Links

Friday, December 31, 2010

Global Article 9: Ecuador's Peace Constitution paves the way to historic defense of nature's rights

Via Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War Newsletter #35 on December 30, 2010:
Ecuador's Peace Constitution paves the way to historic defense of nature's rights

Two years after Ecuador adopted its new peace Constitution - the first to ever grant and legislate rights to nature - a group of defenders of the environment are invoking it to file a groundbreaking lawsuit against British Petroleum (BP).

Article 71 of the Ecuadorean constitution reads: "Nature or Pachamama [mother earth], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies."

Using this unique clause, the plaintiffs accuse BP of having violated the rights of Nature by causing massive environmental damage, in particular in the context of the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit was filed by Defenders of Nature's Rights - a coalition of environmentalists and indigenous leaders from India, Nigeria, Ecuador and Mexico in Ecuador's Constitutional Court by citing its Article 71 and invoking universal jurisdiction.

Traditionally used to prosecute human rights violations committed by nationals or foreigners in any part of the world, universal jurisdiction will for the first time be invoked to protect nature's rights as granted by Ecuador's constitution.

"We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador, which is why it's about universal jurisdiction, beyond the boundaries of Ecuador, because nature has rights everywhere, " says Indian scientist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva.

"Ecuador, by putting the rights of nature [in their constitution], created history, and now there's legal ground to file these cases rather than letting those lines in the Ecuadorian constitution lie inert," she added.

According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Diana Murcia, "one of [the Defenders of Nature's Rights'] goals is to introduce Nature in the international debate as a rights-bearing entity."

"It is important we understand there's only one [mother earth (...) and that is why we have to join forces, to make the great changes that we want and make a new civilization (... ) that reclaims life itself, that reclaims collective responsibility, and that reclaims a new way of life in harmony with nature," stated Alberto Acosta, ex-president of the Constitutional Assembly in Ecuador.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jeju Island: Silent protest against construction of the planned naval base



(The signs read "No naval base on the Island of Peace")


From Sung-Hee Choi, "Silent protest against the naval base in front of the Island Assembly":
On Dec. 30, about 35 Gangjeong villagers and 20 civic organization members held a silent protest against the planned naval base in front of the Island Assembly for several hours in cold and snowy weather.

Kang Dong Kyun, mayor of Gangjeong village, explained the reason for the silent protest: "Even though we, the civic organizations against the naval base and Gangjeong villagers, have demanded that the Jeju Island government and Jeju Island Assembly to settle the naval base issue, the administrative and Island assembly have trampled down our voices under the name of the ‘Big administrative execution,” and “we decided to urge the Island Assembly speak for us on behalf of villagers.”
Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Greenpeace: Tokyo finally takes action on whaling; please support Junichi Sato & Toru Suzuki

The overseas media has long used whaling to paint a negative stereotype of Japan, despite the fact that most Japanese people do not support whaling or eat whale meat. The modern whaling industry is not indigenous to Japan, but, instead, was introduced by the U.S. Occupation under MacArthur. This sham industry exists for the economic benefit of a few corrupt men with ties to organized crime. It survives only by government subsidies. The industry will die when Tokyo stops financially enabling these men to kill whales.

Last week's good news from Greenpeace which asks for your support to to bring justice to two brave Japanese Greenpeace members now unfairly imprisoned for exposing some of the corruption involved:
Japan finally starts taking action against their corrupt whaling industry

Feature story - December 23, 2010

TOYKO: After two and a half years of hard work in Japan to expose corruption at the heart of the whaling industry - we have a significant victory!

The Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has admitted that their officials have received free whale meat from the company contracted to perform the whaling. They conceded that this “kickback” was against their ethics code, apologised to the Japanese public and announced plans to take disciplinary action against five officials.

Such is the level of shame that one official even appeared on Japanese TV yesterday - bowing in front of the cameras before issuing a public apology.

The whale meat scandal



In 2008, Greenpeace activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki (known as the "Tokyo Two"), exposed a scandal involving embezzlement entrenched within the taxpayer-funded whaling programme - a ‘scientific’ programme responsible for slaughtering hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary every year. Following tip-offs from whistleblowers within the whaling programme and months of careful research, Junichi and Toru intercepted and handed to the authorities a box containing prime whale meat cuts. The contents of the box, which had been labelled “cardboard”, proved that whale meat was being embezzled by members of the whaling fleet. Greenpeace Japan also exposed evidence that FAJ officials were involved in this process.

A dying industry

There is little support for Antarctic whaling in Japan and what remains is being swiftly eroded by the broad, international media attention to Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling programme. Opinion polls show that the majority of Japanese people don´t support whaling in the Southern Ocean and nearly 87 percent are unaware that their taxes subsidise the hunt.

One of the keys to ending Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is revealing the ongoing scandal and international shame that it brings to a largely unaware Japanese public. The work of Junichi and Toru and the huge personal price they have paid in terms of loss of liberty, stress related to their trial and wrongful conviction all in the name of the public interest and the protection of whales - is doing just that.

This news represents a major step forward for our campaign to end whaling in the Southern Ocean. The FAJ has been under intense pressure thanks to over half a million supporters who stood side by side with Junichi and Toru throughout their trial - demanding an end to their prosecution and a thorough investigation into the embezzlement case. And, our whales campaigners all over the world have ensured that this issue has come under close public scrutiny on an international scale.

Truth and justice still needed

We welcome the FAJ's decision to take disciplinary action, but, they are only punishing 5 officials while the institutionalised corruption in the whaling programme is much bigger than that. We’re demanding a third-party investigation into the whale meat scandal to reveal the whole truth.

Greenpeace Japan has been successful in cutting the demand for whale meat in the Japanese market by working with supermarkets and retailers. This has affected the financial health of the whaling programme already, but now the recognition of the corruption in the whaling programme by the FAJ will further damage the credibility of the programme.

“Now is the time for Japanese taxpayers to demand their government stop the tax-funded whaling programme completely," said Junichi Sato, one of the defendants of Tokyo Two trial, and now Executive and Programme Director of Greenpeace Japan.

The Tokyo Two trial

In 2008, the Tokyo District Prosecutor began an investigation into Junichi and Toru’s findings which included the embezzlement of whale meat but closed this investigation the same day that Junichi and Toru were arrested. The two were held for 26 days, 23 of them without charge - often tied to chairs while they were interrogated without a lawyer present. They went through a lengthy trial where the censoring of public information and Japan's adherence to international law also came under the spotlight. Their trial also raised concerns over freedom of speech and the right of individual protest. In September this year they were wrongly convicted and given a one year jail sentence - suspended for three years.

The Tokyo Two have appealed against their conviction and are awaiting a High Court hearing date. It is hard to believe that the admission of wrongdoing made by the FAJ would not have an impact on their appeal.
Read links, see photos and take action here to write to Japan's Foreign Minister to support Junichi and Toru's conviction appeal.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christine Ahn: "Resolving the Face-Off in Korea"

Another humane analysis, "Resolving the Face-Off in Korea" from Christine Ahn at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Like the Korean churches, Ahn compares the havoc resulting from the reckless brinksmanship played by world leaders to the violent trauma of the Korean War. Who's paying the price: innocent, ordinary civilians throughout the Korean peninsula, especially elder survivors of the war that has never ended:
On Monday, the Korean peninsula averted a cataclysmic showdown that could have escalated into full-blown war. The United Nations Security Council wasn’t able to conclude a statement that would defuse tensions, with countries lining up along Cold War divisions.

Seconds before I appeared on Al-Jazeera International Sunday night, the producer informed me that South Korea, despite pleas from both Russia and China to cancel the live fire artillery drills, had in fact started the exercises. Having been to North Korea several times, and knowing how their worldview centers on the right to defend their sovereignty, I feared the worst.

But by the time I returned home, the South Korean military drills were over. It lasted 94 minutes. North Korea, which had promised to retaliate with even more force than the November 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong island, decided that the South’s aggression was “not worth reacting” to...

An important Bloomberg story about the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which received very little play in the media, is key to understanding the root cause of the current crisis over the disputed waters in the West Sea. This area has been the site of multiple deadly naval clashes, which occurred in 1999, 2002, 2009, last March and November. The cycle of violence nearly ended on October 4, 2007 when then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il pledged to hold talks to "discuss ways of designating a joint fishing area in the West Sea to avoid accidental clashes and turning it into a peace area." According to Henry Em, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at New York University, “The 2007 agreement was thrown out as part of the new government's strategy of getting tough with North Korea… [which] has been met with North Korea's get-tough policy toward South Korea, with tragic and dangerous consequences...”

