International Scholars, Journalists, Peace Advocates, and Artists, Demand End to Construction of the New Marine Base in Okinawa

By Okinawa Interest Group, January 6, 2023

To President Joe Biden and the citizens of the United States

To Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and the citizens of Japan

One decade ago, 103 international scholars, journalists, artists and peace advocates, including linguist Noam Chomsky and former U.S. Army colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, issued a statement opposing the construction of yet another U.S. Marine Corps base on the Cape of Henoko in the northern part of Okinawa Island. Yet even now, the U.S. and Japanese governments persist with this costly landfill project in the face of opposition by the majority of Okinawans, recklessly damaging the irreplaceable ecosystem. Unfortunately, the Henoko side of the construction, which accounts for about one fourth of the total area to be reclaimed, is almost complete. Now they are about to launch reclamation on the north, the deep and preciously diverse Oura Bay.

Plans to build the base at Henoko have been on the drawing board since the 1960s. They were revitalized in a 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement (SACO) as a “replacement facility” for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma situated dangerously in the middle of congested Ginowan City. More than a quarter of a century later, the two governments have not yet returned the land occupied by the Futenma base to the people to whom it belongs, and there have even been reports that the U.S. aims to maintain both bases after the new base is built.

We, the signatories of this petition, who advocate for Okinawa’s right to self-determination, democracy, and autonomy, hereby renew our support for the Okinawan people who reject further militarization of Okinawa, a de facto military colony of the United States and Japan ever since the end of World War II.

Okinawa, previously the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, was forcibly annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1879 after three centuries of domination by feudal Japan. The people of the Ryukyu chain of islands were forcefully assimilated into Japan, deprived of their languages, their names, their traditions, and their dignity as sovereign and autonomous peoples, much like many indigenous peoples around the world who were colonized by Western imperial powers.

Toward the end of the Asia-Pacific War, Japan used Okinawa as a “sacrificial pawn,” keeping the battle there in an effort to protect the “emperor’s land,” and mobilized the entire population of the islands. The war between Japan and the United States killed over 120,000 Okinawan people, which was more than one-fourth of the population. The U.S. military then took control of the islands as a spoil of the war, and almost eight decades later it still occupies Okinawan land, air and sea, causing enormous human rights violations including rape and murder, deadly aircraft and vehicle accidents, and environmental degradations such as PFAS contamination of water.

On 20 December 2023, the High Court of Fukuoka, Naha Branch ordered Okinawa Prefecture to approve the change in the government’s construction method in order to deal with the “mayonnaise-like” soft ocean bed that would require costly, protracted, and “impossible” (according to experts) ground reinforcement to enable reclamation of the Oura Bay part of the new base. Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who won the 2018 and 2022 gubernatorial elections on a platform of opposition to the Henoko base, rejected the court order on 25 December, and submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court on 27 December.

On 28 December, the Japanese government approved the plan alteration on behalf of Okinawa Prefecture, in an extraordinary, FIRST EVER exercise of the “execution by proxy” (daishikkō) under the Local Autonomy Law that was revised in 1999.

In a word, the court has effectively allowed the state to take the law into its own hands and trample on the right to autonomy of the local government. The Japanese government is expected to start reclamation work on Oura Bay on 12 January 2024.

An Okinawa Times editorial on 28 December argued:

Execution by proxy under the Local Autonomy Law is unprecedented anywhere in Japan. Under the pretext of “eliminating the danger of the Futenma Air Station as soon as possible,” the Japanese government has resorted to strong-arm tactics that infringe on local autonomy.

The Ryukyu Shimpo, another Okinawan newspaper, asked in its 27 December editorial:

Would people in other prefectures approve of such a situation befalling their own communities? … are they indifferent because they think that this unprecedented ruling against Okinawa [execution by proxy] couldn’t possibly happen elsewhere?

It is colonial indifference. The rest of Japan does not care, and the vast majority of U.S. citizens are unaware of what their government is doing in Okinawa.

President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida, and citizens of the United States and Japan, we must end the discrimination and military colonization of Okinawa. The first step is to cancel the construction of the new base in Henoko, on Oura Bay, which is expected to cost over 6.5 billion U.S. dollars and take more than 10 years to complete.

It is high time that we do the right thing.

