• Naha, Okinawa

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told his counterparts in Tokyo recently that the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam and the shutdown of Futenma Air Station, Okinawa, depends on how the 2006 agreed road map for U.S. military realignment in Japan is implemented. That’s intimidation and bullying.

Does Gates realize that during and after the Battle of Okinawa (1945), the invading U.S. Army encroached upon the area where Futenma is now located — an area where villages, farms and even family tombs had existed cheek by jowl? The villagers who survived the battle were herded into camps in the northern part of the island with other civilian survivors. When those villagers were allowed to return home after two years, they found the whole area set aside for a vast military base, which was mercilessly off-limits to them.

Reluctantly, the villagers settled in adjacent areas along barbed-wire fences, some earning their livelihoods by working on the bases. This is how and why the now densely populated Ginowan City surrounding Futenma, as well as other cities and towns in Chatan, Koza and Kadena, came into being.

Because the land of Futenma was forcibly and violently requisitioned by the U.S. Army, and in view of the various hazards it poses, it is legitimate for Ginowan citizens to demand its earliest possible return. The U.S. helicopter crash on the campus of a nearby university is still fresh in our memories, to cite just one example of these hazards.

In 1996, when U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto jointly announced at a news conference that Futenma would be closed down and returned in five to seven years, we were elated and thankful. There was a hitch, however, that nobody took seriously at the time — the return would be contingent on a quid pro quo for the relocation of Futenma’s facilities.

Does the United States think it has a God-given right to occupy someone’s land with impunity and that, when asked to move out, it can demand complete compensation? How can it claim that if its demand for Henoko as Futenma’s relocation site is not met, it will scrap the entire promised plan to return Futenma property? That’s the audacity of an evil-doer.

yoshio shimoji

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