Since it's unlikely that Lee Myung Bak will revive the 2007 agreement between North and South Korea, veteran Korea expert Selig Harrison proposed a solution in a New York Times op-ed last week: “The solution could be quite straightforward: the United States should redraw the disputed sea boundary, called the Northern Limit Line, moving it slightly to the south.” It’s that easy. And Harrison asserts that this is possible because “President Obama has the authority to redraw the line” as the United States is still the head of the United Nations Command for Korea. After consulting with Seoul and Pyongyang, the United States should get to work to not only redraw the line but also seriously move toward peace talks. This could be the first priority of the trilateral commission, if it were established.

As I remained fixed to my computer watching for developments and following Twitter feeds over the weekend, I couldn't help but feel both anxious and enraged. This ongoing game of brinkmanship played by our world leaders could have had horrific consequences. As I watched footage of elderly Koreans forced out of their homes and into bunkers, I imagined how traumatic it must have been, especially for the survivors of the Korean War.

Tragically, Koreans on the peninsula and in the diaspora must not only live with the painful memories of the Korean War, which claimed millions of lives and separated millions of families. We must also live with the hard truth that the Korean War is still not over 60 years later and the country remains divided. And all for what purpose and whose objectives? Certainly not for the security of the lives of ordinary Koreans, north and south.

Tim Beal: "Korean Brinksmanship, American Provocation, & the Road to War: the manufacturing of a crisis"

For an accurate and in-depth report and analysis of ongoing military provocation in the Korean peninsula, see "Korean Brinkmanship, American Provocation, and the Road to War: the manufacturing of a crisis" by Tim Beal published at The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Korean churches challenge S. Korea, the U.S. & Japan to end provocative war games; urge prayers for peace

(In recent months, the United States and South Korea have conducted several massive joint sea and air war games in the waters east of the Korean peninsula.

Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo have ushered in the Christmas Season in the Asia-Pacific with massive war games. On top of this, the South Korean government erected a Christmas tree on the border of North Korea as a provocation instead of a symbol of festivity.

In counterpoint, Korean churches have been calling for prayers for peace:
Korea churches urge prayers for peace
CWMission.org/news
2 Dec 2010
Church leaders in Korea have put out a call to prayer in the wake of military violence which they have branded "all too reminiscent" of the pain inflicted by the Korean war more than 50 years ago.

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) said it deplored the North Korean military for targeting the civilian community of Yeonpyeong Island and challenged government chiefs in South Korea, Japan and the USA for "provoking" North Korea with joint naval exercises off the coast and "war games" on the Peninsula.

"Yet again, only months after the sinking of a South Korean warship, Cheonan, the fragile peace along the dividing line between the two Koreas has been broken," NCCK general secretary Rev Kim Young Ju said in a statement.

"The fighting and the mass exodus of residents from the island that is home to a fishing community and military bases is all too reminiscent of the Korean War that inflicted pain on the Korean people that none can forget. The National Council of Churches in Korea mourns with the surviving victims and the families of those whose lives were so senselessly taken.

"It deplores the North Korean military for using powerful weapons against the civilian community in the most serious incident since the signing of the Armistice in 1953. Yet again the Peninsula and its people are gripped by the fear of an escalation of ideologically-inspired violence."

The NCCK has been part of a global ecumenical fellowship working towards building bridges with North Korea and establishing regular, productive contact with the Korean Christians Federation (KCF) in the North. It has shared common prayers for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula with the global fellowship of Christian churches through the World Council of Churches.

On 15 August this year, the NCCK, the KCF and churches in other parts of the world simultaneously prayed for peace and the reunification of Korea. Now it is calling for Christians worldwide to pray for a peaceful end to the military conflict that threatens to jeopardise church peace-building efforts.

Mr Kim said: "As we have so often repeated in the past, these exercises of political and military brinksmanship serve no purpose other than to escalate tensions in Korea and to threaten the peace in the whole Northeast Asian region. The presence of a great number of nuclear weapons on land and on the surrounding seas makes Korea a tinderbox that threatens the peace of the whole world.

"We therefore call on the ecumenical family to pray for peace in our land and to urge all governments to exercise caution, to refrain from further inflaming the political atmosphere and to exercise the maximum restraint so that reason and diplomacy can prevail over narrow self-serving military, strategic or political interests. The fundamental interests of the people must prevail: mutual respect and peace with justice for all.

"We also appeal to all nations to reject any attempt to cheapen life by treating Korea as a pawn in diplomatic gamesmanship, while ignoring the welfare of the people."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse Without Borders & Candle Night in Japan


From the Astronomers Without Borders website, links to live webcasts of the Dec. 21 lunar eclipse around the world. This special eclipse is the first to fall on the Winter Solstice in 456 years.

Via this great astronomy blog from the Philippines, the sky above.

People throughout North America will be able to view the entire eclipse, while people in Europe will be able to glimpse the beginning and people in Japan will be catching the ending.

The winter solstice occurs exactly at the time the Earth’s axial tilt is furthest from the sun. Though the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, the term is also a turning point. Depending on the calendar, the winter solstice occurs on Dec. 21 or 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the shortest day, and longest night of the year.

Traditional cultures see the Winter Solstice as a time of endings, renewal and beginnings. A celebration of light and life.



In Japan,check out Candle Night, a slow-life, solstice celebration group.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"NO, YOU KANT" — Okinawans affirm their democratic choice during Japanese Prime Minister Kan's visit

Okinawans repeat the same message they've been communicating for sixteen years to Tokyo. (Photo: NHK)

Okinawans loudly affirmed their democratic choice against another U.S. military base on their small island during Japanese Prime Minister Kan's visit, pounding on empty cans, holding signs: "No, You Kant!" and "No New Base!"

This video report from the Okinawa Times demonstrates the power and resilence energizing Okinawan expression of their democratic choice. Okinawans have repeatedly said "No" to Tokyo and Washington which want to build a new mega-base in Henoko, an environmentally sensitive and biodiverse area (home of the critically endangered Okinawan dugong) in north-central Okinawa.

Locals in Henoko have engaged in a 24/7 sit-in demonstrating against the proposed mega-base since 1996. In the past decade, global environmentalists have joined in the fight against the environmentally destructive base. In a historic turn of unanimity of opposition against another U.S. military base, throughout 2010 Okinawans have been nonviolently and massively demonstrating against the construction of the U.S. mega-base.


More from Satoko Norimatsu (who is in Okinawa now for a forum, "Where is Okinawa Going?" being held at the University of Okinawa) at the Peace Philosophy Centre website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cornel West: "The essential thing is that we make love absolutely real."

(Cornel West's memoir: Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud)

Engaged scholar Cornel West on Twitter:
The essential thing is that we make love absolutely real. Love on our young people. They are our future!
More from earlier posts
#CollegeTaughtMe: Paideia - "deep education" -- learning how to die to live more intensely, critically, and abundantly. 3:08 PM Dec 14th via HootSuite

#CollegeTaughtMe: The aim of education should be to get people to shift from the surface to something substantive. 3:06 PM Dec 14th via HootSuite

#CollegeTaughtMe: You can have all the schooling in the world but if you're still on the surface you're not really educated...

Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats dominate our political, economic and cultural systems. 1:52 PM Dec 10th via HootSuite

And we have powerful, and often greedy, Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats. 1:52 PM Dec 10th via HootSuite...

“Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.” -- Toni Morrison...

#LOVE can change the world 1:35 PM Dec 8th via HootSuite
More powerful words from Cornel West at his website and in this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about his memoir:
I just wanted to lay bare the truth of love in my life, the ways in which I’ve tried to bear witness to love, truth, justice...

And most importantly, for me, right now, I think we need stories of inspiration. These are very depressing times, very bleak times. Even the age of Obama looks like we’ve got profound disappointment. How do we try to galvanize our spirits and our minds and our hearts and souls?

...I am a bluesman in the life of the mind; I’m a jazzman in the world of ideas, which means I’ve got to forge my unique voice, tied to my vocation with a vision, and a unique style. And it’s a voice and style that doesn’t fit well within highly professionalized and specialized contexts.

A blues person is always one who keeps his funky and resists all forms of sterilization, sanitation and deodorizing of funky reality. And by sanitation, I don’t mean I’m against keeping things clean, but I don’t like those discourses that are so clean that they don’t allow the funk, like the squeegee men in New York, like the marginalized, like our gay brothers and lesbian sisters who are often dishonored and dehumanized even by some on the left, or forgetting of indigenous people.

