Links

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Testimony of a Fukushima Mother" & Green Action's Petition to Protect Children from Radiation-induced Cancers

"Testimony of a Fukushima Mother" by Sachiko Sato, posted at Counterpunch and Green Action's "EMERGENCY petition to roll back reckless radiation limits and protect hundreds of thousands of Japanese children from a lifetime of cancer fear":
OUR PETITION

We ask the government of Japan to take these action, beginning immediately:

Withdraw the 20 mSv per year radiation standard issued April 19, 2011 for children and restore the 1 mSv per year dose limit for children.

Minimize children’s radiation exposure. Increase support for municipal agencies and civil society groups aiding Japan’s thousands of radiation refugees and undertaking urgent decontamination efforts.

In setting radiation exposure limits, take into account “internal” radiation exposure from contaminated food, dust and other sources.

To protect children, maintain official radiation monitoring after outdoor contamination falls below 3.8 microSv per hour, a radiation level still 6 times what triggers a “radiation-controlled” working condition.

To people outside Japan, these demands will sound like mere commonsense. But given the stress and influences on the Japanese government, our people desperately need help for commonsense to prevail and for our children to be protected. Changing public policy in Japan will have the most far-reaching results.

We thank you for your understanding and support.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Free the Kamagasaki 7: Homeless and migrant worker rights advocates unjustly arrested in Osaka- 4 remain in police custody

Labor unions and their supporters are criticizing Osaka city officials because they are denying the right to vote to migrant workers, many whom are risking their lives in earthquake and tsunami-stricken Fukushima.

In 2007, Osaka City invalidated the residency cards of 2,088 people in Kamagasaki, a neighborhood housing many homeless people who work as temporary, migrant day laborers. The reason:their addresses were not valid. Their cards were registered with the Kamagasaki Liberation Assembly Hall, Furusato no Ie, and NPO Kamagasaki, all homeless advocacy organizations. Without residency cards, the homeless are unable to vote, obtain driver's licenses and other official documents.

Since 2007, members of the Kamagasaki Seven have worked to lobby Osaka City to revalidate the residency cards of the homeless migrant workers.

In the beginning of April 2011, these homeless and workers’ rights advocates were arrested by Osaka police for "interfering with a public servant in the execution of his/her duties.” Among those arrested include documentary filmmaker Reo Sato. He was apprehended on April 10th outside of polling boxes in Kamagasaki after casting his vote in the local elections. Prior to voting he walked around the neighborhood with other rights advocates encouraging the homeless to cast their votes despite a lack of residency cards.

On the same day as the original arrests, the police also searched 14 different households, including Sato's. Sato was not home at the time. Police confiscated 250 DV tape recordings, including the entirety of the footage he had been taking of the movement to restore residency rights since 2007.

Police rummage through Leo Sato's documentary footage
(Courtesy of Free K!)

Three of the Kamagasaki 7 were released on April 25th, however four have remained in indefinite detention. Police denied bail requests without justification. Since the arrests, local organizations have been raising awareness of the situation while gathering petition signatures in order to pressure the police for their release. These organizations include the Organization Against the Repression of the Kamagasaki 7 , Free the Kamagasaki 7, Hatarakibito [Working People] , and Kamo Pato Action. A petition started by the 4/5 Kamagasaki Oppression Organization, gaining the support of around 50 organizations thus far, can be found here.

Among the homeless temporary migrant workers affected by the Osaka City decision include 400 laborers from Kamagasaki now working in Tohoku. They face nuclear radiation sickness and endure poor working conditions.

The issue of a requirement of a permanent address to vote affects more than those who live in Kamagasaki. Homeless people in Japan now number 30,000. Moreover, evacuees from the Tohoku region number 200,000. Japanese city officials need to reconsider the requirement of a permanent address to vote.


130 rally for the release of Kamagasaki 7 on April 16th (This and more photos at Hatarakibito)

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Amidst hopeful signs, activists continue impassioned efforts to stop nuclear power plant in gorgeous Seto Inland Sea

Movement supporters' kayaks lined up near site of the proposed Kaminoseki nuclear power plant, Yamaguchi Prefecture, March 2011

A movement to stop construction of a nuclear power plant near the town of Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture saw a hopeful development late last week when the governor announced that it was considering to refuse any further lease of the land for the plant’s construction. According to an article in The Japan Times:
The Yamaguchi Prefectural Government might invalidate Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s license to reclaim land in the Kaminoseki area for a nuclear power plant, Gov. Sekinari Nii said Thursday.

