Feffer: Small Step Forward in Resolving Okinawa Base Impasse

May 9, 2012 

John Feffer, the editor of Foreign Policy In Focus and a leader with the Network for Okinawa has written an excellent article “Small Step Forward in Resolving Okinawa Base Impasse” (May 3, 2012) that analyzes the implications of the U.S.-Japan deal to move 9000 Marines from Okinawa and distribute them to different locations in the Pacific:

It’s a deal that’s been more than 15 years in the making and the unmaking. The United States and Japan have been struggling since the 1990s to transform the U.S. military presence on the island of Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan.

In preparation for this week’s visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to Washington, the two sides rolled out the latest attempt to resolve what has grown into a major sticking point in alliance relations.

According to the most recent deal, 9,000 U.S. Marines will leave Okinawa, thus fulfilling a longstanding U.S. promise to reduce the overall military footprint on the island. Half of that number will go to expanded facilities on Guam while the remainder will rotate through other bases in the region, including Australia, the Philippines, and Hawaii.

Japan will cover a little more than three billion dollars out of the estimated 8.6-billion-dollar cost of the Guam transfer.

“These adjustments are necessary to realize a U.S. force posture in the Asia-Pacific region that is more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable,” according to a joint statement issued by Washington and Tokyo.


Key critics of the process of Pacific realignment – including John McCain, Carl Levin and Jim Webb – remain sceptical of the latest agreement since the review has not yet been completed.

Also skeptical are anti-base activists in the places where the Marine presence will increase.

“Hawaii does not need more military,” says Koohan Paik, a media professor at Kauai Community College.

“There are already 161 military installations in Hawaii, which have resulted in hundreds of sites contaminated with PCBs, trichloroethylene, jet fuel and diesel, mercury, lead, radioactive Cobalt 60, unexploded ordnance, perchlorate, and depleted uranium. And they call this security? The only ‘security’ this brings is economic security to military contractors.”


The latest U.S.-Japan deal comes at a time of considerable uncertainty regarding military spending. The Pentagon is under pressure to reduce costs in order to meet new spending limits dictated by concerns over rising national debt.

However, the Barack Obama administration’s “Pacific pivot”, announced last year, is difficult to achieve on the cheap. U.S. allies are concerned that they will have to shoulder an increasing amount of the costs of this realignment. Included in this bill will be the cost of upgrading the Futenma facility while Tokyo and Washington debate the base’s future.

U.S. and Japan may cut funding for base relocation in Okinawa and Guam

December 14, 2011 

There’s been a lot happening related to the Defense Authorization Act.  The fiscal crisis is finally resulting in some cuts to the military budget.   But the Senate approved inclusion of language authorizing the detention of U.S. citizens.

However, regarding the military base realignment in Okinawa and Guam, there have been some positive developments.  It looks like the U.S. Congress will cut the funding for the relocation of U.S. Marines from Futenma to Guam.   This would be welcome news for the peace movements in Okinawa and Guam.

Mainichi Shimbun reports:

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives agreed Monday to cut from the annual spending bill for fiscal 2012 through next September the entire $150 million funding requested by the government for the planned relocation of some 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa in Japan to Guam.

The Marianas Variety reports that Japan has also cut its contribution to the base realignment costs:

Following a contentious decision from U.S. Congress that slashed funding for Guam’s military buildup, the Japanese government has announced it too will cut expenses for the planned realignment of U.S. troops from Okinawa to Guam.

The Mainichi Daily reported yesterday that the Japan Defense Ministry and Finance Ministry plan to reduce funding allocated for the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from about ¥52 billion ($667 million) to just ¥10 billion ($128 million) for Fiscal Year 2012.

The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Congress concluding negotiations on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that freezes significant funding for the Guam military buildup.

Even Nobuteru Ishihara, Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the conservative, opposition party acknowledged the political realities in Okinawa have made the base expansion in Henoko very difficult.  In remarks to the Hudson Institute, Ishihara deflected from the Futenma controversy, saying that the collapse of the base realignment agreement is “not the main issue” and that the two countries should instead focus on the continuation the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.    Although the LDP maintains that the agreement to relocate Futenma to Henoko should proceed, Ishihara admitted that in Okinawa gubenatorial campaign LDP incumbent candidate Governor Nakaima adopted an anti-base stance and that the LDP had to “accept local opinion.”