I have a whole section here talking about I will never forget about my dear indigenous brothers and sisters, whose suffering is rendered invisible, and oftentimes, like the Zapatistas, they got to put on a mask in order to be seen at that level of invisibility, you see. That’s what a blues man’s about, telling the truth with a smile on his or her face. That’s Bessie. That’s Ma Rainey.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gavan McCormack: "The World Turned Upside Down in East Asia and the Pacific"

Via Peace Philosophy Centre, Gavan McCormack's latest on Okinawa. McCormack describes Okinawa's stable, resilient, participatory democratic society as a beacon of reason and hope in East Asia—now unhinged by unstable political leadership in Japan and the Korean peninsula. War games with the U.S., aimed to intimidate China and provoke North Korea, has transformed the regional stability of fifty years into geopolitical volatility. McCormack concludes that for the region to avoid war, Okinawan spirit must spread to its neighbors:
The World Turned Upside Down in East Asia and the Pacific

By Gavan McCormack

As 2010 moves towards its end, it is impossible to refrain from thinking: how the world can change in a short span! A wave of militarism and chauvinism seems to be washing over East Asia, and the year ends with massive military exercises (war games) around the Korean peninsula and in the Sea of Japan. Watching these events, it is hard to remember the hope that filled the air just a few short years ago.

It is just three years since North and South Korean leaders met and signed an agreement to cooperate and work out a path to peaceful unification of their divided peninsula, and specifically to turn the contested West Sea area into a zone of peace and cooperation; two years since Barack Obama came to office in the United States promising a better world, progress toward nuclear disarmament, an end to war, dialogue with all “enemies,” and just over one year since Hatoyama Yukio became Prime Minister of Japan, also promising change, offering the vision of an East Asian Community, equi-distant diplomacy with China and the United States, and meeting amicably with the leader of China to propose turning the South China Sea into a “Sea of Fraternité” (Yuai no umi).

A new government in Korea in 2008 quickly swept aside the South-North Agreements, and new governments in the US and Japan in 2009 also turned away from the peaceful change they had promised. Obama continued, and intensified the two wars he inherited (while engaging in pressures and threats that suggested the possibility of a third and even a fourth, in Iran and North Korea), and continued with illegal detentions and assassinations; and Japan declared the US alliance its core, moving simultaneously towards participation in collective war-rehearsing exercises that are plainly unconstitutional, pressing for construction of a new base for the Marines in Henoko, and reinforcing the SDF military presence on the outlying islands.

Three major events punctuated the year about to end. In March, the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank in waters of the West Sea, with loss of 46 sailors. A South Korea-led international investigation team blamed North Korea for a deliberate and unprovoked attack. The investigation report was later shown to be full of holes and contradictions, but the US and its allied governments and the international media endorsed it and dismissed North Korean protest. On 7 September, a Chinese fishing trawler collided with a Japanese Coastguard vessel in the contested waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and again the US-led global coalition (and its media), without hesitation or qualification, blamed China for belligerence. Yet, by arresting the ship’s captain the Government of Japan was unilaterally abrogating the 1978 agreement with China’s Deng Xiaoping to shelve the dispute for a future generation, and by insisting there was no question of Japan’s incontestable sovereignty, it was insulting both China and Taiwan who also claimed sovereignty. Then, on 23 November, a North Korean artillery barrage killed four people on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island and again South Korea, together with the US and Japan, blamed North Korea for “unprovoked aggression.” Yet this was the third day of huge South Korean war games (70,000 soldiers, 500 warplanes, 90 helicopters, 50 warships) conducted just a few kilometres off North Korean shores, in which they had fired over 3,000 rounds of artillery into surrounding, contested waters and ignored North Korean protests before North Korea retaliated. Shortly after the exchange of fire, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington sailed into the Yellow Sea, to continue exercises that plainly were designed to step up the intimidation of North Korea, and provoke China as well by entering uninvited into the Yellow Sea.

A week later, the US and Japan chose to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ampo by the largest war games they had ever conducted (44,000 soldiers, 40 warplanes, 60 warships, with again the George Washington in pride of place), rehearsing anti-missile warfare and the ‘re-capture” of islands taken by an “enemy. The latter were plainly predicated on a Chinese attack on either Senkaku/Diaoyu or an outlying Okinawan island.

As North Korea bashing and China intimidation escalated, North Korea’s overtures for negotiations in which it would trade its nuclear programs for guarantees of security and a peace treaty to end the 57-year long frozen standoff, were contemptuously dismissed. The US, Japan, and South Korea met the North Korean and Chinese call for negotiations with stepped-up military pressure. Hostility, fear, and hyper-nationalism (or what I call in the Japanese case zokkoku nationalism) spread. Military alliances were reconfirmed and reinforced, as on the eve of all recent wars. It is common for Japanese leaders to refer to the US as the stabilizer, the supplier of the oxygen of security, the bulwark of democracy and human rights, and to blame (in this region) China and North Korea for aggressive and destabilizing behaviour. Recent events in particular make clear that that is false and tendentious.

In this darkening climate of rising militarism and unreason, Okinawa constituted a tiny beacon of hope and resistance. From the Nago City mayoral election of January to the prefectural Governor election of November, the Okinawan people intervened decisively to insist on the constitutional principles of the sovereignty of the people (shuken zai min) and the centrality of peace.

Okinawa showed the power of citizen-led democracy and commitment to constitutional principle, and in the gathering gloom of irrational chauvinism pointed towards a better future, predicated on overcoming its position as “Keystone of the Pacific” for US military planners. Either that Okinawan spirit spreads to Okinawa’s neighbours, or else Okinawa will find itself once again engulfed in militarism and the catastrophe of war.
The Japanese version of this article was published at the Okinawan newspaper, the Ryukyu Shimpo on December 14.

Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of "The Asia-Pacific Journal", and author of many previous texts on Okinawa-related matters. His Client State: Japan in the American Embrace was published in English (New York: Verso) in 2007 and in expanded and revised Japanese, Korean, and Chinese versions in 2008.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Where is Okinawa Going?" Forum at Okinawa University on Dec. 19, 2010


This forum will present and discuss Okinawan perspectives on the current situations surrounding the southernmost islands of Japan, amid the ongoing controversy over "Futenma relocation" issue, from three aspects:

1) environment and biodiversity, after the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP10) in Nagoya;

2) regional geopolitics in the wake of the Japan-China conflict over the ship collision near Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands ;

3) Okinawa-Japan-US relationship and the military base issue after the gubernatorial election.

Time and Date: 10 AM - 5 PM, Sunday, December 19

Location: Classroom 3-101, Okinawa University


*** Co-sponsored by Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and The Institute of Regional Studies, Okinawa University

*** In collaboration with Okinawa Biodiversity Citizens' Network (Okinawa BD) and Peace Philosophy Centre

*** Conference organizers gratefully acknowledge the support received from the Australian Naitonal University.

*** Free admission. The forum will be primarily run in the Japanese language. Translation from and to English can be provided during the Q and A.

*** For inquiries: Okinawa University Regional Studies Institute (Phone 098-832-5599; emai: chiken@okinawa-u.ac.jp )

*** Inquiries in English can be made at: info@peacephilosophy.com

See the English translation of the program at the website of the Peace Philosophy Centre.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Human rights awardees inspire Tokyo audience in emotional ceremony

Kanda Kaori, Kitamura Toshiko, Tairah Firdous, interpreter (Motoyama Hisako, Director of the Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center)

“The one and only way to bring about positive change in the world is through love.”

Journalist and social activist Kitamura Toshiko, one of the honorees at the Woman Human Rights Activities Award (or Yayori Award) ceremony held in Tokyo this past Saturday afternoon, revealed that she was able to arrive at this seemingly simple understanding only after a period of profound soul-searching.

"At one point in my life, I was driven almost exclusively by anger. After reaching a point where my work was no longer sustainable, however, I turned to spiritual pursuits including meditation and yoga. Only then was I able to realize what was missing in my approach."

In her work with numerous social issues, including child abuse, homelessness, youth bullying and suicide, Kitamura has deeply probed corners of society where love is often painfully lacking.

Her selection as this year's Yayori Journalist awardee was in recognition of her tireless commitment to these issues—as well as her recognition of the interconnections therein. In fact, her understanding of the common thread between all forms of discrimination and suffering—and her ability to look past surface-level social categorizations in order to connect with the common humanity that we all share—has often led to uncomfortable moments with others who do not share her vision.


Kitamura Toshiko

"When some members of the women's movement heard that I was working with homeless people in Osaka's Kamagasaki district, they reacted by saying they couldn't understand why I would want to spend that much time with 'a bunch of lewd men'," she said. "Similarly, when I began a correspondence with a youth who was jailed after killing a homeless person—telling him that I believed in him and his capacity to change—I was harshly criticized by some of the other Kamagasaki volunteers as having betrayed the life-affirming work that we were trying to do there.