Nii also told reporters the prefecture will set its policy direction "while examining developments" related to the government's review of nuclear energy policy in light of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
This news was welcomed with cautioned joy by a group of activists whom I met with in March after deciding to leave Tokyo during the initial bewildering days following the earthquake and tsunami, when the nuclear crisis in Fukushima was still unfolding. At this time, throngs of so-called genpatsu nanmin, or “nuclear power refugees”, headed westward from the greater Tokyo metropolitan area for safer climes when it appeared likely that a cloud of deadly radiation could be well on its way toward the Kanto region. At the invitation of a friend in Hiroshima, I boarded an early morning train—well aware of the irony given my destination—to seek refuge and also meet with local anti-nuclear activists, including those involved in trying to stop the Kaminoseki nuclear plant in neighboring Yamaguchi prefecture.

After spending several days and nights in an internet café glued to the news in order to try and make sense of the crisis, one of the first organizers I ventured out to speak with was Shoji Kihara, the author of a book called Nuclear Scandal, which outs the entire system whereby payouts are made to bribe people into supporting nuclear power despite its dangers. At the time, Kihara’s sense was that the Yamaguchi prefectural government would indeed eventually prohibit the plant from being built.

“It is a tragic irony, but in a sense the Fukushima accident probably had to happen in order to wake people up regarding the need for nuclear power policies to change,” he told me. “Electric power companies presently allocate nearly their entire energy budget toward nuclear power, with close to nothing at all for any sort of alternative energies. If the industry had not been so intent upon pushing nuclear power, what happened in Fukushima could have been avoided altogether. But now, people living near the Fukushima plant will experience the same cycle of worry, anxiety and fear that hibakusha have had to endure for more than 65 years, whether in Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Chernobyl.”

Several days later, I had an opportunity to chat with several more anti-nuclear activists while visiting the Hiroshima Center for Nonviolence and Peace, headed by Dr. Mitsuo Okamoto—a professor of Peace Studies under whom I studied while an exchange student in Hiroshima nearly twenty years ago. The professor's wife Tamayo is a committed campaigner against nuclear power, and through her introduction, I received an opportunity to actually visit the proposed plant site together with another dedicated member of the 'Stop Kaminoseki' movement, who travels to the site at least once every week to support the locals in their struggle.

Masahiro Watarida, my host for the day, picked me up several days later in the early morning for the three-hour drive to the plant, located at the tip of a peninsula facing the gorgeous Seto Inland Sea. An extremely kind and soft-spoken man, Watarida retired early from his nearly twenty-year career in the organic produce distribution industry in order to spend a year in the United States learning English and studying food security issues before returning to Hiroshima to become a full-time activist. He was extremely generous with his knowledge regarding the workings of the nuclear power industry and it's effects upon ordinary peoples' lives.

He told me that since the plant site was not in direct view of residents in the town of Kaminoseki, it was easier for the Chugoku Electric Power Company to buy them off and keep them quiet about nuclear power's potential dangers. “The fishermen’s cooperative from Kaminoseki sold their fishing rights around the plant site for hundreds of millions of yen, and the people have also gotten quite used to the cushy arrangement whereby the power company hands out huge subsidies for road repairs and other local projects,” he explained.

Watarida told me that the town of Kaminoseki and its environs are a “hotspot for biodiversity”, rich in seaweed and aquatic creatures such as the sunameri (finless black porpoise), and featuring one of the last pristine untouched spots in the entire Seto Inland Sea. “This was an extremely important area from around the 17th to the 19th centuries in terms of communication and transportation, so there is also enormous potential here in terms of tourism and history,” he explained. “We still have hopes that the local community here will wake up to these possibilities and stop being so dependent upon corporate handouts.”


The story was a completely different one, however, Watarida said, for those living on the nearby island of Iwaishima (mostly fishermen, and their wives), who literally find the proposed nuclear power plant site staring them directly in the face. He said that they had been loudly protesting the plant—which sits a mere four kilometers away from their island—since its inception some thirty years ago. Its fishing cooperative members staunchly refused to sell their rights to the electric power company, choosing instead to put up an impassioned fight to protect their natural way of life.

“Since the islanders of Iwaishima do not have many employment opportunities other than fishing due to being separated from the mainland, many men have gone on assignments to work in nuclear power plants in Shikoku or other parts of Japan,” Watarida explained. “They know the dirty truth of the industry firsthand, and in fact, a majority of these men have already died from cancer.”

After winding our way to the end of the peninsula, we parked the car and headed to an impressively constructed log house that a group of activists had built as their headquarters of sorts. Almost immediately, we came across a friendly looking man who was cutting down some bamboo trees. Watarida told me he was a fisherman from Iwaishima who was helping to lead the movement against the plant. When he heard I was a journalist, he remarked, “tell those people in the big cities if they need so much electricity, they can take this ugly nuclear plant and put it in their own backyard!”