But, let’s not celebrate too fast.  Mainichi Daily News also reports that Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, told Ishihara that funding for the relocation could be rescued if Japan follows through on its environmental assessment of the “rape” of Henoko:

Schiffer said it is possible for Congress to be flexible on funding to move the Marines to Guam — a plan linked to relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago from a densely populated area of Ginowan, both in Okinawa Prefecture — if the Japanese government goes through with its plan to submit to Okinawa by the end of this year an environmental assessment report for the relocation.

‘Rape’ remark by Japan Defense Ministry official may be final nail in the coffin of Futenma base relocation plan

December 2, 2011 

The statement by Japanese Defense Ministry official  in Okinawa comparing the base relocation plan to ‘rape’, only the latest outrage over the proposed relocation of the Futenma military base to Henoko, is causing a political storm that, as the Asahi Shimbun opined, “could spell end to (the) Futenma plan”:

Discussing the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Satoshi Tanaka, director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, said to the effect on Nov. 28, “Would you say, ‘I will rape you,’ before you rape someone?”

Tanaka used the rape analogy to explain the government’s reluctance to set the submission date of an assessment report on the environmental impact of the air station’s planned relocation to the Henoko district in Nago–a plan the people of Okinawa vehemently oppose.


In fact, it was the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by U.S. soldiers 16 years ago that triggered the move to relocate the Futenma base. But the girl was certainly not the last victim of sex crimes by U.S. service personnel. Anyone who has any understanding of the feelings of the people of Okinawa would never even dream of saying what Tanaka said.

The Japan Times published a similar editorial:

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should realize that trustful relations no longer exist between his administration and the Okinawan people, and that the Henoko plan has no chance of being implemented.

According to a Facebook posts by Satoko Taira:

Defense Minister is having a meeting with Governor Nakaima.  Nakaima will present Okinawa Prefecture Assembly’s resolution of protest over the remarks made by Tanaka, to Ichikawa, which was adopted unanimously yesterday.

Another post by Masami Mel Kawamura reports:

Defense Minister visits Okinawa to apology for ODB’s officers’s gaff to Okinawa Governor.

Okinawan people are holding a rally in front of Okinawa Prefecture Office.

Keiko Itokazu, councilor, is now giving a speech there.

Japanese military official fired for comparing base construction to ‘rape’ as Yanbaru forest comes under new attack

December 1, 2011 

Ten Thousand Things blog just published an excellent update on the firing of a Japan Defense Ministry representative who compared the U.S. military construction in Okinawa to “rape.”  There is good background information links on the page for the tense situation in Takae, a forest area in northern Okinawa threatened with expansion of helicopter landing facilities.   Here’s an excerpt:

The head of the Okinawan branch of Japan’s Defense Ministry compared DC-Tokyo forced US military construction in Okinawa to “rape.” For his transparent comment about US-Tokyo strategy, Satoshi Tanaka was fired yesterday.

Japanese Defense Minister Ichikawa apologized to Okinawans for Tanaka’s remark.

In mid-November Tanaka moved ahead, despite local oppostion, with US military construction in biodiverse Yanbaru Forest, a subtropical rainforest in northern Okinawa. The U.S. Marines want to destroy one of Yanburu’s most well-preserved areas, a habitat for unique, indigenous species, to make way for military Osprey aircraft heliports.

The U.S. Marines, the manufacturer, and congressional representatives from the district in Texas in which the factory is located, have lobbied for years against the axing of the expensive, accident-prone military Osprey aircraft from the U.S. defense budget. This Iron Triangle even beat out former Vice President Dick Cheney who argued against the program. Despite extreme costs, accident risks, and no strategic value for the aircraft, US Marines have pushed to build heliports for the Osprey aircraft in Okinawa since they need someplace to put them, according to some U.S. foreign affairs analysts.

As a result, residents of Takae, an eco-village in Yanbaru Forest, have been in a cold war with the U.S. Marines for years. Residents report assaults by U.S. military helicopters against civilian protesters. Some fly low to the ground,terrorizing villagers destroying their property, and damaging forest trees. One villager reported that a U.S. soldier demanded food, at riflepoint, while laughing at her. These are just a few reports that reflect the tip of an iceberg of accounts of U.S. military injuries and intentional infliction of emotional distress upon local people.


Meanwhile, Hawai’i (Mokapu and Pohakuloa) is threatened by a proposed increase in helicopter and Osprey training activities.  The Marine Corps is holding hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.   The schedule of hearings is here.