"In fact, violence is something that we are all capable of. Instead of immediately condemning someone for committing a violent act, then, we must seek to understand what particular constellation of factors caused that person to act in the way that they did," she emphasized to Saturday's attendees—most of whom (including myself) were in tears as her gentle and yet powerful words traveled straight into our heart-centers. "It is only when we calm our rage with love that we are able to have compassion for others and encourage them to change in positive ways."

Also speaking at Saturday's event was documentary filmmaker and human rights activist Tairah Firdous, who grew up in Kashmir amidst constant turmoil as India and Pakistan have continued a decades-long power struggle over the region. She received the Yayori Award in support of her forthcoming documentary, which will focus on Kashmiri survivors of rape and torture.

"The Indian government has declared Kashmir a 'disturbed area', and implemented an Armed Forces Special Powers Act that essentially gives state officials free license to do whatever they feel like," Firdous explained to Saturday's audience. "What this means in terms of actual experience are continuous human rights violations including forced migration, searches without warrants, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, and rape.


Tairah Firdous

"My own work with these issues began when my family was forced to leave our home after my father was arrested and tortured on six different occasions, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the conflict," Firdous told attendees. "Completely innocent peoples' lives are being shattered within this political climate, and so I intend to expose the killings and other unreported human rights violations so that the rest of the world will know what is really happening."

New to the 2010 awards lineup was a special prize given to Kanda Kaori, a kodan (traditional storytelling) performer whose work focuses on issues connected to war and other forms of institutionalized violence.

"After I finished the obligatory three-year period of apprenticeship and was able to start my own career as a professional performer, I went on vacation in Saipan to celebrate," she told Saturday's crowd. "I was completely unprepared, however, for what I saw: a sunken U.S. military ship and other lingering remnants of World War II, which seemed so completely out of place amidst an otherwise idyllic scene of beauty. After I got over my shock, it became clear to me that I must use my craft to communicate the personal suffering unleashed by wars."


Kanda Kaori

Kanda followed her acceptance speech with a brief kodan performance detailing the painful final hours of a Yokohama family after a U.S military jet crashed into their home in September 1977, badly burning their two toddlers, who died several hours later. Again, there were few dry eyes in the room at her emotional interpretation of the tragic event, memorialized in a bronze statue in a Yokohama seaside park titled Ai no boshizou ("An Image of a Mother's Love"). The statue represents the two small boys with their mother, who also died four years later from complications sustained in the crash.


Ai no boshizou ("An Image of a Mother's Love")

"I sometimes feel overwhelmed by pain while preparing my performances, which have focused on horrific issues such as the Hiroshima atomic bombing and the Chernobyl nuclear power accident," Kanda said. "However, I will continue to speak out against war and other injustices, and encourage my protegees to do the same—particularly as Japan continues to follow the United States in its misguided war escapades."

Saturday's event was held at a small chapel located on the same grounds as the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM), an institution founded by the Violence Against Women in War Network (VAWW-Net) that was spearheaded by the late Matsui Yayori (from whom the Yayori Awards have been bequeathed). The museum is presently housing an exhibition commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery that took place in 2000. Following the ceremony, a separate memorial was held in remembrance of the of the so-called "comfort women" who have died before having attained full justice for their suffering.

More information about the Yayori Award program may be read at this previous post. For full profiles of the 2010 (and past year) awardees, see the official website.

Text by Kimberly Hughes
Photos by Ando Makiko

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not a Surprise: Imperial Japan bombed Guam, Manila, Midway, Hong Kong, Thailand, Shanghai, Wake, Singapore, Malaya, & Burma on the same day as Pearl Harbor


Martha Duenas, a California-based Chamorro activist originally from Guam, shared with us something we didn't know...

On December 7/8, 1941 (depending on which side of the International Dateline the location falls), Imperial Japan attacked not only Pearl Harbor, but also Guam, Manila, Midway, Hong Kong, Thailand, Shanghai, Wake, Singapore, Dutch East Indies, Malaya, and Burma.

Two months prior, the U.S. military anticipated and prepared for the attack on Guam:
In October 1941, most of the U.S. military and all the white dependents were evacuated from Guam. The remaining U.S. troops left on the island were given instructions to surrender to the Japanese forces. The Guam Insular Guard was not informed.

The Guam Insular Guard lost 19 Chamorro men fighting the Japanese Imperial Army that landed on our island on the morning of Guam's biggest holiday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating the patron saint of the island, Santa Marian Kamalen.

My main source at hand is from a local Guam publication series, "Hale'Ta: Governing Guam: Before and After the Wars" by the Government of Guam 1994 Political Status Education Coordinating Commission. They produced a curriculum of political status studies for the island schools:
...Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of impending trouble came in late October 1941, when the Americans evacuated their wives and children from Guam. More than 100 dependents of American military personnel and the wives and children of the employees of at least two American-owned companies, Atkins Kroll and Pan American, were moved to Hawai'i and other American ports. No Chamorros were among the evacuees, although a number of local residents sought to leave the island at the time.

...At about 8:15 that morning (December 8, 1941), nine silvery planes flew over Agana....the invading Japanese planes droped bombs at Sumay...

...during the very early morning hours of December 10, some 5,000 battle-hardened Japanese troops seized the island. A special force of about 500....blasted its way into Agana, cutting down everything in sight. At least 30 persons, most of them Chamorros, were killed before the special force reached the heart of Agana....armed only with three antiquated machine guns, a few sidearms and about 95 Springfield rifles of WW1 vintage, the Chamorro Guardsmen fought the invading Japanese Army until their small supply of ammunition ran out.
Another source: Guam: The History of Our Island, by Pedro C. Sanchez (~1987). This is one of the older, more comprehensive histories, though it may be a bit of the colonized mindset:
...in mid-1941, as war talk became more pronounced and as the threatening situation in the Pacific escalated, the US Government ordered the evacuation of all American military dependents from Guam. On October 17, 1941, when the USS Henderson sailed out of Apra Harbor, all American dependents left the island...

While the local Navy establishment took steps to prepare for war with Japan, officials kept the Chamorros totally in the dark about the worsening situation and about precautions being taken by the Navy command.
Historian Hope Cristobal, former Guam senator, adds this from Destiny's Landfall by Robert Rogers, Page 163, Chapter 10 - "The Way of the Samurai 1941 - 1944":
Dawn on Monday, 8 December 1941, on Guam, over 2,300 miles west of the international dateline, came four hours after the sunrise on Sunday, 7 December, at pearl Harbor, about 1,400 miles east of the dateline...
And on page 161, Chapter 9 - "The Quest for Identity 1918 - 1941":
Earlier, on 17 October, the last American military dependents, 104 women and children, departed Guam on the USS Henderson except for one pregnant navy wife, Mrs. J.A. Hellmers. The last issue of the Guam Recorder in November 1941 did not say a word about the threat of war, but the cover showed the Henderson departing full of American families with the word "Aloha" alongside. Many Chamorros, alarmed by the evacuation and by blackout drills, began hoarding food, and some began to move to their lanchos for safety in anticipation of a Japanese attack."
(Martha Duenas manages a listserve on Chamorro issues. Hope Cristobal, featured in Vanessa Warheit's documentary film, The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas.  is a historian, museum director, former Guam Senator, and creator of Guam's Commission on Decolonization. For the past thirty years she has been struggling to reconcile Guam's dependence on the US military with the cultural and political survival of the Chamorro people.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mr. Toyama Sakae, “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, has passed away

The Tent Village “Mayor” Toyama Sakae explains the history of protest at Henoko. Toyama is pointing at the “V-shaped Runway Plan” in the 2006 agreement between Japan and U.S. officially described as a “replacement facility” of Futenma Air Station.

Mr. Toyama Sakae, “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, died on December 5.

We join the rest of the members of the Network for Okinawa in extending heartfelt condolences to all Okinawans, especially the residents of Henoko.