 

1 Mariko Abe Chief, Conservation and Education division, The Nature Conservation Society of Japan Japan
2 Amy Antonucci Small Farmer & Activist USA
3 Ellen Barfield Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, War Resisters League USA
4 Walden Bello Co-Chair of the Board, Focus on the Global South Philippines/

Thailand

5 Max Blumenthal The Grayzone USA
6 Jacqueline Cabasso Executive Director/Western States Legal Foundation USA
7 Helen Caldicott Founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, 1985 Nobel Peace Prize Australia
8 Marilyn Carlisle Peace Action USA
9 Sunghee Choi Gangjeong peace activist South Korea
10 Rachel Clark Associate Member / Veterans For Peace / Interpreter, Global Coordinator USA
11 Gerry Condon Board of Directors / Veterans For Peace USA
12 Marie Cruz Soto Historian of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and of the U.S. Puerto Rico/USA
13 Ludo De Brabander Vrede vzw – Spokesperson Belgium
14 Ariel Dorfman Author USA
15 Alexis Dudden Professor of History / University of Connecticut USA
16 Mark Ealey Translator New Zealand
17 Pat Elder Military Poisons USA
18 Joseph Essertier Coordinator, Japan for a World BEYOND War Japan
19 Corazon Fabros Co-President, International Peace Bureau Philippines
20 Thomas Fazi Journalist and writer Italy
21 John Feffer Director, Foreign Policy In Focus USA
22 Norma Field Professor Emerita, East Asian Languages & Civilizations, University of Chicago USA
23 Margaret Flowers Director, Popular Resistance USA
24 Takashi Fujitani Professor, University of Toronto Canada
25 Bruce Gagnon Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space USA
26 Joseph Gerson President, Campaign for Peace, Disarmament & Common Security USA
27 Aaron Good Political Scientist, Historian USA
28 David Hartsough San Francisco Friends Meeting USA
29 Chris Hedges Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author USA
30 Laura Hein Professor of History Northwestern University USA
31 Martha Hennessy Catholic Worker USA
32 Miho Hiki Early Childhood Educator Japan
33 Yunshin HONG Okinawa University / Assistant Professor Japan
34 Peter Hulm Deputy Editor, Global Insights Switzerland
35 Masamichi (Marro) Inoue Professor, University of Kentucky USA
36 Akemi Johnson Writer USA
37 Erin Jones Translator / Independent researcher USA
38 John Junkerman Documentary filmmaker Japan
39 Mariko Kage Lillooet Friendship Centre Canada
40 Kyle Kajihiro Assistant Professor, University of Hawai’i at Manoa Hawaii
41 Kristine Karch Int’l No to NATO Germany
42 Rosemary Kean Massachusetts Peace Action Racial Justice Working Group USA
43 Claudia Junghyun Kim City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
44 Yeonghwan Kim The Center for Historical Truth and Justice South Korea
45 Ulla Klötzer Women for Peace – Finland Finland
46 Joy Kogawa Writer Canada
47 Ryuko Kubota University of British Columbia Canada
48 Jeremy Kuzmarov Managing editor, CovertAction Magazine USA
49 Peter Kuznick Professor of History, American University USA
50 Heok-Tae Kwon Sungkonghoe University Korea
51 Judith Lang Scientific Advisor / Aid-Team USA
52 Donald Lathrop Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice USA
53 Nydia Leaf Retired Educator USA
54 Andrea LeBlanc September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows USA
55 Steven Leeper Peace Culture Village Japan
56 Jon Letman Independent journalist USA
57 Madeleine Lewis Artist USA
58 Charles Douglas Lummis Professor, Tsuda College (retired); Coordinator, Veterans For Peace – Ryukyu/Okinawa Chapter Kokusai (VFP-ROCK) Japan
59 Catherine Lutz Brown University USA
60 Kyo Maclear Writer and Instructor Canada
61 Kathie Malley-Morrison Professor Emerita Boston University, member Mass Peace Action USA
62 Kazumi Marthiensen Artist Canada
63 Abby Martin Journalist, The Empire Files USA
64 Kevin Martin President, Peace Action USA
65 Wendy Matsumura Associate Professor/University of California, San Diego USA
66 Gavan McCormack Emeritus Professor, Australian National University Australia
67 Mairead Maguire Nobel peace laureate, Co-founder of Peace People Ireland Northern Ireland
68 Nikki Meith Zoologist, conservationist, environmental writer, editor, designer Switzerland
69 Martin Melkonian Professor of Economics USA
