what is now unique coral reefs and the feeding ground of the dugong, a gentle sea mammal that is endangered in Japan. Visit our blog here to read more about the base expansion.

Not only will this unnecessary expansion plan destroy a vital marine environment, it's extraordinarily costly--nearly $6 billion! Japan has been asked to foot this bill, AND cough up another $6 billion to help move 8,000 U.S. Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam and build luxurious new military facilities there. This is on top of the $2 billion that Japan pays every year to the U.S. as a "sympathy budget" for the bases in Okinawa.

Have your calculator handy to add all that up? Comes to a whopping $14 billion! If you're not sure where this money comes from, it comes from us--the taxpayers of Japan! Surely our tax revenue can be spent more wisely than on destroying coral reefs, making dugongs go extinct in Japan, and offloading military-base related problems onto the people of Guam.

We would like YOUR IDEAS on how $14 billion should be spent! They can be a few short lines or a full-page long. Send us your ideas by February 27th (shortly after payday for many in Japan—no better time to think of where our tax money is going!). We will compile and send the ideas to the U.S. and Japanese governments. We will also choose five of the best ideas and send the winners surprise prizes from Okinawa!

You can view and download the brochure for the campaign online here:

To apply, simply fill in the form here or fax it to: 03-3363-7562 (in Japan). And pass this link along to friends and family to get their ideas too!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

US for Okinawa video

Filmmaker Megumi Nishikura has made a short video from US for Okinawa's first action on January 31, 2010 - watch it on youtube here!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine delivered to Prime Minister's Residence

Happy Belated Valentine's Day!

To mark this day, US for OKINAWA and Peace Boat made a big, beautiful heart-shaped chocolate cake for Prime Minister Hatoyama that said "We love you for listening to the people of Okinawa, and for building peace, not bases in East Asia."

Today, a group of members of US for Okinawa and Peace Boat visited the Prime Minister's official residence to deliver the cake in person, along with a letter and statement. Matsuno Yorihisa, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, received the cake on behalf of the Prime Minister and listened to our statement (a slightly altered version of what's written below).

The event was covered heavily by press, and members were interviewed on why we believe Futenma should be closed, why we are opposed to new construction in Henoko, and that we appreciate the Prime Minister's focus on building peace rather than bases in East Asia.

After the meeting with Mr Matsuno, the press again took statements from the group, and expressed great in our point of view.

More photos from the event can be seen on the US for Okinawa facebook group here (accessible even without a Facebook account).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day action photos

Foreign Policy in Focus article: Democracy Thwarts US Base Plans

A highly recommended article from Foreign Policy in Focus, linking militarisation throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Christine Ahn and Gwyn Kirk, "Democracy Thwarts U.S. Base Plans" (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, February 10, 2010)

Democracy Thwarts U.S. Base Plans

By Christine Ahn and Gwyn Kirk, February 10, 2010

This March, the Obamas will touch down in the U.S. territory of Guam, en route to Australia and Indonesia. It’s a big deal for this tiny Pacific island seven-and-a-half hours by plane from Hawaii and, according to airport placards, “where America’s day begins.” Two senators from Guam, Judith P. Guthertz and Rory J. Respicio, have already written to ask the president “to meet a few of your fellow Americans,” instead of the typical orchestrated “pit stop” behind the gates of Andersen Air Force Base.

Obama’s stop-over may be designed to smooth the difficult road ahead for the U.S. military. The Pentagon is shifting bases and soldiers in the Asia Pacific — not surprisingly, without consent of the residents of these countries. But it’s not just local people in Guam, South Korea, Okinawa, and elsewhere who are affected by the increased militarization of the region. The natural environment is at risk through military contamination and through the high military use of oil, an important factor in climate change.
Guam-Okinawa Connection

The Bush administration made plans to shift 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa (Japan) to Guam. In addition to support staff, contractors and family members, the total number will be closer to 50,000 people.