Yumiko Kikuno’s essay, “Henoko, Okinawa: Inside the Sit-In,” published at The Asia-Pacific Journal on Feb. 22, 2010, describing her visit to the small coastal village in northern Okinawa with Satoko Norimatsu, pays tribute to Mr. Toyama and his legacy:
On the rainy and cold Christmas Day of 2009, we got lost several times driving down the winding narrow roads towards Henoko, a small fishing village on the North Eastern shore of Okinawa Island, about a two-hour drive north of the capital, Naha. We were looking for the “Tent Village,” where activists were sitting in to protest against the government’s plan to build a new US Marine Corps airbase as a “replacement facility” of Futenma Air Station. Yes, this issue has been at the centre of the news reports in Japan for the six months since the new coalition government took power, but do we really know what has happened for the last eight years in and around this tent, on and off this coral beach, and in the ocean where endangered marine mammal dugongs come by for feeding? The victory of Inamine Susumu, the anti-base candidate in the January 24 mayoral election of Nago, where Henoko is located, was anticipated but was not known yet when the 40-minute lesson on the history of Henoko activism was given inside the tent to two visitors from the mainland and from overseas. Thinking back, the protesters at Henoko were among the citizens of Nago and Okinawa who served as advocates of democracy during the thirteen years of chasm between the pro-base government of Nago and the popular will opposing the new base, expressed in the 1997 plebiscite. In the Western world, the sit-in by the workers of Gdansk shipyards is well-known as one of the longest in modern times, and one that launched the transition to democracy in Poland and helped end the Cold War. But the multi-year Henoko “sit-in” story is little known outside of Japan, if not outside of Okinawa. Here is the first short account from “inside” the movement by one of its stalwarts.

Okinawa used to be the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, blessed with a bountiful environment and friendly trade relations with many other Asian countries. In March 1609, Satsuma-han (now Southern Kyushu Island) invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1879, the Meiji Government forced the Kingdom to surrender Shuri Castle by means of the “ Ryukyu Disposition,” which brought down the curtain on the Ryukyu Kingdom. Ryukyuan culture was subsequently lost under the assimilation policy of the Japanese government. Towards the end of the Asia-Pacific War, war was forced upon Ryukyu Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa, in which 200,000 lives were lost, including over 90,000 local civilians who were killed or forced to commit suicide. Today, Okinawa is burdened with 75% of all U.S. military bases in Japan. It seems so unfair that the Ryukyu Islands have had to endure such a tragic history. I want to bring my heart closer to Okinawa and its people, especially in light of the “Futenma Base Transfer” controversy.

On December 25, 2009, I visited “Henoko Tent Village” in Okinawa, with Satoko Norimatsu, Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre, a peace education centre in Canada. The “village” has acted as a base for the 13-year long nonviolent anti-base movement. On the day we visited it was raining, which made Henoko beach look like it was crying. We were welcomed by Toyama Sakae, the “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, and by other activists, including Nakazato Tomoharu, “Yasu-san,” and “Na-chan.” Mr. Toyama invited us to have a seat and proceeded to explain the history of the movement to save Henoko.
Read the rest of Ms. Kikuno’s beautiful essay here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Japanese Churches appeal to U.S. Christians for Prayers to halt U.S. militarism to bring Peace to Okinawa

Earlier this year, Ecumenical News International (ENI), a Switzerland-based Christian media outlet, issued a press release on behalf of the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ) urging U.S. churches to gain awareness, pray and appeal to their government about the impact of a U.S. military base relocation in Okinawa, an archipelago south of Japan's main islands.



"The beautiful coral reef, which had provided a livelihood for the villages and which was the seabed home of the endangered dugong, would now be destroyed with landfill for the purpose of constructing a military base for waging war," said the moderator of the National Christian Council in Japan, the Rev. Isamu Koshiishi.
33 member and associate member churches and organizations participate in the NCCJ, which works in concert with local groups as well as international organizations, including the YMCA and the Fellowship of Reconciliation:
The networks to which NCCJ relates, including the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and World Council of Churches (WCC), enable Christians in Japan to stand in solidarity with people and partner churches throughout Asia and other parts of the world. Consultations between the NCCJ and other councils of churches in other countries have emphasized issues of minority discrimination, human rights, peace, and justice.

NCCJ continues to work ecumenically as well as with NGOs, citizens' groups, and people of other faiths in the area of peace. One recent event was the inauguration of the Interfaith Network for Peace (made up of Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims) to unite to maintain Japan's Peace Constitution and oppose the "emergency" legislation that would allow Japan to participate in a war and to arm itself. The emerging nationalism in Japan is one of many concerns for NCCJ.
The NCCJ newsletters in English may be found at this page. The theme of its fall issue: "Love - the Law of Life."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

As the Christmas Season begins, the U.S. & Japan launch their biggest-ever joint war games amid growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula


I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men...

And in despair I bow'd my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men...

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," American Civil War era poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864
During the winter season when Christians worldwide traditionally express wishes of peace and goodwill towards all people, the U.S. and Japan have embarked on their biggest war games ever following a year of joint war games held by the U.S. and South Korea. During a war game in the spring, a South Korean ship, the Cheonan, mysteriously sank:
South Korean government allegations that a North Korean torpedo attacked the warship provoked tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, providing an excuse to convince Japan to keep the US military presence in Okinawa. However, two scholars have disputed the evidence that the ROK government has used for the allegation and the recent poll showed that 63% of S.Koreans do not trust the government's report.
And in a recent US-S. Korean war game bombardment of its border, North Korea retaliated, with fatal consequences.

PressTV reports, "Japan and the United States have launched their biggest-ever joint military exercises off Japan's southern islands near South Korea amid growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula,"
The drills---dubbed Keen Sword---will continue until December 10.

Washington has deployed more than 10,000 troops, 20 warships and 150 aircraft to take part in the maneuvers.

Tokyo recently invited South Korean military officials to observe the exercises.

The exercises come several days after an exchange of artillery fire between the two Koreas.

However, US and Japanese officials claim the drills were planned before the Korean clashes.

The developments come days after Japanese on the southern Island of Okinawa re-elected incumbent governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who wants an end to the American military presence in the island.
Read the rest here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Guam Preservation Trust, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, We Are Guåhan sue U.S. Navy & Dept. of Defense over sacred indigenous site

In 2003, environmentalists sued the U.S. Dept. of Defense in a U.S. federal court because its proposed construction of a mega-military base in biodiverse Henoko, Okinawa would destroy the habitat of the critically endangered dugong, the Okinawan national monument. In 2008, the court ruled against the U.S. Department of Defense, requiring it to consider impacts of a new airbase on the dugong to avoid harm.

Now the U.S. military wants to build five live firing ranges encompassing over 1,000 acres overlooking Pagat Village, an ancient indigenous Chamorro settlement. Fearing the live firing ranges will negatively impact Pagat, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and two local organizations, the Guam Preservation Trust and We Are Guåhan, have sued the Department of Defense to stop construction of the ranges.

Dating back to 700 AD, the area features caves, a limestone forest, and stone pillars that may have once been a part of structural foundations or burial monuments used by Chamorro society. The firing ranges would force the closure of Pagat, now a beloved local recreational area, to visitors.

In the complaint filed on Nov. 17, the plaintiffs state that the firing range is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) and that Pagat Village is sacred to the Chamorro people, the indigenous people of the U.S. Territory of Guam, who to this day constitute approximately half the population of Guam.

Pagat Village has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since March 13, 1974, and was the first National Register-listed site in Guam.
The Guam Preservation Trust provides more background:

The ancient village of Pågat is a historic site and there is so much to learn from this village. The spiritual connection the Chamorro people feel for this ancient village is very strong and the community's desire to preserve and protect this significant historic site should be embraced and empowered...


The United States military plans to undertake a massive buildup on Guam that is estimated to cause a 45% population increase on the island over the next five years. In addition to concerns about Guam's already overtaxed infrastructure and fragile natural environment, many islanders are worried about the potentially devastating impact on the island's cultural resources. Current plans call for the construction of five Marine Corps firing ranges within several hundred feet of Pågat.

Department of Defense plans for a firing range on a bluff directly above the site would bring military exercises, live ammunition, and security fencing to Pågat. As a result, access to this cherished place will be significantly curtailed, treasured artifacts will be threatened and thousands of years of Chamorro history will be placed at risk.

The Guam Preservation Trust nominated Pågat village to America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation based in Washington D.C.

More background:

"Guam under Fire" by Arin Greenwood, National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Guam Preservation Trust et al. v. U.S. Navy (U.S. District Court, Hawaii) (pdf)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tessa Morris-Suzuki's just-released To the Diamond Mountains sheds much-needed light on the Korean peninsula's past & present

Released on November 16, Tessa Morris-Suzuki's To the Diamond Mountains: A Hundred-Year Journey through China and Korea could not be more timely.

Korea scholar Alexis Dudden gives this description:
Tessa Morris-Suzuki is the most important writer of Northeast Asia today.

Told through a historian's eyes and with a humanist's compassion, To the Diamond Mountains achieves an artful balance between the geopolitical concerns swirling around the region and the lives lived there now, particularly among North Koreans. The book lucidly blends together ancient pasts with present realities, presenting a subtly powerful case that those who would fail to understand the layers of Northeast Asia's deeply interwoven whole are playing with fire.