In addition to the fishermen and their wives from Iwaishima, I learned that the movement had also recently gotten a fresh infusion of energy from a cadre of young kayakers concerned with environmental destruction, who began coming in from all around the country to lend their voices and support. Several of them were inside the log house when we arrived, and invited us in to chat over steaming cups of organic biwa (loquat) tea harvested from Iwaishima island—one of the local, small-scale sustainable industries that the islanders were trying to emphasize in their fight against the plant.

One of the youth, I was told, was a twenty year-old who spearheaded a ten-day hunger strike two months earlier with four other young activists in an effort to try and stop construction of the plant. The young man, whose name was Naoya Okamoto but was known mostly by the nickname "Kin", told me that he knew absolutely nothing at all about nuclear power until a year prior; but after learning about it from a friend who had heard a speaker on the issue, he knew he had to act. “Radiation affects young people the worst, but most youth have no idea about this issue,” Kin said. “I wanted to do something to try and change the world before I turned twenty, and I figured that a hunger strike might work in terms of shocking people into paying attention to this critical problem.”


Right to left: Kin,Watarida, and another young movement supporter

After finishing our tea, we made our way down a steep path to the plant site at the peninsula’s tip. Although a moratorium was called on further construction at the Kaminoseki site following the disaster at the Fukushima plant, the Chugoku Electric Power Company tried to find a loophole by sending a crew to the site to conduct “research”, which consisted of blasting dynamite into the ground and then clearing the rubble. “Clearly, this is not ‘research’; it is construction,” Watarida observed. “Just one more of the company’s lies.”

Ignoring both the posted signs and the periodic loudspeaker outbursts telling non-workers to stay away, we proceeded to the water’s edge. Coming down the path, we held on to bamboo railings that had been crafted by the man we ran into earlier, whose name I learned was Yoshito Kanata. We found him sitting on the edge of a kayak, drinking a beer.

“The people who are supporting this plant have been completely brainwashed by money, and are now totally dependent on it,“ he told us after motioning us over. “On Iwaishima, we fish for our own dinner, because nothing tastes better than something you have worked for and gotten through your own sweat and hard work.” He snorted with laughter, raising his beer into the air, but then grew serious again. “If this plant is built and something goes wrong, the entire Seto Inland Sea will be completely destroyed.”

Watarida told me later that Kanata once worked at a nuclear power plant on nearby Shikoku Island, but found the conditions so horrifying there that he lasted only one month, and never returned.

We sat for awhile, watching a bora fish arcing across the bay in a series of graceful, energetic leaps. “These islanders know how to live in harmony with nature, and we need to learn from them,” Watarida finally said slowly, looking off into the distance. “The seashore—it’s a part of the commons.”


Masahiro Watarida points toward Iwaishima from the proposed plant site



Yoshito Kanata standing next to construction clearly underway


Back at the log house, another activist named Yota Nakayama was busy e-mailing and making telephone calls. He said that after the Fukushima accident, he had been contacting the Chugoku Electric Power Company and the Ministry of the Economy every day to demand that construction at the Kaminoseki plant be stopped immediately.

When I told him that I was from Arizona, he told me he had been to the Hopi and Navajo reservations several times as a participant in the Longest Walk, an event organized to raise awareness and facilitate social action regarding various issues facing Native Americans. He was in touch with friends who were on the walk, and told me that when they learned of the disaster in Japan, they had just arrived onto the Hopi reservation.

We both noted that the timing of this was an interesting convergence in light of the Hopi Prophecy, which is a message passed down through several generations that tribal elders decided to release publicly after being horrified to learn that plutonium and uranium taken forcibly from their land (an act that they described as “carving out the earth’s vital organs”) were used to create the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki—themselves actions that were part of the prophecy.

Their message described how humankind had come to stand at the crossroads of two possible futures, depending on which actions were taken: either peaceful sustainability or total annihilation. I had learned about this from a 1986 documentary film titled Hopi no yogen (The Hopi Prophecy), a classic among social activists in Japan that I had seen the previous year at an arts festival. Unsurprisingly, some were now saying that the recent disaster in Japan was further evidence of the world now having arrived at this moment of truth.

After chatting a bit more with the group, Watarida and I made the drive back to Hiroshima—stopping first on the waterfront in Kaminoseki, where a young man called Nobu—a long-haired musician who was one of the core activists from the log house—had gone to play his guitar and sing in the hopes of reaching out to locals with his message. Although he rarely attracted an audience, he said, still he continued going to sing in the town every day in the hopes that even one local would be touched by his music and consider joining the movement.