This overall deal between the United States and Japan is estimated to cost $26 billion, with the tab largely picked up by Japan. According to the agreement, the Japanese government must fund a new state-of-the-art Marines base to be built alongside an endangered coral reef in Nago (northern Okinawa). This new facility would replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, which is currently situated in a dense urban area. The land would then return to Okinawa — presumably after the cleanup of environmental contamination — and 8,000 Marines would go to Guam.

Okinawans have been campaigning for years to be rid of U.S. bases, which were established at the end of World War II. These bases have been the source of noise and environmental pollution, accidents, and crime committed by U.S. soldiers, including violence against women and girls. In a 1998 referendum, Nago voters opposed the new base. When Japanese authorities tried to go ahead with the plan, activists took to their kayaks and fishing boats to block construction, and ultimately disrupted exploratory drilling of the coral reef. The Japanese government tried to find another location in Okinawa or even mainland Japan, but no community agreed to have the new Marines base in their area.

Despite the efforts of the two governments, democracy continues to get in the way of this multi-billion dollar deal between Washington and Tokyo.

On August 30, 2009, the patient and determined campaigning by the Japanese peace movement paid off. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which promised to review the U.S.-Japan military alliance, defeated the ruling coalition that had been in power for over 50 years. Many of the newly elected representatives criticized Japanese acquiescence toward U.S. foreign policy; others resented U.S. “occupation mentality.” In response, both U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama made hasty visits to Tokyo, invoking the importance of the alliance and pressing the new government to keep the Okinawa-Guam deal afloat. But the tide of public opinion had turned; the Japanese media branded Gates a “bully” and bridled at such “high-handed treatment.”

The political momentum against the relocation of the U.S. Marines base has continued to build. At the end of January 2010, Nago voters elected a mayor who is also against the base. Japanese representatives came to Washington to meet with their congressional counterparts, while in Tokyo thousands protested the proposed Marines base, thus reopening what the military assumed was a done deal.
Resistance in Guam

Despite increasing opposition to the transfer of thousands of U.S. troops, the people of Guam are constrained in their ability to influence the political process. Since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States has controlled Guam (or Guåhan in the Chamorro language). With a population of 173,456 represented by one non-voting delegate in the U.S. Congress, the island is one of 16 remaining non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations. Residents are U.S. citizens, but they are not entitled to vote in presidential elections. Most federal-territorial affairs are made in Washington, nearly 8,000 miles away.

The voices of the Guam Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders have been elevated in this process. In their view, the militarization of the island is the only viable boost to Guam’s weak economy. Contractors, from Washington, DC and Hawaii to the Philippines and Japan, are jockeying for a piece of the action. "On Capitol Hill, the conversation has been restricted to whether the jobs expected from the military construction should go to the mainland Americans, foreign workers or Guam residents," says Democracy Now reporter Juan Gonzalez. "But we rarely hear the voices and concerns of the indigenous people of Guam, who constitute over a third of the island’s population."

The U.S. military already takes up a third of the island. The additional troops will bring this up to 40 percent. Formed from two volcanoes, Guam’s rocky core constitutes an unsinkable aircraft carrier, 30 miles long and eight miles wide. Not only is the economy geared toward servicing the military, the bases are now occupying once productive land. Prior to WWII, Guam was self-sufficient in agriculture. Today, the island imports 90 percent of its food.
Listen to the People

Following the Nago election, The Washington Post quoted Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commander of U.S. Marine forces in the Pacific as saying, "National security policy cannot be made in towns and villages."

Really? Do national security and military objectives trump democracy?

Obama is both commander-in-chief of the U.S. military and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. His experience growing up in Hawaii and working as a community organizer also uniquely qualify him to listen to Guam senators and community members such as We Are Guåhan, a grassroots organization. We Are Guåhan include the voices of people from diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds, who advocate for transparency and democratic participation in decisions regarding the future of their island. Obama should hear their deep concerns about the impact of 50,000 extra people on their already weak infrastructure, fragile ecosystem, and island culture. These have been much expressed in town-hall meetings and in community responses to the military’s 11,000-page environmental impact statement.