To sample this travelogue/history that creates an illuminating, multi-dimensional portrait of Korean peninsula, read an excerpt at The Asia-Pacific Journal.

(Diamond Mountain (Kŭmgangsan) is one of the best known mountains in North Korea. Its name means "a firm heart in the face of truth." Between 1998-2010, Pyongyang allowed South Korean tourists to visit (by ship and bus) the craggy, wild, relatively untouched scenic area. In 2002, North Korea separated Diamond Mountain from Kangwŏn Province and created a a separately-administered tourist region, allowing South Korean conglomerate, Hyundai, to operate hotels there. Over a million South Koreans visted the area, but in 2008, after a South Korean woman was shot, when she allegedly entered a military area, Seoul banned further travel there. In 2010, after South Korea blamed the North for the mysterious sinking of the Cheonan, Pyongyang seized the South Korean hotels.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Yoshio Shimoji: Comment on Japan Today's "DPJ relieved after Okinawa vote"

Yoshio Shimoji regards Governor Nakaima's reelection (in conjunction with almost 50% of the votes for opponent Yoichi Iha, mayor of Ginowan City) as a referendum by Okinawans against the construction of another U.S. mega-military "replacement" base in Henoko.

His comment on Japan Today's Nov. 28 article "DPJ relieved after Okinawa vote” reflects his reasoning:
In yesterday's gubernatorial election in Okinawa, candidate Hirokazu Nakaima, an incumbent Governor, garnered 335,708 votes (52%), candidate Yoichi Iha 297,082 votes (46%) and candidate Tatsuro Kinjo 13,116 votes (2%), of the total 645,906 valid votes.

Nakaima and Iha campaigned on an almost identical platform that the 2006 Futenma relocation plan agreed to between Japan and the U.S. should be scrapped while Kinjo ran on a "Futenma to Henoko" platform. Of the three candidates, then, it's only Kinjo who precisely represented both (Washington & Tokyo) governments' stance regarding the Futenma issue. But his vote count was only 13,116 or a meager 2 percent.

U.S. policymakers should recognize this hard fact and, if they consider the U.S. as a great democracy, never attempt to force their failed plan on Okinawa -- an undemocratic and immoral action on the part of the U.S.

Yoshio Shimoji
Naha, Okinawa
Japan
Yoshio Shimoji was born in Miyako Island, Okinawa. He received his M.S. from Georgetown University, and taught English and English linguistics at the University of the Ryukyus from April 1966 until his retirement in March 2003.

Mr. Shimoji's "The Futenma Base and the U.S.-Japan Controversy: An Okinawan Perspective" was published at The Asia Pacific Journal earlier this year.

See also his letter letter, "How dare Obama ask Hatoyama to act without regard to democratic process in Okinawa?" published at the The New York Times on May 28, and "'Thanks' Doesn't Allay Okinawans" published on July 11 at The Japan Times.

(Human chain demanding the removal of U.S. Marine Base Futenma & no further base construction in Okinawa. Photos: Yoshio Shimoji )

Martin Frid: "Okinawa Election Results"

Many thanks to Martin Frid for his excellent post on the Okinawa election results.
(Banner: "We do not need U.S. military bases in Okinawa." (Image: Kurashi)

Kurashi - The "Eco-Blog" - by Martin J Frid
Monday, November 29, 2010
Okinawa Election Results

The results of the election on Sunday in Okinawa are as follows, according to Ryukyu Shimpo, the local newspaper. NHK also notes that the LDP-backed candidate, Nakaima, 71 years old has won.

335708 仲井真弘多 Nakaima Hirokazu
297082 伊波 洋一 Iha Yoichi

Both said they want Futenma, the US military training base, moved out of Okinawa. Peace activists, however, doubt that Nakaima Hirokazu will follow up on this pledge. To NHK (video) he notes on Sunday night that the US military bases are not there just for the sake of Okinawa, but for the sake of the entire country. He also says, again, that the base should be relocated outside of the prefecture of Okinawa.

However...
While Iha Yoichi unequivocally opposes a new base in Okinawa, there has been some confusion by incumbent governor Nakaima's expression of his intent to call for relocation of MCAS Futenma "outside of Okinawa." However, throughout the campaign, he has avoided the question of whether he really opposed the government's plan to build a new base in Henoko. "It appears that Nakaima wants to gain Okinawans' support but wants to avoid confrontation with the Japanese government at the same time," the newspaper's editorial suspects. Iha, on the contrary, "will not accept any negotiation based on the current US-Japan plan and challenge the both governments to give up the plan."

(Quote and translation by Vancouver-based Satoko Norimatsu of Peace Philosophy Centre: To stop the Henoko base plan, IHA must win. 沖縄に基地を作らせないためには伊波候補が勝たなければいけない)
Read more about the peaceful protests at the Tent Village, Henoko, Okinawa at The Asia-Pacific Journal: "Henoko, Okinawa: Inside the Sit-In" by Yumiko Kikuno:
On December 25, 2009, I visited “Henoko Tent Village” in Okinawa, with Satoko Norimatsu, Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre, a peace education centre in Canada. The “village” has acted as a base for the 13-year long nonviolent anti-base movement. On the day we visited it was raining, which made Henoko beach look like it was crying. We were welcomed by Toyama Sakae, the “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, and by other activists, including Nakazato Tomoharu, “Yasu-san,” and “Na-chan.” Mr. Toyama invited us to have a seat and proceeded to explain the history of the movement to save Henoko.
And Japanese bloggers of course are also covering this important election: Chura umi o maore (Protect our ocean) and Henokohama Tsushin (Reports from Henoko Beach) and Michisan (a blog to help you know what local Okinawan newspapers are saying) and Sumichi and Takae and News for the People of Japan...


(Above photo from Rimpeace, stating without a doubt that the Okinawan people do not want (a new mega-military base destroying the beautiful Henoko coast or) US Osprey aircraft on their soil.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tim Shorrock: South Korea admits to firing the 1st shot (during live-fire U.S.-S. Korea military exercises)

Most of the U.S. media is framing the tragic latest from the Korean peninsula as if N. Korea fired upon S. Korea out-of-the-blue. Few reports, if any, mention the important fact that this year, the U.S. and South Korea have been holding frequent (almost monthly since July) joint military exercises directed at North Korea.

Here's crucial context from Tim Shorrock in a recent Democracy Now interview:
AMY GOODMAN: The fighting came just days after was revealed North Korea had made rapid advances in enriching uranium at a previously undisclosed plant. For more, I’m joined by Tim Shorrock, an investigative journalist who has covered Korea for more than 30 years and grew up partly in South Korea. Tim, welcome to "Democracy Now!" First, explain exactly what happened.

TIM SHORROCK: Over the last couple of days, the South Korean military, which is part of a joint command with the U.S. military, held massive exercises in a disputed area, near the disputed maritime zone area on the west coast of Korea. These exercises had been planned months in advance and North Korea of course knew about then. They involved tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers, many warships and air force planes as well as personnel from the U.S. Marines and Air Force. And these exercises, as you said, they are live fire exercises.

North Korea, shortly before, in the days leading up to these exercises, warned they would react if shells fell in their line of this maritime line, demarcation line, which they dispute and have disputed for years. Apparently, some shells did land on their side of this line and they retaliated by shelling this island and causing many, you know, some casualties. It was a very serious and grave incident that deserves the very serious and sober analysis, which we have not seen in the U.S. media in the past 24 hours. That is what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised by what has taken place? The media is making a great deal of the North Korean leader taking his young son, heir apparent on a tour of a soy sauce factory while this was going on.

TIM SHORROCK: You’re always kind of surprised when these things happen.

But in the context of the last 50 years, it is not really that surprising, particularly if you look at the maritime zone and particularly if you look at the history of U.S.-South Korean military and its standoff with the North Korean regime.

First of all, over the last few years, there has increasing tensions over this zone. As I said, this border area in the sea, this border line was imposed unilaterally by the U.S. Navy in 1953 right after the Korean war. That line has never been recognized by North Korea, nor by the international community.

A few years ago, under the former presidency of Roh Moo-Hyun, there was actually a meeting, a summit meeting, between the president of South Korea and Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea. They sat down and worked out sort of a set of agreements to try to decrease tensions in that maritime area, including the making of free fishing zones and having discussions to alleviate the attention to make sure there were no incidents like this.

This new president Lee is very conservative man who has rejected the former sunshine policies of Kim Dae-Jung and his predecessor, who were much more open and tried to cement closer relationships and end the enmity between North and South Korea. Lee unilaterally pulled away from this agreement.

