Monday, November 7, 2011

Moving Futenma ... ?

The original sin within Futenma

When U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came to Japan last month, the first thing he did was to urge Tokyo to move ahead with the relocation of Futenma Air Base from overcrowded Ginowan City to Henoko in northern Okinawa Island. It was an international agreement, he might insist, so that he would be justified to press Tokyo to expedite its early implementation.

But would he? On what legal and moral basis does he think the U.S. can demand Futenma's function be moved to Henoko with the increased function and capability the Marines have entertained to realize SINCE the 1960's? Probably, he might answer that the Henoko relocation is legitimate because it will be carried out in line with the bilateral agreement (the 2006 Roadmap) and that it is morally justified because the relocation will eliminate a highly dangerous situation under which Ginowan citizens are obliged to live their daily life.

This argument may sound rational at first glance. However, what one should never forget is that Futenma Air Base was originally constructed on illegally confiscated land during the Battle of Okinawa and afterwards. Private lands were encroached upon with impunity while area residents were herded into concentration camps. There were five villages there which together with two other villages constituted Ginowan Village (now Ginowan City) with a joint population of more than 12,000. The encroachment of land as well as the construction of the base were carried out in clear violation of an international law (Article 46 of the Hague Convention) and, above all, universal moral principles.

The U.S.'s "taken-for-granted" rights to the land where Futenma Air Base sits is thus like a fence's putative rights to stolen goods. Certainly, the U.S. cannot demand Futenma's replacement in exchange for such stolen goods. Dealing stolen goods is severely punished by law in any country, Japan or the U.S. The bilateral agreement is thus completely void in this sense.

Yoshio Shimoji

Naha, Okinawa


Sunday, October 2, 2011

A letter to the New York Times... close Futenma!

Close the Futenma Air Station immediately with no strings attached

Submitted to The New York Times September 16, 2011; The Japan Times September 20, 2011; The Washington Post September 26, 2011

Albeit knowing there's a strong local opposition, Washington cunningly cajoled Tokyo into agreeing to relocate the Futenma Air Station to Henoko, Nago in northern Okinawa. It was a government-to-government agreement and so Tokyo has every bit of international obligation to carry out the agreed-upon relocation plan as soon as possible, insists Washington.

Less than two months ago, former Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and the newly appointed U.S. Defense Minister Leon Panetta reaffirmed that "Tokyo and Washington will move forward with the plan to relocate the controversial Futenma base within Okinawa."

Last week (September 7), the Noda cabinet's newly-installed Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba made an inaugural telephone call to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which he assured her that Japan would "stick to the accord reached last year to relocate" Futenma to Henoko.

Gemba also said at his inaugural news conference that he would do his best to persuade Okinawa residents to accept the bilateral accord. How would he do it? By lavishly bribing Henoko, Nago City residents into consenting? Or else, Tokyo would probably have to resort to police force, invoking state power and thus causing bloodshed and social turmoil. By coercing Tokyo this way, Washington is actually instigating these dirty tactics, and would repeat its stock phrase: "It's Japan's domestic problem that has nothing to do with the U.S." A great democracy, indeed.

The meeting in New York on Wednesday (September 21) between Japan's new Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session was the culmination of an array of such reassurance and confirmations. Noda assured Obama that he would do his utmost to implement the 2006 accord between Tokyo and Washington.

Futenma was constructed toward the end of WW II with an aim of attacking mainland Japan by B-29's in order to end the war quickly. But the war ended before that plan was actually carried out. Futenma should have been returned at that point; instead, it has continued to be in the firm grip of the U.S. military all these years to this day.

The U.S. military seized the land in clear violation of Article 46 of the Hague Convention, which states: "Family honour and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated."

There are more than 3 thousand so-called "military-land owners" for the Futenma Air Station. This figure tells everything about its history, that is, how it came into being. Futenma was constructed, while area residents were still herded into concentration camps during the ongoing Battle of Okinawa and after in the freely encroached-upon area where there were five idyllic villages with a joint population of more than 12 thousand.

Other U.S. bases in Okinawa, 33 in all, have more or less a similar history. In the 1950's additional land was requisitioned at bayonet point and by bulldozer to expand already existing bases. Take Iejima, for instance. Jon Mitchell writes in his recent article in The Japan Times: "With all of Okinawa under U.S. administration, the authorities started by tricking the landowners (in Iejima) into signing voluntary evacuation papers... But then, when some families refused to leave, 300 U.S. soldiers with rifles and bulldozers dragged women and children from their beds, tore down their homes and slaughtered their goats." ("Iejima: an island of resistance," May 22, 2011 Japan Times)

The illegality and immorality of Futenma would not disappear even if it were to be moved to Henoko or anywhere else in Okinawa just like dirty money would not become clean how many times it might undergo laundering.