Nobu singing for the cause in Kaminoseki

Nobu's melodies were hauntingly beautiful, and while we listened—each of us sitting apart from each other along the dock with our own thoughts, and yet very much together—I felt an incredible sense of oneness with this group and its purpose. I wanted to stop time to keep the feeling, to explore the region further, to go deeper with the connections I had begun to forge. I knew, however, that the time was approaching for me return to Tokyo in order to move on with life—in whatever direction that would turn out to be.

This post was excerpted from 'Finding Hope in Hiroshima,' a photo-essay presently awaiting publication. Kimberly Hughes is a Tokyo-based writer, freelance translator, and university educator. Her writings may be found at http://kimmiesunshine.wordpress.com.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

US Nuclear Tests "Betrayal" of Atomic Bomb Survivors

The latest US tests,  took place in November last year and March this year at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and used "Z Machine" equipment capable of generating the strongest X-Rays in the world to simulate the fusion that occurs in nuclear reapons. (Photo: EPA)
US Nuclear Tests 'Betrayal' of Atomic Bomb Survivors: A group of anti-nuclear protesters staged a sit-in in the Japanese city of Hiroshima against new nuclear experiments conducted by the United States
May 25, 2011
The Telegraph/UK

The group of 50 protesters at the city's Peace Memorial Park, with its leader, Nobuo Takahashi, 72, saying the latest tests were an "unforgivable act" that insults the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings...

Mr Takahashi, leader of the Hiroshima Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, read out a protest letter to President Barack Obama, which said: "We absolutely cannot accept the attitude of sticking tot he possession and development of nuclear weapons, even after (Obama) declared his intention to create a world free of nuclear weapons"..

Live streaming of Greenpeace Japan's report on nuclear contaminated waters around Fukushima- May 26 (Sign petition please!)

See you later nuclear power!

The nuclear disaster in Japan continues to unfold as Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) has also confirmed meltdowns in reactors 2 and 3, after just releasing information on May 15th that reactor 1 of the Fukushima power plant had indeed experienced a meltdown as early as 16 hours after the earthquake.

Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, told Reuters, "In the early stages of the crisis TEPCO may have wanted to avoid panic. Now people are used to the situation … nothing is resolved, but normal business has resumed in places like Tokyo."

The slow pace at which information is being released is hindering efforts to contain radiation and ensure that residents living in reach of contamination are evacuated to safe locations. Citizens across Japan and the world have been raising their voices against the continued use of nuclear power and the concealment of information (See photo essay on demonstrations against the proposed Kaminoseki nuclear plant in Seto Island, and Ten Thousand Things posts on marches in Jeju Island (Korea), Kyoto, Osaka, Shizuoka, and Tokyo (April 10th and May 7th ).

In response, Greenpeace asked the Japanese government for permission to conduct a survey of the radiation in the coasts surrounding Fukushima.The government only permitted them to survey the ocean 22 kilometers from the shore from May 3rd through 6th. With the help of local fishing cooperatives in Fukushima Prefecture and Miyagi prefecture, Greenpeace examined the levels of radioactive contamination present in marine life.

Here is a video of their activities near the Fukushima coast:


"We are talking here about long lived radioactive materials that might accumulate in the food chain and cause threats to the health of the Japanese people for the coming decades...Although the Japanese government gave us only very limited permission to do our marine research, we did find radioactive seaweed with alarming high levels of contamination." - Female Greenpeace Researcher

"We demand that the Japanese government conduct more serious investigations of the levels of contamination in the ocean" - Male Greenpeace Researcher (Translation of Japanese)
The results will be reported at a press conference on Thursday May 26, from 11:30-12:30 (Tokyo Time). For those unable to attend the press conference, it will be screened live at the following link: http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/library/ustream/

Greenpeace is also collecting petition signatures online calling for:
  • no more nuclear plants
  • a permanent halt to the use of nuclear plants currently operating
The petition is in Japanese, but it is simple to add your name.
  1. Click on orange button.
  2. The first field is for your name, the second for your address, and the third for your email address.
  3. Choose the second circle in the fourth column if you do not want to receive Greenpeace's mail magazine in Japanese.
  4. Then click the orange button under that and you are done.
In order to prevent the next nuclear disaster, Greenpeace is also urging concerned individuals to email the boards of international banks that are funding the construction of a nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, India. These are some of their talking points found here:
* Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster countries such as Germany and China have put moratoriums on nuclear expansion, but India and South Africa announced plans to further develop their nuclear energy programmes. The most worrying of these is situated in a place called Jaitapur in India. Which if completed will be the world's largest nuclear power facility.

* Two of the world’s largest banks, HSBC and BNP Paribas, are part of a group of banks looking to invest in this project.

* The proposed reactors would be built on a high risk earthquake zone on the coast - leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes and potential Tsunamis and flooding.

* The project faces very strong local opposition, as it would have huge impacts on the local environment and economy, affecting more then 20.000 farmers and fisherman.

