okinawa

Above: Myself observing the Kadena airbase, Okinawa.

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

15 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) It has been 71 years since the Futenma Airfield was constructed by the U.S. military in Ginowan, Okinawa, following the Battle of Okinawa in World War II.

71 years.

Even after the end of World War II, the base remained with control transferred to the United States Navy where it was developed into a United States Marine Corps air station.

In this time, Futenma has become the subject of several controversies. As Okinawa’s population has grown and expanded, there has been significant concerns over the noise caused by flights over residential areas, the pollution from the aircraft, and the endangering of civilian lives. Just a few months ago, a US harrier jet went down in the ocean just off Okinawa and elevated the fears that Okinawa citizens already had. This was just one of many crashes that have occurred over the last few years.

And yet, despite all the issues the bases have caused and continue to cause, it looks increasingly more likely that the extremely controversial decision of the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court to relocate the base will go ahead. The plan is to move the base from the crowded residential area that it is currently in, in Ginowan, to the less populated Henoko area. This move will still go ahead despite the efforts of the Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who attempted to revoke his predecessor’s approval for the landfill work that was required for the relocation. This is not enough for the people of Okinawa. The public do not want the base relocated within Okinawa, but out of Okinawa entirely.

Onaga’s actions in trying to block the relocation project was branded by the High Court as being illegal. He was sued by the central government in Tokyo for rejecting the permit for the landfill proposal that had been approved by his predecessor. According to the same judge, the decision made by the previous governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, to grant permission for the landfill was entirely legal and “within his rights” as the governor. Because of this and even though the people desperately want to see reductions in the base facilities, the previous governor’s decision is valid, and cancellation of it can not be upheld.

Four men were arrested for trying to obstruct the relocation. The men were suspected to have piled 1,400 concrete blocks around the entrance to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab which blocked the passage of vehicles used in the construction of the new facility. There has also been several sit-ins organised by protesters as they also tried to block the gates.

In the face of this open opposition to the relocation of the airbase the central government is still adamant that relocating to a less populated area of Okinawa is the only way to address noise and safety problems. Outside the prefecture is where the majority of military facilities in Japan are located.

The people of Okinawa have suffered long enough and it seems even the people in charge of the island are powerless to protect their citizens, while crimes are continually committed against the people; while they suffer the noise and pollution from aircraft; while they continue to host more than 47,000 US troops.

Twenty years ago, a 12 year old girl was abducted and raped by US military personnel. Earlier this year, an American soldier injured two people after driving while drunk. A civilian contractor at the Kadena air base confessed to raping and murdering 20-year old Rina Shimabukuro in April.

Still, the military presence persists.

Okinawa is considered as a major geo-political asset to the USA, in order to be able to respond to the immense power of China, and nuclear armed North Korea. The opinion of the people is irrelevant.

In November, the Okinawan people were offered 2.46 billion yen in compensation for the noise pollution caused by the aircraft. However, requests to put a restriction against flights by U.S. military aircraft were rejected.

So long as the Americans have their way, right?

I’ve been to Okinawa, and seen the Kadena Air base. It is huge, a sprawling mass four times the size of our very own Hagley park in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’ve seen the aircraft fly, I’ve seen how the Okinawa people suffer.

It’s time to end this injustice.

This article (American Bases to Remain in Okinawa, What You Are Not Being Told) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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