Both governments, especially Washington, must realize this and search for an alternative solution, that is, to move it outside of Okinawa, most preferably, to the U.S. mainland. The Marines themselves may have known the criminality of their base, for they already had a blueprint for constructing a new base in Henoko in the 1960's which is strikingly similar to today's relocation plan.

I repeat: Close the Futenma Air Station immediately with no strings attached. Move it to the U.S. mainland. There's no obligation for the Japanese taxpayers, Okinawa residents in particular, to foot all the bills for reclaiming the pristine coastal waters off Henoko and constructing a new, advanced base complex including military port facilities for the U.S. Marines.

Yoshio Shimoji

Naha City, Okinawa


Thursday, February 24, 2011

US for OKINAWA statement on Takae

February 23, 2011

US for OKINAWA Statement

WWF-Japan and JUCON (Japan-US Citizens for Okinawa Network) Press Conference:

Halt the Construction of U.S. Military Helicopter Landing Pads that Destroy Biodiversity and Threaten Local Residents

Needless to say, as an American citizen, I find it ironic that at a time when the government of my country is urging countries in the Middle East to respect democracy, it is continuing to collude with the Japanese government to deny the people of Okinawa their right to the same.

Under the cloak of “lightening” the burden of military bases on Okinawa, Washington and Tokyo have promised to give back a portion of the land that has been appropriated from Okinawa in exchange for building a U.S. megabase in Henoko and 6 more large helicopter landing pads in Takae. Both of these areas have fragile biodiversity found only in Okinawa that will inevitably suffer great destruction as a result of these plans.

To us, the promise being made to Okinawa sounds like telling a man you will give him back an arm you have cut off only as long as you can remove his leg. How can the U.S. administration ask Okinawa to accept this kind of outrageous demand, when Americans—myself included—would never allow it? How can Tokyo politicians and officials call for this when they know people in mainland Japan would reject? Why is the voice of Okinawans not being reflected in Washington-Tokyo policies?

Another guise being used in this issue is the threat of North Korea. The U.S. has more than 800 military bases around the world, a stockpile of nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons, countless conventional weapons, and the largest navy in the world. American navy battle fleet tonnage greater than that of the next 13 largest navies alone combined. And yet, we are expected to believe that we can't face North Korea—an impoverished country smaller than many U.S. states that doesn't have a single military base outside of its border--without the construction of yet more helipads in Takae and an immense base in Henoko.

Clearly, the greatest threat in this matter is not arising from North Korea. On the contrary, it comes from officials in Washington and Tokyo who are flagrantly violating democracy; who are willing to destroy yet more of the Earth's biodiversity at a time when we are starting to keenly realize how much we need it to survive as a species ourselves; who are generating more unnecessary military buildup that profits a few while the health, education and other social structures of the rest of us crumble.

As a representative of U.S. and other citizens from around the world, I call for an end to the irresponsible actions of these American and Japanese officials. It's time for them to start carrying out their duty as representatives in service of democracy, as well as of peace and regional and global sustainability. Clearly, people worldwide are calling for new changes to old harmful policies, and the time has come for Washington and Tokyo to begin listening. Build peace, not more helipads in Okinawa.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Join the action to protect the biodiversity of Takae

Please Join Action for Takae at US Embassy! 高江ヘリパッド工事強行とテント損壊事件についてアメリカ大使館への抗議と申し入れへの呼びかけ


Please Join Us in Our Action for Preserving the Pristine Yanbaru Forest and People of Takae, Okinawa!

We invite you to join us in our protest at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo over the restart of the U.S. helipads construction in Takae, Higashi Village of Okinawa, and the destruction of the sit-in tent by a U.S. helicopter, either by sending us your message/request to the US Embassy by email by January 8, or physically joining our action on January 10 in Tokyo (see instruction at the bottom).

The Yambaru Forest is a habitat for endangered species such as Yambaru Kuina (Okinawan Rail) and Noguchi Gera (Okinawan Woodpecker). It is known internationally as a region rich in biodiversity. Takae, situated in Yambaru, is a small village of about 160 residents, including many who moved here for its pristine nature.