* HSBC's climate investment update has show that nuclear power is considerably more expensive then renewable solutions, like wind power.

* By removing nuclear power from their investment portfolios, these two banks can be leaders in the clean, safe energy future. We need them to only invest in renewable and energy efficiency technologies.

* For those of you who are clients of the banks you can communicate that you do not want your savings to be used in financing dangerous nuclear projects like Jaitapur, you want your bank to support clean, safe and sustainable energy.
Germany, China, and Italy have laid to rest plans to build new nuclear plants. Toshiba has recently announced that they will turn the focus of their kaleidoscope away from nuclear energy and instead concentrate on renewables. However, Prime Minister Kan and Japanese bureaucrats ignore the tell-tale signs that nuclear power is morally, functionally, and ethically extinct, and instead continue to insist that nuclear power can be used safely in the future.

The funding currently being channeled into nuclear in Japan, can be shifted to renewables like photovoltaic and wind energy instead. This will allow Japan to realize its proposal to equip all new buildings with solar panels by 2030, even sooner. Plus, the loss of more lives and the destruction of livelihoods can be prevented.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

The Asia-Pacific Journal: "What Price the Fukushima Meltdown? Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima"

(A joint survey conducted by the Japanese and U.S. governments has produced a detailed map of ground surface radioactive contamination within an 80-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.))

Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, has now acknowledged the early meltdown of at least three reactors in the first multiple meltdown in nuclear history. Matthew Penney and Mark Selden have organized and assessed the contentious literature comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima in their recent article, "What Price the Fukushima Meltdown? Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima," published at The Asia-Pacific Journal and republished at Truthout and Znet.

Along with Greenpeace on Twitter (gpjen) and Fukushima Update, Kyoto-based Green Action's blog, The Asia-Pacific Journal has been the best source of comprehensive in-depth investigative English-language reporting and analysis of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant failure, attempted cover-ups, and radiation risks. APJ editors and contributors recognized early on the seriousness of the accident and radiation risks The online journal has published some fifty articles on Japan's 3.11 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power disaster in the last three months and several more must-read pieces are in the works.

Penney and Selden conclude that Fukushima radiation exposure to school children is at the center of the debate; challenging the Japanese government's failure to "respond effectively to critics of policies that pose long-term risks to the nation’s children."

For updates, consider subscribing to APJ's free Weekly Newsletter announcing new articles, and visiting them on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gangjeong, Jeju Island, South Korea — "One Island Village's Struggle for Land, Life, and Peace"



Every summer, hundreds of dolphins, traveling from Alaska, visit the sea off the village of Gangjeong, Jeju Island. Video courtesy of Yang Dong-Kyu, a filmmaker who took this haunting footage of dolphins responding to his calls in summer 2009. 

Renowned Korean film critic Yang Yoon-Mo, has been on a hunger strike against the destruction of the Gangjeong coast to make way for a nuclear naval base, for almost two months. He is approaching death. Artist and peace blogger Sung-Hee Choi has been arrested along with 7 other people who are also protesting on behalf of the sea, dolphins (the Gangjeong coast is the only natural dolphin habitat in South Korea), soft coral, and other sea life. They represent the 1,500 villagers of Gangjeong and the members of environmentalist, faith-based, and peace NGOs worldwide who support them.

Anders Riel Müller's article is a tribute to the villagers' struggle to protect this beautiful ecosystem from destruction and to build genuine democracy in South Korea.
Originally published at the Korean Policy Institute website (with links to articles and a video of the author's visit to Jeju Island)

One Island Village's Struggle for Land, Life, and Peace

Anders Riel Müller, April 19, 2011


In early April I had the chance to visit one of the most beautiful areas in South Korea. Gangjeong Village on the island of Jeju is a small farming and fishing community on the island's southern coast. Entering the village you see citrus groves and greenhouses on all sides. On the main street, women were sitting on the sidewalk cleaning fish and selling them to the locals. The cherry trees lining the main street were just beginning to bloom. It was a welcome break from congested and crowded Seoul where I live. In many ways it reminds me of the island in Denmark where I grew up. Nothing special seems to be going on, and that's the beauty of it. But this community of approximately 1,500 farmers and fishermen is in the midst of a struggle against the South Korean government's attempt to build a major naval base right in the middle of their village. The Navy and the Korean government claim that the base will have minimum impact on the environment and that it will create jobs and attract new tourists to the area. The villagers will have none of it. They see that the base will destroy their way of life, their village and the peace that Jeju islanders strive for. But the navy continues to raze farms and fishing grounds despite their protests.

