When Kuni Miyake claims "Japan wholeheartedly welcomes the Marines back” in his May 19 opinion piece “A welcome move by the U.S. Marines," he must have been excluding Okinawa.
About 20,000, or 80 percent, of the 24,000 Marines in all of Japan remain in this small island prefecture with 0.2 percent of the nation’s area and less than 1 percent of its population. They bring aircraft noise that disturbs sleep and interrupts school classes, helicopter and motor vehicle accidents that endanger life and limb, and a seemingly endless series of sexual assaults. The Japanese government pushes ahead with building a Marine airbase, now 20 years behind schedule, in northern Okinawa despite daily public protests at the site, opposition from the prefectural government which has denied construction permits and filed lawsuits, and the recent discovery that the seabed planned for installation of the offshore runways is too unstable to support the pillars that are supposed to hold them in place.
The inevitable destruction the base will wreak on coral and on sea grass that nourishes an endangered species of sea mammal has led environmental groups to file a lawsuit in a U.S. district court. International organizations have declared the grossly disproportionate U.S. military presence in Okinawa a violation of human rights. Far from Miyake’s claim that the Marines in Okinawa are defending, they have become the enemy.
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.