To our chagrin and fury, the Abe government has started landfill work at Henoko in Okinawa Prefecture, ruthlessly destroying the pristine natural environment.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says the work must go ahead as quickly as possible to eliminate the danger the Futenma base poses in Ginowan. But if danger is a primary reason why Futenma must be relocated to Henoko, then Yokota Air Base in metropolitan Tokyo must be relocated because it also is dangerously situated in a densely populated residential area.
Speaking of danger, Camp Hansen, a sprawling Marine Corps base in central Okinawa, is no different. In June last year a stray bullet from a heavy machine gun fired from Range 10 of the base hit the window of a work hut in the Sukuda district in Nago. This is one of many stray bullet incidents whose cause remains unresolved.
According to the Okinawa Prefectural Government, there have been 28 such incidents since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972. As such, if Suga is right, Camp Hansen must also be moved somewhere else to eliminate the danger it poses to people living around it.
In the first place, does the U.S. have a legitimate right to demand a replacement be provided in exchange for the return of Futenma? The base sits on private land that U.S. Occupation forces encroached upon with impunity toward the end of and after the Battle of Okinawa. The land expropriation was a blatant violation of Article 46 of the Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, which clearly states “private property cannot be confiscated.”
In my opinion, the irregularities in land requisition can never be exonerated by the 1971 Okinawa Reversion Agreement even if it says Japan waves all claims.
To use a metaphor, a contract between a thief and a fence dealing with stolen goods is absolutely void under criminal law, however explicitly the contract may be written.
It boils down then that Futenma’s illegality remains as it was despite a waiver in the 1971 agreement, and, due to this fact, the U.S. cannot demand Futenma’s replacement be constructed in Henoko in exchange for its return.
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.