Ainu and Okinawan Human Rights- United Nations Forum on indigenous issues

June 14, 2011 

A coalition of Asian Indigenous Peoples advocacy groups delivered a Collective Statement to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, in United Nations Headquarters, New York,
16-27 May, 2011, which brings up the issue of U.S. militarization in Okinawa (Henoko & Takae) <>.    The groups utilized the U.N. Declaration on on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to challenge the imposition of U.S. military bases on indigenous territories.   Chamorro activist and legal scholar Julian Aguon wrote a short article about how the Declaration applies to issues and problems facing Kanaka Maoli people in Hawai’i.

The statement addresses the failure of the Japanese government to recognize Ryukyuan/Okinawan people as an indigenous people and blasts the U.S. military bases in Okinawa as a form of discrimination against the Okinawan people:

Second, regarding the Ryukyuan/Okinawan people, the Government of Japan has not implemented the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which call on the government to recognize Ryukyuan/Okinawan people as an indigenous people. As a result, as reported by UN Special Rapporteur Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Doudou Diene, the heavy presence of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa remains as a form of discrimination against the people of Okinawa. At present, two new military bases construction plans are being carried out under the agreement between the governments of Japan and the U.S., despite the longtime opposition from local indigenous peoples’ communities.

One massive military base is being constructed in Henoko and Oura bay. While the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) expressed its concerns on this plan in the closing statement of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10) in Nagoya in 2010, the Government of Japan has ignored the concerns raised in the statement and is proceeding with the plan. Another military base, six new helipads, is being constructed in Yambaru forest, Takae district of the Okinawa island. In response to their protest, the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the local agency of the Government of Japan, has filed Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) against local indigenous community members.

The reluctance of the Japanese government to implement the UNDRIP at the local level violates Ainu and Okinawan rights to participate in the decision-making process. The authorization of the construction of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site in Mombetsu city, Hokkaido Prefecture, and the construction of military bases in Henoko and Oura bay and helipads in Takae, not only violates Article 29 of the UNDRIP but also seriously violates the indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) which is clearly stated in Article 32. It also denies the important role of indigenous and local community to preserve bio-diversity as stipulated in Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The statement calls for:

1. We recommend the Government of Japan shall establish national and local systems in conjunction with indigenous peoples to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, in accordance with the UNDRIP.
2. We recommend that the city government of Mombetsu shall respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the local Ainu community concerned, and to reconsider the authorization of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site.
3. We recommend that the Goverments of Japan and the U.S. immediately stop the construction of the military bases in Henoko and Oura bay as well as helipads in Takae and review the plans.
4. We request the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people shall use his good office to directly intervene in the Government of Japan regarding the construction of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site in Mombetsu city, Hokkaido Prefecture, and the construction of military bases in Henoko and Oura bay and helipads in Takae, Okinawa Prefecture.

Jen Teeter wrote a great article about the issue on the Ten Thousand Things blog:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ainu and Okinawan Human Rights- United Nations Forum on indigenous issues

The tenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened at the United Nations Headquarters, New York from the 16th to 27th of May. Shimin Gaikou Centre (Citizens’ Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) vice president, Makiko Kimura, on behalf of her organization, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, Forest Peoples’ Programme, Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa, No Helipad Takae Resident Society, and Mo-pet Sanctuary Network, submitted a collective statement to the forum.

These organizations urge the Japanese government to fully realize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and address human rights violations against the Ainu and Okinawan communities. Japan ratified UNDRIP in 2007, and subsequently recognized the Ainu people as the indigenous people of Japan, but does not recognize the indigeneity of the Okinawan people despite UN recommendations.

The report addresses how the government of Japan has violated Articles 29 and 32 of UNDRIP by authorizing projects which affect the lands and/or resources of indigenous peoples (including Okinawans) without “free, prior and informed consent” of the indigenous inhabitants. The report highlights a proposed industrial waste facility project in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, and the (de)construction which will result from the proposal of a new U.S. military base and helipads in Okinawa. The organizations request the direct intervention of the Special Rapporteur to the forum to halt further construction and ensure the establishment of a system by which the Ainu and Okinawans must provide free, prior, and informed consent before such projects are authorized.