Jeju's Geo-strategic Curse

The island of Jeju is as far away from Seoul as you can get geographically and mentally. This autonomous island province, located south/southwest of the Korean peninsula is in many ways distinct from mainland Korea. It's relative geographic isolation, volcanic geological history, and warmer climate has formed a people whose traditions, food, and culture is as distinct as the islands natural features. Because of this, Jeju is also the biggest single tourist destination in Korea often named "Honeymoon Island" as it is a favored destination for newlywed Korean couples. The island economy is also distinct. Agriculture, tourism, and fishing are the three main economic sectors, helping the island preserve its natural beauty and traditional way of life. Development in Jeju can be said to have followed a pace in which it was possible to modernize without having to completely compromise the island's environment, traditions and culture. This is not to say that Jeju is an untouched island paradise. Luxury tourist resorts, golf courses, and tacky tourist attractions can be found in many places, but once you venture a bit off the beaten path you will find the Jeju that makes it a special place.

Nevertheless, Jeju's curse is its strategic location between South Korea and Japan, and its close proximity to China. It is only 300 miles from the Chinese mainland and Shanghai. For centuries, Jeju has been the battleground for conflicts that had little to do with the islanders themselves. In modern times, Jeju was annexed along with the rest of the Korean Empire by Japan in 1910. Thousands of island men were sent to work in mines and factories in Japan and Manchuria, while women were forced into prostitution to service the Japanese Imperial Army. Towards the end of World War II, the Japanese heavily fortified the island, deployed 70,000 soldiers, and forced the islanders to construct coastal defenses in anticipation of a U.S. invasion. When Japan surrendered in 1945, Jeju joined the rest of Korea to celebrate the end of decades of colonial rule and exploitation. But for the people of Jeju, the horrors experienced under Japanese rule were nothing compared to what was to come.

The Jeju Massacres

The division of the Korean Peninsula by the United States and the Soviet Union turned Jeju into a battlefield for subsequent cold war conflicts on the peninsula. In 1948, with U.S. and U.N. support, South Korea held elections that established a separate state in the south, thus solidifying Korea's division. In response, 30,000 islanders in Jeju went out to protest the elections, which was abruptly ended when police opened fire and killed eight protesters. This prompted riots throughout the island and the boycott of the South Korean elections by Jeju islanders. Unfortunately, the United States overseers annulled the Jeju election results due to their lack of participation, and Syngman Rhee was elected without the votes from Jeju counted. But that wasn't all. Korean right wing nationalists labeled the entire island as Communists sympathizers. When U.S. backed leader Syngman Rhee took power following the elections, he initiated a massive "Red" cleansing campaign targeted the Jeju general population. Using the South Korean military and ultra rightist paramilitary groups from the Northwest Korean Youth Association, the Rhee government employed a scorched earth strategy of repression resulting in the indiscriminate raping of women and burning of villages. Thousands of people were killed. It is estimated that 70 percent of entire villages were razed to the ground and 30,000 people—ten percent of the island's population—were murdered. It was a brutal precursor to what the mainland would experience during the Korean War.

At the newly constructed Peace Park Museum and Memorial for the massacre, one can take a few moments to reflect on Jeju's fate as a battleground for imperial and ideological conflicts and the meaningless loss of lives that people here have suffered. I went there on April 4th for the commemoration of "Sasam" as the massacre is called locally. From the thousands of people who were gathered for the memorial ceremony, it is clear that the massacre has left deep scars in Jeju society. For years, any mention of the massacre could lead to imprisonment and torture. Relatives of those who had been labeled as Communists were prevented from taking public service positions or jobs in many companies. Many are still afraid to talk about what happened.

It was not until 2006 that the late President Roh Moo-Hyun officially apologized for the massacre and designated Jeju "Island of World Peace". For 50 years, successive governments in Seoul silenced the Korean people's memories of systematic murder, rape and torture. As one exits the museum, a sign reads: "Jeju April 3rd Incident will be remembered as a symbol of the preciousness of peace, unity and human rights." But the government's memory is short. Plans for a major naval base on Jeju had been in the works since 2002 at different locations, but opposition from local residents halted construction several times.

The Plight of Gangjeong Village

In Gangjeong however, the navy and the South Korean government seem determined to construct the base by any means necessary. I met an artist and activist Sung-Hee Choi is living in Gangjeong to support the struggle of the villagers. Gangjeong means the "Village of Water," she says, referring to the abundance of surface fresh water in the area, a rarity on this island of porous volcanic rock. The clean water from the Gangjeong stream is what makes the farmland some of the most fertile on the island. Greenhouse after greenhouse and miles of citrus orchards confirm that farming here is a good way of life for the residents. Much of this will soon be paved over if the Navy and central government get their way. As we walk down to the beach, we pass bulldozed fields with chopped down wilted citrus trees and collapsed green houses. The Navy contractors from Samsung and Daerim are not wasting any time. It is quite obvious that such physical destruction is part of the Navy's strategy to silence resistance in the village. Some residents have already given up the fight and sold their land fearing that they will be fined if they did not sell. The government alleges that the construction is legal, that the residents have been offered fair compensation, but many locals feel pressured and cajoled into selling their land.

