A journalist who has documented the alleged existence of Agent Orange on Okinawa has accused Tokyo and Washington of side-stepping their responsibilities to local residents and military personnel who may have been exposed to the toxic defoliant.
Jon Mitchell, a research associate at Meiji Gakuin University’s International Peace Research Institute, said the Japanese government has failed to investigate whether military toxins contaminated local seafood farms, and U.S. authorities have dodged the truth about what happened to the more than 250 veterans who reported ill health.
“These people, they deserve better. These people deserve justice,” Mitchell told a press conference Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. He was speaking a day before a Japanese translation of his book on the subject hit the stores.
“The usage of Agent Orange and military defoliants is one of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War,” he said.
Mitchell has written extensively for The Japan Times about Agent Orange, often focusing on Pentagon negligence. He also documented the discovery this summer on former military land in Okinawa dozens of barrels containing traces of the chemical precursors to Agent Orange.
“Some of the local residents in Nago, they believe Agent Orange wiped out the seaweed farms in the area. In addition, it may have poisoned clam collectors,” Mitchell said, referring to the city selected to become the new home of unpopular U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
“But the Japanese government has never investigated,” he said.
“The Pentagon tested biological weapons in Nago in the early 1960s and (Camp) Schwab in the Vietnam War. Large amounts of military defoliants were stored in Nago as well.”
“In many ways, defoliants are more dangerous than nuclear and chemical weapons. Dioxin poisons the land for decades. Hundreds of American service members are sick. And Washington and Tokyo are failing in their duties . . . to protect the people of Okinawa,” he said.
On Saturday and Sunday an international symposium titled “Agent Orange and the politics of poison” is to take place at Okinawa Christian University in Nakagami, Okinawa.
Mitchell has spent four years researching the subject, compiling his experiences in the book “Chasing Agent Orange on Okinawa,” which was published in English in September. The book includes testimony, documents and photographs.
A Japanese translation was released by Tokyo publisher Kobunken Co. on Friday.
“Now we all know that nuclear weapons were in Okinawa. Everybody knows that chemical weapons were there as well. But after decades the Pentagon denied nuclear weapons. They denied chemical weapons. And it was only through hard work by journalists through researchers that can prove that nuclear and biological weapons were there,” he said.
“Hopefully, this book will do the same for Agent Orange and military defoliants.”