However, the U.S. Marine Corps has been using the Yambaru Forest for combat training. In 1957, th US military started using the area as “Northern Training Area” (Jungle Warfare Training Center), and currently there are 15 U.S. helicopter takeoff and landing zones (helipads) in Higashi Village. Residents of Takae have constantly suffered from the noise and the risk of helicopter crashes. To make matters worse, the Japanese and US governments decided to build 6 new helipads, surrounding the residential neighborhood of Takae.

Construction of new helipads will not only further endanger the livelihood and lives themselves of Takae residents, but also further destroy the precious environment with its wealth of species, forest and rivers. New military facilities also pave the way to the possibility of a new war. Residents of Takae have protested against the helipads construction for the above reasons. In 2006, we passed a resolution against the new helipads, and demanded of the relevant authorities that they review the construction plan. Takae residents and their supporters from across Japan and from around the world have continued to sit-in, monitoring the site and trying to persuade the government against the construction.

The Japanese and US governments, however, have not listened to the voices of opposition by the residents, and have not provided sincere explanation or proper opportunities for public hearing. The Japanese government even decided, all of a sudden, to prosecute some of the local protesters for obstructing traffic.

Just before dawn on December 22, 2010, at 6:30 AM, some 100 members of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, ignoring the ongoing court proceedings, barged into the site without warning to restart the helipad construction. On the next night, December 23rd, a US helicopter hovered only 15 meters above the sit-in tent, causing the tent to blow down. Such military exercise over a public road threatens the safety of local residents. The Japanese and US governments are harming the people of Takae by forcing through the construction work without sufficient explanation or consent by local residents. Such an approach by the two governments is unacceptable.

Residents of the Henoko district in Nago City, where the Japanese and US governments plan to build a replacement base for MCAS Futenma, have also been sitting-in for over 2,400 days, in order to preserve their life and the beautiful ocean. We urge you also to say “NO” to the new base plan in Henoko.

Following our protest to the Ministry of Defense on December 22 and the December 26 demonstration in Shinjuku, “Save Takae/Okinawa – an urgent appeal and demonstration against construction of helipads,” we will go to the US Embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese Ministry of Defense on January 10 (Mon.), 2011, to protest. We would like to collect as many requests/demands as possible and deliver them to the US government. We accept both individual and organizational messages. Just one sentence message, such as “We do not need US helipads in the pristine forest” will suffice, or a longer message is welcome too. The Takae and Henoko issues are not just about war and military bases, but they are also about environmental preservation, biological diversity, and an alternative, “slow-life” lifestyle. Please express your message in your own words. Please follow the below instruction and send your message by January 8, 2011.

With our voices and with our actions, let us stop the helipad construction in Takae, and the base construction in Henoko. Let us bring a peaceful and fulfilling life to Takae and Henoko!

(The original document in Japanese is at: Translated by Norimatsu Satoko and Gavan McCormack)

★Email your message/request to:

Please include in your email the following information:

*** Name (for an individual) or name of your organization
*** Your message/request (length is up to you)

Both Japanese and English messages will be accepted.

Deadline: January 8 (Sat.), 2011

If you can physically join our action at the US Embassy, please meet us in front of Toranomon JT building, at 3 PM on January 10, 2011. (Take Exit 3 of Subway Ginza Line “Toranomon” station. Walk four minutes straight on Sotobori Street, towards Tameike Sanno). We particularly appreciate participation of people from US!

Address: Toranomon JT Building, 2-1, 2 chome, Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo – see MAP here. Address in Japanese: 2011年1月10日(月・休)15時 虎ノ門JTビル前集合(地下鉄銀座線「虎ノ門駅」3番出口より、外堀通りを溜池山王方面へ直進、徒歩4分)

Organizer: Okinawa o fuminijiruna (Do not trample on Okinawa!) Urgent Action Committee; Yuntaku Takae; Okinawa One-tsubo Anti-war Landowners Association Kanto Bloc (URLs below)



沖縄・一坪反戦地主会 関東ブロック

★There will be another action on the same day at the Ministry of Defense. We will meet in front of the MoD at 6:30 PM. The organizer of this action is “Committee for Not Allowing Base Construction in Henoko.” See Map of MoD here:
In Japaneese, 1月10日18時半 防衛省前集合

★For the background information in English about the Takae issue, go to:

Voices of Takae (English version)

Postcard…from Takae, by Jon Mitchell

★ See a YouTube video of the Okinawan media reports on the December 23 incident of a US helicopter hovering above the Takae protest tent, which caused damage to the tent and some items in the tent.