Regarding the Dec. 4 article “U.S. backs Japan against ADIZ: Biden“: At their meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that the 2006 road map agreement for relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma further north on Okinawa Island to Henoko was being implemented without fail. They also agreed that the relocation would reduce the burden on Okinawa Prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.

The view from Okinawa, however, is that the agreement is nothing but sophistry. Futenma sits in a very densely populated residential area, and that makes it one of the most dangerous air bases in the world, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld observed when he visited Okinawa in November 2003.

In the 1959 crash of an F-100 Super Sabre at Miyamori Elementary School, the pilot had noticed a glitch in the aircraft’s engine and tried to return to Kadena Air Base. When the engine caught fire and stalled, the pilot bailed out after setting the aircraft in the direction of a hilly area with no houses, according to the official report. The pilotless fighter is said to have then swerved toward Ishikawa City (now Uruma City) before crashing into the elementary school. The school was not adjacent to Kadena Air Base, yet 17 people were killed and more than 210 people injured.

According to the Okinawa prefectural government documents, U.S. military aircraft were involved in 212 accidents, including two crashes, over seven years from 2005 to 2012. It should be clear that moving the Futenma station to another place on the same island, even if the new location is less densely populated, won’t reduce the burden that Okinawa bears as a whole.

So, why do Abe and Biden persist in pushing the Henoko plan?

It is apparent that the U.S. side simply wants to have Futenma relocated to Henoko in order to integrate it with neighboring training areas for U.S. forces — Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab and the Northern Training Area, thus strengthening and perpetuating the function of those military bases. The Japanese side, on the other hand, wants to keep U.S. bases on mainland Japan at a minimum.

The appeal by some Okinawa politicians to move the Futenma station out of Okinawa altogether is tantamount to asking that the station be moved to the mainland, and no prefecture wants the station in its backyard. Thus Henoko remains the best choice for both Tokyo and Washington. And that’s why the Abe-Biden agreement is nothing but sophistry.

yoshio shimoji

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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