Obama should also listen to respected historians like Hope Cristobal, a former Guam senator, and to women professional and community leaders active in Fuetsen Famalao’an, who came together out of concern over the military buildup. He should visit the Hurao School that teaches young children Chamorro language and culture. He should hear the Chamorro people’s deep love for their land as they seek to honor their ancestors and provide for their children.

The president should do more than just listen, of course. The Obama administration should rethink the expansion of bases in Okinawa, Guam, and South Korea. Washington has repeatedly stated that the transfer of 8,000 Marines to Guam will “reduce the burden” on Okinawa. So then why does the military want a new Marines base in Nago? The United States should stop the building of yet another base in Okinawa and not redirect Okinawa’s burden to Guam.

The Obama administration should do more by allocating a small fraction of the $700 billion-plus Pentagon budget to underwrite job training across the entire nation, including Guam. This money could provide residents of Guam with needed medical facilities, clean up contaminated water supplies (Andersen AFB sits on top of an underground aquifer), and provide for sustainable projects.

The U.S. Congress can also play a positive role by amending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include Guam on the list of “downwind” areas affected by atmospheric nuclear testing in Micronesia in the 1950s. At the same time, Congress should support the Republic of the Marshall Islands Changed Circumstances Petition for adequate compensation for personal injuries, property damage, medical care, and radiological monitoring related to nuclear testing conducted in the Marshall Islands.

Elsewhere in the region, the United States should rethink the imminent plan to build a new U.S. Navy base on Jeju Island in the southern part of Korea. Villagers of Gangjeong have resisted this construction by blocking roads until their arrest by South Korean police in January 2010. This proposed base would house Aegis destroyers, outfitted with missile defense systems to target China. It would also destroy local people’s way of life and coral reefs designated by UNESCO as world heritage environmental sites.

More generally, the United States must commit to policies that support sustainable use of resources, rather than using military means to secure oil supplies and other scarce resources. The U.S. military is the greatest consumer of oil worldwide. It makes no sense to fight for oil so that the military can guzzle even more of it. Such a new policy on sustainable use of resources also requires Washington to move beyond the stalemate of the Copenhagen summit.

Obama: Be the change you promised. Someone has to have the courage to initiate a paradigm shift, using the Earth’s resources and people’s skills to provide for genuine security.

Gwyn Kirk is a founder member of Women for Genuine Security and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. Christine Ahn is a policy and research analyst with the Global Fund for Women and a FPIF columnist.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day Action!

Joint Valentine's Day Action by US for Okinawa and Peace Boat

"We love you, Prime Minister Hatoyama,
for building peace not bases in East Asia."

On December 14, 2010, US for Okinawa and Japan-based NGO Peace Boat will present a Valentine's gift to Prime Minister Hatoyama as a sign of love and friendship. This gift is to give encouragement to the Prime Minister for listening to the voices of the Okinawan people, suspending the agreement that was made in 2006 between the US and the previous Japanese administration, and postponing the decision on the base relocation until May.

A 45cm x 25cm heart-shaped chocolate cake, bearing the message "We love you, Prime Minister Hatoyama, for building peace not bases in East Asia," will be delivered PM Hatoyama, in a call for him to take the leadership to reduce bases and build peace in East Asia.

The action will be held in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Nagata-cho, Tokyo at 1:30pm.

The full contents of the letter to be presented to the Prime Minister can be read below.


February 14, 2010

Dear Prime Minister Hatoyama,

Happy Valentine's Day! On this special day, which honors love and friendship, US for OKINAWA and Peace Boat would like to deliver this Valentine's Day present and letter to you in order to express how much we LOVE your decision to listen to Okinawa and delay implementing the agreement made in 2006 between the U.S. government and the previous Japanese administration to transfer the US Marine Corp Futenma Air Station to Henoko as a pre-condition for closing the dangerous Futenma Air Base. This agreement is enormously flawed, and we applaud you for having the courage to reconsider it. We would also like to use this opportunity to express our support for your vision of fostering greater FRIENDSHIP, peace and security in East Asia through the creation of an East Asia Community. As Prime Minister of Japan, we hope you will continue to build peace, not bases in the region.