Down at the beach one quickly recognizes that this is a uniquely beautiful coastal stretch. The volcanic rocks, many coves and unique fresh water tidal pools provide habitats for a wealth of animal and plant life. Underneath the water, endangered soft corals provide habitat for an abundance of sea life. The importance of these ecosystems have been officially recognized by UNESCO as part of its designation of the Jeju biosphere reserve and the provincial government is currently seeking nomination as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. But again the government seems to care little about these designations. Construction companies have already destroyed large areas of volcanic rock formations with their bulldozers and trucks.

As we walk along the cliffs and lava rock formations, we have a moment to stop at a few of the fresh water tide pools filled with marine life. "I never noticed these pools before," Sunghee says. "I have been too busy watching the navy watching us." She points to the navy headquarters a few hundred yards away from where they track and monitor all movement on the coast. Except for a few women gathering shellfish, we are alone. Sunghee tells me that usually spies working for Samsung or the Navy disguised as sport fishers watch them. I can see that the constant monitoring is taking its toll on both activists and villagers. Each time I saw Sunghee over the few days, she always looked exhausted. From the perspective of villagers and activists, the navy is playing a game of psychological warfare with those who oppose base construction. We walk back to where we entered the beach. Artworks, posters and boards tell visitors about the unique ecosystems of this coastal stretch and how all of it will be destroyed by the base construction.

On the rocks we meet well-known movie critic Professor Yang Yoon-Mo. A Jeju native, Mr. Yang has lived in a tent on the rocks for four years to protest the base construction. I ask for a brief interview but Mr. Yang declines. "There is no more to be said or explained," says Yang. "Now I just want to enjoy the beauty of this place." It is a beautiful and quiet spring day and the coast is almost deserted besides a few tourists. The peace is disturbed only when two minivans come down to the beach. Sunghee's and Mr. Yang's faces light up. The minivans have transported solidarity delegations from Okinawa and Gwangju to Gangjeong to support the villagers. Both delegations have experienced the consequences of being victims of larger geopolitical and ideological conflicts. Okinawans have protested U.S. military presence for decades and Gwangju delegates are relatives of the victims of the brutal Gwangju massacre in 1980.

Sunghee explains that construction machines are usually there, but that they were probably withdrawn for fear of conflict with protestors during the weekend of the Sasam commemoration and the solidarity demonstration announced by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Several villagers, including the mayor, have been injured and arrested from skirmishes with the police. It seems that this day the Navy and construction companies have decided it is wisest to withdraw given all the media attention during Sasam.

Why the Naval Base on Jeju

The Korean Navy claims that the new "eco-friendly" naval base will create jobs and increased security for the island. But it is difficult to imagine an eco-friendly 50-hectare naval base that will house 8,000 marines, up to 20 destroyers, several submarines and two 150,000-ton luxury cruise liners. Considering that each destroyer has up to a 100,000 horsepower engine it is difficult to see how the base can be considered safe for an ecologically sensitive environment, not to mention that most of the volcanic rock formation will be paved over with cement and concrete. The second argument is that the new base will provide an economic boost for the island. But what kind of jobs will be created? People in Gangjeong are farmers and fishers living off the wealth of land and sea. The jobs that usually accompany military bases are more likely to be in service industries such as bars, brothels and souvenir shops. The sheer size of the naval base will inevitably lead to the complete erasure of this community, and the villagers know it.

The final argument for the base is that it will provide vital security for the island. But history shows otherwise. Any time a major military force has been present on the island it has led to death, displacement, and destruction of the local population. Jeju islanders experienced atrocities from the Japanese during the occupation and later by their own countrymen during the Jeju massacre. The real issue here is not about the security of Jeju, but rather the strategic placement of a new naval base tasked with securing shipping lanes which are the lifeline of South Korea's resource intensive corporations. This new strategically located fleet will also take on an increasingly offensive role in the East China and South China Sea.

