On Dec. 14. a high-profile protest by canoeing demonstrators was staged in the waters off Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, exactly one year after landfill work began for the construction of a replacement for the Futenma base.
The Abe government is forging ahead with the landfill work in spite of Okinawa’s vocal opposition, saying Henoko is the only option for reducing the hazards posed by the Futenma base and at the same time maintain military deterrence. The government’s argument, however, is not convincing.
First, Futenma is an illegal facility because it’s built on private land that was encroached upon during the early days of the U.S. Occupation in blatant violation of international law. The U.S. thus has no right per se to demand a replacement be provided in exchange for its return. Can an illegal squatter demand new housing in exchange for his evacuation from the land he unlawfully occupies?
If reducing the danger is one reason why Futenma must be moved to Henoko, why don’t they relocate Yokota Air Base in metropolitan Tokyo and Kadena Air Base in Okinawa somewhere else, too, for the same reason? The Yokota and Kadena bases cause far more noise pollution and have seen more serious aircraft accidents than Futenma.
Second, the majority of Okinawa residents are opposed to the relocation, demanding that Futenma’s functions be moved outside the island prefecture completely. Note that the most active elements of the Okinawa-based U.S. Marines are slated to move to Guam in the near future, leaving only logistics and command units here. Note, also, that Tokyo and Washington struck a deal recently to the effect that primary responsibility to defend Japan’s outlying territories rests with the Self-Defense Forces and not with the U.S. forces in Japan. Thus, the relocation has nothing to do with deterrence.
Under such circumstances, why should Futenma’s replacement be built within Okinawa? If the construction of the planned new base were ever approved, it would mean Okinawa sanctioned a permanent U.S. military presence. The construction of a replacement for Futenma, a new base in every respect, must therefore be prevented by all means.
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.