US for OKINAWA is a new network of U.S., Canadian, British, New Zealand, Mexican and Australian Citizens who are concerned about the impact U.S. military bases have on the people and environment of Okinawa. The US in our name is a deliberate double entendre, and US may be read both as "us" (you, me, everyone), as well as U.S. (reflecting the proactive stance of Americans in Japan who support a base-free Okinawa).

Peace Boat is an international NGO based in Japan that has been striving for more more than a quarter of a century to create a culture of peace around the world through peace education programs, cultural exchange, and advocacy work.

Together, US for OKINAWA and Peace Boat would like to honor you with chocolate for listening to Okinawa, and express our position on the matter in more detail through the attached letter. Please note that this is our honmei choco. We are sending our giri choco to the U.S. Embassy...


US for OKINAWA & Peace Boat


February 14, 2010

Dear Prime Minister Hatoyama,

Through this letter, we would like to express our support for your willingness to listen to the people of Okinawa by temporarily halting an agreement made in 2006 between the U.S. government and the previous Japanese administration to relocate the U.S. Marine Corp Futenma Air Station to Henoko as a pre-condition of shutting down the dangerous Futenma Air Base in Ginowan City.

Undoubtedly, Futenma Air Base should be closed down. Its location in the middle of a dense urban center has already endangered the lives of residents in the past, and the base's military aircraft noise pollution regularly prevents schools, hospitals, public offices and households from carrying out normal activities without disruption. Okinawa makes up less than one percent of Japanese territory, but shoulders the burden of 75 percent of all U.S. military bases in the country, and we support the majority of Okinawans who have long been asking for this burden to be lightened.

The previous Japanese administration's agreement to transfer the Futenma Air Station to Henoko as a condition for closing the Futenma base, however, aggravates rather than reduces the burden of the bases on Okinawa. Inundating much of Oura Bay in Henoko with concrete, dirt and toxic materials in order to expand the perimeters of Camp Schwab and to build two 1,800 meter long runways will irrevocably damage the ecosystem in the bay. Moreover, it will simply shift problems of noise pollution from one part of Okinawa to another. It will also yet again deny the people of Okinawa more access to the land and water that has sustained them and their ancestors for generations. By holding more than 2,000 days of consecutive sit-ins, and by electing a mayor who is opposed to the plan, the people of Nago City have clearly conveyed their opposition to more military expansion in Henoko.

Despite pressure from the U.S. government and from some officials in Japan from the previous administration to ignore this opposition and to begin implementing the plan, we believe you should continue reviewing it. Some scholars, such as Professor Emeritus Gavan McCormack, have clearly analyzed why this agreement is arguably illegal, unconstitutional, deceptive, and unfair, and we think such analyses should be given serious consideration. We also hope your administration will review whether or not the plan violates the World Heritage Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

With every passing year, it becomes more and more clear that the heavy presence of U.S. military bases in Japan aggravates tension between countries in the region, stifles local economies from developing endogenously, and negatively impacts natural resources that are dwindling worldwide at an alarming rate. Therefore, we commend you for having the foresight to seek more effective ways to create peace and security in the region, such as through the creation of an East Asia Community that would foster more dialogue, cooperation and mutual understanding in the region. We believe this community could serve as an important step to the creation of an East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone and other significant peacebuilding initiatives.

We look forward to hearing your decision in May on the Futenma Air Station relocation plan, and sincerely hope you will continue listening to the people of Okinawa and making efforts to preserve the region's irreplaceable natural heritage.


US for OKINAWA & Peace Boat

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Join US for Okinawa on Facebook

You can also join US for Okinawa on facebook, for more regular information about actions, events and news on Okinawa and related issues.

See the facebook page here!

Reports from January 31 Action

The January 31 Action held by US for Okinawa in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo was a great success, attracting attention from the general public and the media also.

Read some articles about the event here:

「米国民も実態知って」 在日米国人、普天間危険訴え, Ryukyu Shimpo, February 2 2010

Thousands gather in Tokyo over weekend to support a military-base free Okinawa, Ten Thousand Things, January 31 2010

New Network Formed to Oppose New Military Base Construction in Okinawa, Peace Boat, January 31 2010