And over the last few years, our listeners and watchers will remember, there have been quite a few incidents. Earlier this year, in March 2010, a South Korean naval ship was blown up allegedly by North Korea by a torpedo and sank, killing about 33 sailors. This was also a very serious incident. And many people who watch North Korea believe that that particular attack, if North Korea did it, was in retaliation for an incident that took place last year when South Korea fired on a North Korean ship that had crossed the line and many North Korean sailors were killed in that attack. And so you know this has been going on.

I think the first thing that needs to be done is it would be important to restore some kind of discussion, some kind of negotiation so they can reduce tensions in that specific area.
Read the rest of the interview here.

More important context (via Tim Shorrock's blog) by staff writer Son Won-je of the South Korean newspaper, The Hankyoreh:
North Korea’s artillery attack Tuesday on Yeonpyeong Island was a high-intensity military provocation without precedent since the armistice that ended the Korean War. Unlike previous military clashes over the year, private South Korean homes and civilians were subjected to an indiscriminate attack.

For the time being, North Korea is using South Korea’s military defense exercises as its rationale for the attack. On Tuesday morning, Pyongyang sent a message to South Korea criticizing the exercises as “effectively an attack on North Korea.”

The Hoguk Exercise in question involve 70 thousand South Korean armed forces troops, 600 tracked vehicles, 90 helicopters, 50 warships, and 500 aircraft. The U.S. military is contributing the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and 7th Air Force to the land and air training exercises, respectively. Pyongyang regards the exercises as training for an attack on North Korea, citing the fact that it is a large-scale joint South Korea-U.S. exercise encompassing naval fleets, air forces, and land exercises.

A former [South Korean] Navy admiral with experience as a squadron leader around the West Sea Northern Limit Line (NLL) said that Yeonpyeong Island “was probably chosen as the site for the attack because it is closest to the North Korea coast, allowing for easy firing and high precision.”

The former admiral added, “Given that civilian homes were also targeted, it is too deliberate to be viewed simply as a response to the defense exercises.”

Analysts have suggested that the different form of military behavior seen this time stemmed from an urgent situation within North Korea.

Korea National Defense University Professor Kim Yeon-su said, “There is a possibility that the reason North Korea has shown this pattern of provocation, ratcheting up the crisis index on the Korean Peninsula, has to do with some problem that arose in the establishment process for the leadership succession system.”

In other words, North Korea may have sensed a need to deal a high-intensity international and domestic shock in order to surmount the immense challenges presented in the succession system establishment process.

Observers predict that this attack will have the effect of increasing solidarity behind the Kim Jong-un system, which emphasizes songun, military first, domestic policy. This analysis suggests that North Korea may have been attempting to foment the belief that amid a situation of military confrontation with South Korea, there is no alternative to a response centered on the Kim Jong-un succession system, which has inherited Kim Jong-il’s songun policy.

Another possibility mentioned by analysts is that the attack was ultimately intended to promote and strengthen Kim Jong-un’s leadership by effecting changes in Washington and Seoul’s North Korea policy through hardline military measures.

The prevailing analysis is that the decision to wage an attack on the area near the West Sea NLL, coming on the heels of the sudden disclosure of a uranium enrichment facility recently to a U.S. expert visiting North Korea, carried the political message of “highlighting the seriousness of the political situation on the peninsula.”

An expert who requested anonymity said, “North Korea’s recent actions may in some respects be aimed at forming an environment favorable for negotiations in the long term, but at least in the short term they strongly suggest a show of force to indicate that Pyongyang is not going to be dwelling on negotiations.”

Another possibility mentioned by observers was that the move was based on the calculation that if North Korea ratcheted up the peninsula’s crisis index, the United States would inevitably be compelled to pursue negotiations with Pyongyang in order to manage the situation. In spite of North Korea’s recent “dialogue offensive,” Seoul has maintained the position that the resumption of large-scale aid and Mt. Kumgang tourism is an impossibility.

“Since the recent conciliation offensive spearheaded by the United Front Department did not work out, it may be the case that North Korea is trying to spark conflict within South Korea by using shock treatment methods to shake up South Korean society, thus pressuring Seoul into taking part in dialogue,” said an expert at one state-run think tank.

With this latest incident, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has plunged into a murky crisis where it is impossible to see what lies ahead. While the sudden revelation of North Korea’s uranium enrichment facility is likely to have more of a negative impact on the Northeast Asia situation in general than on inter-Korean relations, Tuesday’s artillery battle around Yeonpyeong Island is a major disaster that will deal a fatal blow to already strained inter-Korean relations. Depending on the way in which the situation unfolds, it could go beyond this to have a major impact on the political situation surrounding the peninsula.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peace Carnival Part II: NO BASE! MORE MUSIC! Friday 11/26 @ Chikyuya (Kunitachi, Tokyo)



Friday, November 26th
8:00 PM (Doors open at 7:30)


Please join the second installment of the Peace Carnival event series, which will feature a discussion on the U.S. military base situation in Okinawa led by Professor Satoshi Ukai from Hitotsubashi University, as well as several incredible (and activist-minded!) acts from the Tokyo music scene:

☆Jintara Brothers

Special unit featuring Wataru Oguma (powerful performer from the Tokyo underground chindon group Cixla Muta) together with solo artist Hiroshi Kawamura (previously of Soul Flower Union)

☆ Singer/guitarist Pak Poe together with Satchan (Hana and Phenomenon)

Anbassa (roots reggae unit)

Chikyuya Live House (Kunitachi, Tokyo)
1-16-13 B1 Kunitachi Higashi

(Head down Daigaku-dori (University road) from the North exit of Kunitachi station for about 5 minutes. Chikyuya is in the basement on the left side, just before a shop on the corner with a neon yellow sign.)

Entry: 2000 yen (plus one drink)
* 1500 yen entry is available by making advance reservations at Chikyuya 042-572-585 (between 7PM and 1AM).

Event organizer: Peace Carnival Committee (peacecarnival@gmail.com)
Additional support: Peace Not War Japan (info@pnwj.org)

For more information, see the event blog (Japanese only).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mark Driscoll: In danger: Takae, a village in Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest, a place flourishing with biodiversity

"When the Pentagon "Kill Machines" Came to an Okinawan Paradise: Undermining of Democracy in Japan" published at Counterpunch earlier this month, UNC-Chapel Hill East Asian history scholar Mark Driscoll puts a human face to the story of a peaceful eco-community struggling against U.S. military violence (enabled by the Japanese government) for decades:
When I arrived at the small village of Takae in the northernmost part of the main island of Okinawa to spend 5 days at a sit-in protest there in mid-July, my first image of the place was the unusual municipal charter that greeted me as I got off the bus. Codified in 1996, the residents pledge to:
1.. Love nature and strive to create a beautiful environment resplendent with flowers and water;

2. Value our traditional culture, while always striving to learn new things; and

3. Create a municipality in which people can interact in a spirit of vitality and joy.
The charter mentions no human founding fathers of Takae, rather it followed with lavish descriptions of the village flower (azalea) and bird (sea woodpecker) in addition to details about the gorgeous waterfalls and the rare combination of seacoast and mountains that creates a strong impression of a tropical paradise; UNESCO has identified the ecological diversity of this area as among the richest in the world.

The sense of paradise is what brought Ashimine Genji to Takae ten years ago. Ashimine, a native of Okinawa who moved to the Japanese mainland during the economic bubble period in the mid-1980s, moved back to Okinawa when he got tired of the frenetic Tokyo life and exhausting wage labor. With his lover he bought some land in the mountains amidst waterfalls, animals and birds and started raising their 3 kids, while constructing a small organic restaurant. During my interview with him he insisted that the family was committed to living as simply, slowly, and sustainably as possible, and they deliberately spent the first two years in Takae without electricity, reluctantly attaching to a grid only when their oldest kid’s complaints wouldn’t stop.

It’s hard to avoid the descriptive mantra of Okinawan life as “simple and slow” in Japanese lifestyle magazines (with, in the last two years, “sustainable” [saiseisan] commonly appended) and perusal of these magazines convinced Naoko and Kôji Morioka to relocate to Takae four years ago. Amateur organic farmers and part-time artists raised in Tokyo, they had lived in Africa, India and Nepal before relocating with their two small kids to Takae to start full-time organic rice farming. Also refusing electricity, they built a small house from scratch just 30 yards north of a gorgeous waterfall and 300 yards from the sea, determined both to pioneer a new path of zero growth against Japanese postmodern capitalism and to enjoy the close community of Takae, consisting of farmers, fisherfolk and several convivial story-tellers...

