• In December 2013, under pressure from the Japanese government, Okinawa Governor Nakaima gave the go-ahead for offshore landfill work to start construction of the new base in Henoko, despite Okinawan people’s opposition for the past 18 years.
• In January 2014, citizens of Nago City (which includes Henoko) rejected the proposed new base by re-electing the incumbent mayor, Susumu Inamine, who ran on an anti-base platform and beat his opponent who was heavily backed by the Japanese government. Defense Secretary Hagel has called the new base “absolutely critical” in the rebalance of US forces to the Pacific.
• July 20. The Okinawa Defense Bureau brought buoys and floats to mark the offshore construction zone, which is off-limits to fishermen and other civilian traffic. People began to protest day and night.
• August 18. Offshore drilling started. Mayor Inamine vowed to resist construction in any way within his power and has refused permission for Nago City property to be used for this purpose.
• August 23. 3,600 citizens rallied and marched to the base site in protest. In a poll conducted on August 23 and 24 80.2% of Okinawan people oppose the new base in Henoko.
“The core problem is that the Japanese government doesn’t have a say when it comes to the operation of US bases … under the agreement with the US, Japan is obligated to provide sites for US bases. There is no fundamental discussion of why we need a replacement facility in Henoko … The argument is always: We may need US bases in time of war.” — Mayor Inamine
“The Japanese government creates divisions among Okinawan people on the base issue. Okinawan voices are consistently suppressed as if we are not part of the nation. We should spend our tax money on welfare, not war. Military bases don’t protect the human rights of women and children. They destroy the natural environment, and tear Okinawan peoples’ hearts apart.” — Keiko Itokazu
US MILITARY PRESENCE IN OKINAWA
• Okinawa is the poorest prefecture of Japan; about the size of Los Angeles; population 1.3 million.
• 74% of US military facilities in Japan are located in Okinawa, which constitutes 0.06% of Japan.
• The US military occupies nearly 18.4% of Okinawa land, and has control over major areas of sea and air space for military training and operations.
• The US military has 32 bases and facilities in Okinawa, with a total of 45,000 servicemen, civilian contract workers, and family members. The majority of US troops are in the Marine Corps (61%).
• Okinawa prefectural revenue from US bases is very small (5.3%, down from an earlier 15.5%) and not dependent on the bases economically.
IMPACTS OF US MILITARY PRESENCE
• Dangers to local communities and the environment. These include fires, aircraft crashes, and emergency landings, amounting to an average of 41 incidents a year. Fires caused by live-fire training are a regular occurrence. Noise pollution disrupts classes in local schools and affects people’s health. Military toxics contaminate land, air, water, and the ocean.
• Crimes by US troops against civilians. These include violent crimes such as robbery, arson, and rape. From 1972-2010, 5,705 crimes were reported, an average of 150 a year, with 10% of them heinous crimes such as homicide and rape. Many crimes are not reported.
SPECIAL ACTION COMMITTEE ON OKINAWA (SACO)
• 1996. US and Japan set up the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) in response to the outcry over the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by 3 US servicemen in September 1995, which re-ignited long-standing public sentiment against the US military presence.
• Under SACO, 20% of military-occupied land was to be returned to Okinawan control. This included Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, to be relocated from a densely populated area to “a sea-based facility”. After 18 years this base has not been reduced or relocated. Rather, the US has increased its military capability by bringing in Osprey planes, even though Okinawan people oppose them. They have a bad accident record and violate the SACO agreement.
• Both governments have undermined the SACO agreement because they have not returned military-occupied land to Okinawa.
OKINAWAN PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE INCLUDES:
• 1997. Nago City referendum: 82% of voters participated; 51% of them opposed the base.
• 2003. Lawsuit brought in US Federal court by Japanese and US environmental organizations. In January 2008, the court ruled that the construction plan violated the National Historic Preservation Act by not protecting a Japanese “national monument,” the dugong (Okinawan manatee), an endangered species, and its marine habitat.
• Ongoing support for anti-base candidates in elections at all levels: city, prefectural and national.
• 2004. A daily sit-in on Henoko beach, initiated by elders who lived through the Battle of Okinawa, marked its tenth year in April 2014.
• 2004-2005: “Sit-in on the sea” – also featured in a documentary of the same name. Many people took to the sea in fishing boats and kayaks and occupied test-drilling platforms day and night, to disrupt offshore test drilling.
• 2014. Another lawsuit in support of the dugong filed in a Japanese court.
Mayor of Nago, interviewed by Ayano Ginoza, July 29 2014.
A member of the Japanese Diet from Okinawa and co-chair of Okinawa Women Against Military Violence,
interviewed by Ayano Ginoza, July 2014.
Reports prepared by Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, updated by Yoko Fukumura in 2007 and by
Ayano Ginoza in 2014.
August 27 2014, Women for Genuine Security: www.genuinesecurity.org