Deception and Diplomacy: The US, Japan, and Okinawa

May 26, 2011 

Distinguished Asia scholar Gavan McCormack has published in the Asia Pacific Journal an excellent analysis of the recent developments in U.S.-Japan relations and the deceptions and subservient posture that lay behind Japan’s decisions.  It is important reading to understand the politics of the Okinawa situation:

For the student of contemporary Japan, these are sad times, and it is not just because of the catastrophe that struck the country in March and the Chernobyl-like horrors that have continued since then to spread across the Northeast, though it has been impossible to observe these without shock and grief. But it is sad above all because of the growing sense that Japan lacks a truly responsible democratic government to address these issues, and because its people deserve better.

It seems only yesterday that the Japanese people, tired and disgusted with a half century of corrupt and collusive LDP rule, voted to end it. How quickly since September 2009 their efforts were reversed, renewal and reform blocked, and a compliant US-oriented regime reinstated whose irresponsibility is matched only by its incompetence. This is true whether considering the response to the nuclear crisis, marked by evasion, manipulation and collusion (of bureaucrats, politicians, the media, and the nuclear industry), or of the handling of the Okinawa base issue, which is central to the country’s most important relationship, that with the United States. The argument of my book published in 2006 was that Japan is a US “Client State,” or zokkoku, structurally designed to attach priority to US over Japanese interests.1 Much fresh evidence to support that thesis has come to light since I wrote, exposing the relationship as marked by the sort of humiliation that used to be characteristic of relations between centre and periphery in the old Soviet empire. Between the world’s two most powerful capitalist economies and supposed flag-bearers of democracy it is deeply incongruous.

Especially since the September 2009 advent of the Hatoyama government, which came to office promising a new regional order in the Asia-Pacific, there have been successive revelations of the truncated character of the Japanese state. Created and cultivated under US auspices in the wake of war nearly seven decades ago, that state maintains to this day a submissive orientation towards its distant founding fathers. Here I focus on five recent events or sets of materials that between 2009 and 2011 help illuminate it: the mitsuyaku or secret agreements, the “confession” of Prime Minister Hatoyama, the Wiki-leaks revelations, the “Maher affair,” and something still in train as these words are being written (May 2011) that may, provisionally, be called the “Levin-Webb-McCain shock.”  Seen as a whole, they compel the sad conclusion that the notion of democratic responsibility on the part of the Japanese state is illusory. Independence for Japan is not something to be protected, but something still to be won.


Japan suspends funding for military expansion in Guam

May 17, 2011

Japan suspends funding for military expansion in Guam

The US Navy says the suspension of funding means the bidding process for the contract, which involved establishing new headquarters for the naval base, has been suspended indefinitely. [Reuters/US Navy]

Photo: Reuters/ US Navy

Created: 17/05/2011

Last Updated: Tue, 17 May 2011 12:09:00 +1000

Japan has decided to put on hold $US3 billion in funding it had promised for the military expansion in Guam.

The US Navy says the suspension of funding means the bidding process for the contract, which involved establishing new headquarters for the naval base, has been suspended indefinitely.

The Managing Editor of the Marianas Business Journal, Mar-Vic Cagurangan, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat the US Navy says it has not received enough bids for the contract, which has confused people in Guam.

“They were saying there were not enough companies that have bidded for the projects,” Ms Cagurangan said.

“But the local companies here say otherwise, because they have been actually very impatient over the progress of this project.”

Pressure builds for US shift on Okinawa

May 14, 2011 

The Japan Dispatch blog has very interesting analysis about the possibility of shifts in U.S. policy about the military bases in Okinawa, and a larger shift in foreign policy toward an emphasis on Asia.   He points to the APEC summit in Honolulu and the Trans Pacific Partnership as indicators that the Obama administration is pushing for a shift to an Asia focus. Here are some excerpts:

Pressure is growing on the Obama Administration to significantly alter plans for US Marine basing arrangements on Okinawa, but chances seem slim for a policy shift at least until Defense Secretary Robert Gates departs office late next month.

Several factors have converged to give the issue new urgency. Opposition remains strong on Okinawa to construction of a new facility in the Henoko Bay area, to replace the US Marine Air Station Futenma, which has been slated for closure since 1995. There is simply no momentum in Japan to move forward with the project, a situation made more stark by the Great Eastern Earthquake of March 11. Tokyo is intensely focused on reconstruction efforts; neither the financial nor political capital is available to push the Henoko project through.

Meanwhile, construction delays and cost overruns continue to bedevil a critical, related portion of the plan: the relocation of over 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members from Okinawa to Guam.

And in Washington, an increasingly debt-weary Congress is asking whether it is worth the cost of building the new Henoko facility and the new Marine housing and related facilities on Guam, when cheaper force configurations more conducive to strategic needs in Asia might be found.