70 Susan Mirsky Newton Dialogues on Peace and War USA
71 Yuki Miyamoto Professor, DePaul University USA
72 Haruko Moritaki Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA) Japan
73 Tessa Morris-Suzuki Professor Emerita, Australian National University Australia
74 Katherine Muzik Marine biologist, author USA
75 Christopher Nelson University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill USA
76 KJ Noh Pivot to Peace USA
77 Richard Ochs Board member / Maryland Peace Action USA
78 Midori Ogasawara Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria Canada
79 Satoko Oka Norimatsu Director, Peace Philosophy Centre Canada/Japan
80 Natsu Onoda Power Georgetown University USA
81 Akino Oshiro University of Erlangen-Nuremberg South Korea
82 Shoko Oshiro Lecturer Okinawa
83 Hideko Otake Coordinator, Stand with Okinawa NY USA
84 Shinako Oyakawa ACSILs (The Association of Comprehensive Studies for Independence of the Lew Chewans) Ryukyu
85 Noriko Oyama Okinawa Peace Appeal, VFP Rock USA
86 Rosemarie Pace Pax Christi USA
87 Koohan Paik-Mander Writer USA
88 Tony Palomba Steering Committee, Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment USA
89 Thea Paneth Arlington United for Justice with Peace (MA) USA
90 Matthew Penney Associate Professor Canada
91 Margaret Power Co-Chair, Historians for Peace and Democracy USA
92 John Price Research Associate, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria Canada
93 Mazin Qumsiyeh Professor and Director, Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability Palestine
94 Steve Rabson Brown University USA
95 John Raby Co-chair, Peace Action Maine USA
96 William Ramsey Writer USA
97 Wyatt Reed Managing Editor, The Grayzone USA
98 Jon Reinsch Writer USA
99 Dennis Riches Professor, Seijo University Japan
100 Jun Sasamoto Lawyer Japan
101 Susan Schnall President, Veterans For Peace Board of Directors USA
102 Mark Selden Cornell University USA
103 Tim Shorrock Independent journalist USA
104 Stephen Slaner Support Massachusetts Peace Action USA
105 Steven Starr University of Missouri, Assistant Clinical Professor USA
106 Vicky Steinitz Retired faculty, UMass Boston USA
107 Oliver Stone Filmmaker USA
108 Doug Strable Learning Technologist Japan
109 David Swanson Executive Director, World BEYOND War USA
110 Hiroko Takahashi Professor of History, Nara University Japan
111 Roy Tamashiro Professor Emeritus, Webster University USA
112 Yuki Tanaka Historian Australia
113 Kaia Vereide Inter-Island Solidarity for Peace of the Sea Jeju Committee South Korea / USA
114 Paki Wieland CODEPINK USA
115 Charmaine Willis Visiting Assistant Professor, Skidmore College USA
116 Lawrence Wittner Professor of History Emeritus, State University of New York/Albany USA
117 Ellen Woodsworth Co President WILPF Canada / Speaker and intersectional consultant on cities/ Matriarch Women Transforming Cities International SocietyFormer Vancouver City Councilor Canada
118 Ann Wright Retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat / Veterans For Peace USA
119 Sho Yamagushiku Writer Canada
120 Lisa Yoneyama University of Toronto Canada
121 Hideki Yoshikawa Director, Okinawa Environmental Justice Project Japan
122 Ayaka Yoshimizu Assistant Professor of Teaching, The University of British Columbia Canada
123 Geoffrey Young Candidate for US House of Reps. USA

The complete list of over 400 signatories as of January 5, 2024 (15:37 PST) is here.

3 Responses

  1. its not enough to stop this base being constructed-close all the bases in japan and throughout the world-end this madness-this ever growing threat to all of humanity-tell biden-tell congress-close all bases-start seeking peace-real peace not that of some victor imposing their views on others–arent we sick of all this colonialism-this empire that takes our freedoms away-what empire values freedom???and brings suffering/death to millions-so a few make$$$$$-arent we tired of listening to the same lies by the same people-what has it gotten us???war begets more war-end this madness now

  2. Japan should not allow itself to be drawn into the foolish misguided militarism of the US and should not set itself up as a target with more US military bases.

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