While about a fourth of Takae’s 160 residents are eco-conscious transplants from Tokyo and their kids, several claim descendants going back a millennium who have enjoyed the fruits (mango) and vegetables that grow wild in the area. Right smack in the middle of this sustainable paradise is where a large part of the newest US military base is about to be built.

Takae residents were kept in the dark about the base until just before construction was to begin. Leaks, reported in the Okinawa Times in late 2006, forced the Japanese Defense Ministry to hold an information session in early 2007. It was only here that the Ashimines and Moriokas were informed that the main helicopter base for the US military in Japan was about to be built in their backyard, including facilities for 3 Osprey heli-planes. When the Defense Ministry showed the people of Takae a Power Point slide of the projected base area, they realized that two of their homes would be within 400 meters of the proposed new base.

Ashimine recalled how he felt after the session. “One minute I was living a life of harmony with nature with my family and friends, and the next minute I was being told that these killing machines (kiru- mashin) were coming to within a few hundred meters of my house; the disconnect (iwakan) was overwhelming” (Ku-yon June 2010; 101).

Within a few months, Takae locals obtained a fuller picture of what was going on: based on a secret agreement between the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the US Pentagon made in 1996—finally signed into a dubious kind of legality in February 2009—the large, but increasingly obsolete US military base Futenma in central Okinawa was to be relocated with completely new infrastructure to northern Okinawa. The plan was to transfer the infrastructure of Futenma to the smaller US base Camp Schwab located 20 miles from Takae. But airport and helicopter facilities were necessary to fill out Futenma’s capacity and this is where Takae and the equally pristine fishing village of Henoko, 30 minutes southeast of Takae, would come into play. The old airport at Futenma would be replaced with a new V-shaped one carved out of the beach in Henoko, while Takae would get all the CH-47 and CH-54 helicopters together with the behemoth Ospreys.  

Henoko’s proximity to Camp Schwab has created a palpable anti-base sentiment there, and local activists started mobilizing opposition to the proposed airport construction in 2004. With help from the all-women anti-base group Naha Broccoli, situated in the Okinawan capital of Naha, activist information sessions and bus tours of the proposed base areas began in June 2007 which jumpstarted regular contact among Takae, Henoko and Naha.

Encouraged by activist friends in Tokyo to go Okinawa to look around, in July 2007, with about 40 others, I participated in the second Broccoli bus tour and was stunned—but I should have known better. The lack of transparency on the side of the Pentagon and the deafness to local Japanese concerns were standard neocolonial postures of US base presence in Asia going back to just after World War II.

But witnessing the sustained protest in Henoko by anti-war activists spanning 3 generations inspired all of us on the tour. The required environmental assessment for new base construction had been underway for over a year and Henoko activists were doing their best to disrupt it, including a blockade of Japanese Navy vessels with cordons of local fishing boats and, with air tanks and wet suits, conducting underwater direction action against young Japanese Navy divers trying to complete the seabed assessment. In November 2007 a Henoko activist almost died when the breathing line to his airtank was severed. Just after our bus tour, protest signs and colorful anti-base paintings started to show up around the two main gates to the newly fenced-in Takae helicopter facility. By August 2007, Rie Ishihara, a Takae mother of two started daily sit-ins in front of the main entrance by herself; soon she was joined by other locals and then by Naha activists.

Quickly, anti-base Japanese started coming from the mainland, often devoting one day of their Okinawa vacation week sitting in at Takae. The mushrooming anti-base movement in Takae caught the Japanese Defense Ministry in Okinawa off-guard and when the environment assessment group started its two-year survey at the Takae site a year later, the Okinawan office of the Japanese Defense Ministry—the local defender of the US bases— preemptively took the whole town to court, serving 15 Takae residents a summons for “disrupting traffic” on Dec. 16, 2008.

Ishihara told me that when she got the summons she thought it was a practical joke as everyone knows there is no traffic in Takae and a few local residents even refuse to drive cars because of the impact on the environment. But this was no joke, as the drawn-out legal hearings lasted a year and forced the Takae farmers to spend money on lawyers and court fees. On December 11, the provincial court in Naha ruled in favor of 13 defendants, although it ruled against Ashimine and the head of the Takae residents anti-base group Toshio Isa. Isa and Ashimine can now be forced to stand trial in Tokyo at any point the Japanese government decides.

While the events were unfolding in Okinawa, politics on Japan’s mainland were revealing similar anti-US patterns. During the campaigning for the crucial Lower House elections in July 2009, the upstart Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised in their manifesto to establish a “different policy with respect to the US-Japan alliance,” one central aspect of which would be a “significant re-thinking (minaoshi) of the US military in Japan including the situation of all the US bases”.

Soon to be Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama refined his critique of the US-Japan security framework by focusing on the unfair “burden” placed on Okinawa by having some 24,000 US troops stationed there, including 18,000 Marines—65% of the US military presence in Japan installed on a land mass less than 1% of Japan’s total. The party in power for all but one year since the end of the US Occupation of Japan, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been losing support since it ordered Japanese soldiers to deploy to war-zones in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002-03 in the face of Japanese public opposition polling at 80-90%.

The historic victory of the DPJ over the LDP in August 2009 should be seen as the culmination of multiple forms of opposition to the LDP’s blind allegiance to the US, together with a pragmatic understanding that Japan’s economic future lies more closely entwined with China. In addition to pledging to reform aspects of Japan’s military-security framework with the US, the DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa promised to enhance ties to China beyond the economic sphere, where China is now Japan’s largest trading partner. The double whammy of a confirmation that closer ties with China are beneficial together with a groundswell of resistance to the US military swept the DPJ into power.

Right away, new Prime Minister Hatoyama went to work on his party’s campaign promise and started exploring ways to reform the US-Japan alliance; in a flush of post-victory confidence he wondered out loud what a future security framework would look like with “zero US troops stationed in Japan” (chûryû naki ampô). Several months earlier, Ozawa insisted that, “the [US Navy] 7th Fleet alone is sufficient,” meaning that as far as the DPJ leaders were concerned, the remaining 35,000 US troops should begin packing up their things to leave Japan permanently.

Although the US media underplayed this challenge, the Pentagon understood exactly what was at stake and wasn’t liking it. Despite President Obama’s cautious wait and see approach to the democratic regime change in Japan, the Pentagon immediately starting sparring with the Japanese Ambassador to the US Ichiro Fujisaki in Washington over issues like the Guam Treaty signed by the weakened LDP in early 2009, which dictated the terms of the new base construction in Henoko/Takae and the planned move of somewhere between 3000 to 9000 of the 18,000 Marines in Okinawa to new facilities in Guam—with Japanese taxpayers forced to pay 65-70% of the costs for both the move and the new base in Guam.

During the July 2009 campaign several DPJ candidates echoed the argument made by Okinawan critics that the Guam Treaty was clearly unequal because it obliged the Japanese to construct one new base in Okinawa and to contribute most of the money toward building another in Guam, while the American side merely offered an ambiguous pledge to withdraw some troops while reserving the right to change its commitments when it wanted. Furthermore, critics argued that the Guam Treaty was illegal as it violated Article 95 of Japan’s constitution, which stipulates that any law applicable only to one locale requires the consent of the majority of the voters of that province, and support for the construction of the new base among Okinawans had been almost completely absent.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Tokyo for two days of meetings in late October 2009 clearly intending to muzzle the critiques of the US presence in Japan and to remind the new DPJ leaders of the post-WW II status quo, where senior (US) and junior (Japan) partners would continue to work together to contain China and North Korea. “It is time to move on,” Gates scolded the new Japanese leaders on October 22, calling DPJ proposals to reopen the base issues “counterproductive.” Then, deliberately insulting the DPJ in the eyes of almost all Japanese commentators Gates refused to attend the welcoming ceremony and formal dinner organized for him at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on October 23.

In enumerating the insults and behind the scenes threats made by Gates in Tokyo a few days after his departure, the Okinawan newspaper the Ryukyu Shimpo lambasted the “diplomacy of intimidation” practiced by the US in its editorial of October 26...
Read the rest of Driscoll's report here. His informed (he is a scholar in Japanese colonial history) analysis is a rare example of on-the-ground reporting from Okinawa in the English-language media.

Most U.S. & other English-language media reports on Okinawa are written by reporters who are not only not based in Okinawa or Japan but who also have not visited Okinawa. That's why these reports routinely refer to Henoko and Takae, sanctuaries of Okinawa's rich and beautiful biodiversity, simply as a "less populated area in the north." This over-used and misleading description from Washington's and Tokyo's points-of-view obscures what is at stake in Okinawa. Driscoll's democratic take provides a full, authentic picture, from multiple POVs, including those of Okinawans.