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We urge the government to give up on its plan to relocate the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station to other places in Okinawa or in any other prefecture

Statement by
Zenroren Secretary General
ODAGAWA Yoshikazu
May 11, 2010

On May 4, Prime Minister HATOYAMA Yukio announced to the Okinawa prefectural governor and some municipal mayors a government plan to relocate the operations of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station (which currently occupies a large part of Okinawa’s Ginowan City) to some other places in Okinawa and Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. Not only Okinawan residents but also Kagoshima residents are infuriated by the plan, which is also giving rise to the demand across the country that the dangerous U.S. Marine Corps base be dismantled without condition.

Public calls for the removal of the U.S. base are growing rapidly against a background of the following developments:

At a time when the government was about to adopt a plan to relocate Futenma base functions within Okinawa and transfer a part of its operations to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, 90,000 Okinawan residents voiced their rejection of such a plan in a massive rally. A similar rally was also held in Tokunoshima with 60 percent of the residents participating. They are rejecting such a government plan.

The government announcement of the plan, which was in complete disregard of prefectural and local residents, is seen by most residents as an attempt to impose the government will on them. Mayor IHA Yoichi of Ginowan City has rightly said, “The government is caring the United States instead of Okinawa.”

Everyone remembers the fact that during the last House of Representatives general election campaign, Prime Minister Hatoyama repeatedly said that the U.S. Futenma base should be moved out of the country, or at least out of Okinawa. However, what the government is trying to do now is in clear violation of his election promise.

The reason given by the government for proposing for relocating Futenma base functions within Okinawa and within Japan is that the presence of U.S. Marines are necessary as deterrents. But it is too clear from facts that such reasoning is not convincing. Prime Minister Hatoyama reportedly said that it is difficult to move U.S. Marine Corps out of the country because they are essential as deterrents. However, U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa were deployed over again to warzones outside of Japan in the 2001 aggression in Afghanistan and in the 2003 Iraq war. They were not stationed in Okinawa for many months. This makes us believe that the U.S. Marine Corps are playing their role exclusively as “strike forces” for warzones. Their deployment in Okinawa has nothing to do with “deterrence” associated with the defense of the security of Okinawa and Japan. In the present world situation in the aftermath of the Cold War, residents of Okinawa are questioning why 18 percent of land area in Okinawa’s main island has to be occupied by U.S. forces. The question remains unanswered by the government.

The final report on the agreement reached between Japan and the United Statee at their bilateral “Special Action Committee on Okinawa” made clear that the closure of the U.S. Futenma base would be carried out on condition that the functions and capabilities of the Futenma base be maintained by constructing a new air base on a reclaimed land off U.S. Camp Schwab, also in Okinawa.

This means that if the Japanese government is true to the prime minister’s election promise that Futenma should be moved out of the country, or at least out of Okinawa, it must negotiate an unconditional removal of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station with the U.S. government.

In the light of the prime minister’s promise to relocate the Futenma base out of the country or at least out of Okinawa during the general election campaign, his present action only ridicules the public that has sovereign power and calls into question his quality as a politician.

Residents of Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures are firm against the proposed relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps base functions. Various opinion polls show that their rejection is supported by a majority of the Japanese people. In other words, the consensus of the Japanese people, who have sovereign power, is that the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station should be removed without condition.

The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) demands that the government, in line with the general will of the Japanese people, immediately stop considering the government plan and begin negotiating with the U.S. government the return of the Futenma base site to Japan.

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