ASIA POLICY SHIFT: Evidence continues to grow that President Obama and his top aides would like to see a major US strategic shift toward greater emphasis on Asia, which should be particularly evident when the President hosts the APEC summit in Hawaii next November.

It’s notable that in a recent New Yorker analysis of Obama’s foreign policy, NSC director Tom Donilon, deputy director Ben Rhodes (Obama’s long-time chief foreign policy speechwriter), and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell were all quoted outlining just such a strategic “rebalancing” of American foreign policy. The Pentagon’s top policy chief, Michelle Flournoy, outlined a similar policy in a recent talk at Johns Hopkins.

The administration is looking to energize America’s role in East Asia by fomenting a system of open and transparent economic and security cooperation in the region, defining the terms of engagement to which China has to respond. The economic component, for now, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade initiative. And the security component involves building on America’s traditional bilateral security alliances in the region to include a network of overlapping bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral security relationships from India, through Vietnam and Indonesia, to Australia, and up to Korea and Japan.


WORKING WITH CONGRESS: But the White House continues to send signals that it is serious about a shift in strategy toward Asia. A restructured US force posture would not be seen as retreat, but rather an effective region-wide “hedge” in the event China tries to throw its growing weight around in the region. And sources close to Kurt Campbell say that he is convinced that continued US and Japanese wrangling over Futenma will threaten the whole “shift” strategy, because it can’t work without a vibrant US-Japan alliance.

Campbell is prepared to work with Webb and others in Congress on a new basing arrangement for the Marines in the Pacific. Once Panetta takes over as defense secretary, and assuming Lippert becomes his top deputy for Asia, the White House would have in place an administration-wide team to pursue an expanded role in the region.


Is U.S. military relief effort Operation Tomodachi really about friendship?

April 23, 2011 

A post on the Japan Today blog asks:

“Tomodachi?” Friends? To many Japanese living near U.S. military bases, the bilateral “friendship” has seemed more like a prolonged occupation. Will Operation Tomodachi make friends of them, and turn their sullen resistance into gratitude?

It’s the biggest ever U.S. humanitarian mission in Japan – 20,000 troops, 113 aircraft and 12 ships thrown into the battle against chaos in the wake of Japan’s greatest postwar crisis, the earthquake-tsunami-radiation nightmare.

The blogger cites the Shukan Post’s claims that the entire military operation is for publicity:

The whole vast operation is purely for show, it says – and who will be paying the bill, it demands, when the hearts and minds have been won? You guessed it – Japan.

One example cited of the shibai (deception) was story of 78 bodies found along the Iwate Prefecture coast, supposedly by Japanese and American rescuers working cooperatively. However, a Japan Maritime Self Defense Force member was quoted as saying: “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers.”

The cost to Japan for U.S. “friendship”?:

Friendship doesn’t come cheap, Shukan Post notes. Operation Tomodachi, it says, is an $80 million undertaking, the cost to be covered through supplements to Japan’s financial commitment to support American troops stationed in Japan.

Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power (Part 1 of “Japanʻs Nuclear Nightmare”)

March 18, 2011 

In “Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power,” Tim Shorrock, an independent journalist and blogger on Asian Pacific issues gives an excellent and critical account of the origins and rise of Japanʻs nuclear industry:

The nuclear industry was born a deformed monster in Japan when the U.S. warplane Enola Gay dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

As a journalist covering Japanese nuclear issues in the early 1980s, he witnessed and wrote about the community struggles against nuclear power.   The catastrophe unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was to be expected as an outcome of the corrupt and anti-democratic processes driving their proliferation.  He describes several ʻbig holesʻ in the public rationale for nuclear power in Japan:

I’m speaking of the industry’s and government’s tendency to play up the positives of nuclear power and ignore its many downsides; the undemocratic nature of the siting and building process, which has historically excluded citizens’ groups and made it very hard to oppose – let alone block – the construction of new plants; and the two-tiered labor system, which has created an underclass of contract workers – “nuclear gypsies” – who do the dirty work at the plants and suffer the most from radiation and other industrial diseases.

This is the first part a series Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare READ THE FULL ARTICLE The second part deals with “nuclear gypsies”.

Check out Tim Shorrockʻs blog for many other articles related to the National Security Agency and intelligence matters, North East Asia issues, globalization and global justice movements.

Next Page »