In a recent article Christine Ahn and Sukjong Hong reveal how the base will play a strategic role in efforts by the U.S.-South Korea-Japan alliance to reign in Chinese naval expansion. While South Korea claims that the base is not intended for use by the United States, the likelihood that the U.S. Navy would utilize the base in any military conflict in the region is obvious given U.S. operational control over Korea's military. The base is also viewed by some in the military establishment as symbolic of South Korea's emergence as a world power in which the navy will play a central role. In an interview with the conservative paper JoongAng Daily Admiral Jung Ok-keun of the ROK Navy said, "The establishment of the flotilla is a sign that we are becoming one of the powerful navies in the world, the goal we have been dreamed of." There can hardly be any doubt that this new 953 billion Won naval base will serve as a strategic offensive outpost for South Korea and its allies. In this context it is difficult to understand how a base in Gangjeong will increase security for Jeju residents. In a potential military conflict with China, Gangjeong will be an important strategic target, just as Pearl Harbor was for the Japanese in WWII.

Still Hope

Sunghee and I walk back to the village. She is clearly encouraged by the arrival of the Gwangju and Okinawa delegations, and re-energized by the peaceful and beautiful coastline. After teaching an English class to some local students, we walk over to one of the local restaurants for dinner before joining a solidarity demonstration organized by KCTU later that evening. We have to give up finding food in the center of the village because most of the restaurant owners have left for the demonstration. Sunghee tells me that the village has been torn apart by the struggle - neighbor against neighbor, and relatives and against relatives. Many have given up, exhausted and fearful of the Navy. Not all, however, have thrown in the towel.

We arrive at the community soccer field situated right across the road from the main gate to the Navy headquarters. We greet the dog that activists, in a gesture of humor, have placed to watch the Navy headquarters, and join the 1,300 protesters who have come from all over Korea to support the villagers. It is already dark when we arrive, but the hundreds of candles held by the protesters provide a comforting atmosphere. Protesters are of all ages and walks of life: families with children, villagers, workers and activists. Watching the crowd sing songs for peace and reunification, it is hard to believe the government's claim that the protest is the work of a handful of extreme activists.

Sitting in the bus on the way back to my hotel, I reflect on the last few days in Jeju and how if this naval base is not stopped, the Gangjeong villagers' livelihoods, histories and traditions may soon be erased from memory, all because of strategic geo-political ambitions that have nothing to do with them or their way of life. On April 6th, two days after my visit to Gangjeong, the navy began construction again. Sunghee Choi and Yoon-mo Yang were arrested and detained by the police. Sunghee was released the following day, but Mr. Yang was not released until April 8th. Meanwhile the villagers continue to block the construction of the base. To stay updated, follow Sunghee Choi's blog.

This UNESCO World Heritage designated island stands to lose much of what makes it part of our world heritage. The transformation of Jeju into a military base also shows that much has yet to change in South Korea before a true democracy is established. The strategies of subtle coercion and lack of transparency by both the Navy and the South Korean government against its own people are discouraging to any person concerned about democracy and the rights of people. The struggle of Gangjeong villagers for land, life, and peace should concern us all.

Anders Riel Müller is a fellow with the Korea Policy Institute living in South Korea
To prevent the destruction of the Gangjeong region and coast, the only dolphin habitat in the Korean peninsuala, and to support the the villagers of Gangjeong, Professor Yang, and the former governor of Jeju Island, please write to the Korean Ambassador in your country. Here's the website to send messages to Ambassador Han Duk-soo in the U.S.: http://www.dynamic-korea.com/embassy/meet.php The site asks for votes for Jeju Island as one of the "Seven Wonders of the World." Please ask the Embassy not to destroy its "Seven Wonders of the World."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Photo Highlights of ALL WEEK LONG "No to Nuclear" Rallies in Kyoto, Japan- Last walk today 2pm

Students, workers, Tokyo and Tohoku evacuees, hundreds of people have come from far and wide to raise their voices against nuclear power EVERY DAY in Kyoto all this week. The daily walk through downtown Kyoto is not organized just for the sake of protesting. Participants are coming together to learn, exchange ideas, build networks, and formulate proposals to create a nuclear-free Japan.

Come today to Sanjo Ohashi to join in the final demo for the week.
  • Meet at 2pm
  • March at 3pm
Organized by: Organization to Stop Kansai Electric Nuclear Power Plants

Organization contact info: genpatsu.tomeru@gmail.com/090-9860-9860
http://genpatsumoumuri.seesaa.net/
http://ooburoshiki.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/#!/oooburoshiki


Here are some photo highlights from the week. More to come!
Day 1- Hundreds proclaim "No Nukes" in the heart of downtown Kyoto

A variety of appeals to put an end to nuclear power

Day 2- "We are against nuclear power too"- Queers against nukes

Day 3- Japanese citizens are outraged at government regulations have increased the radioactive load for children to 20 mSv/year.

Day 4- Ibaraki Parliament member Keiki Yamashita will run throughout his constituency carrying this flag "Let's get rid of nuclear power"!

Day 5- Yuki designs clothing to support the anti-nuclear power movement

Day 6- 250 people met at the riverside to join in the march

Will you be in the picture on day 7? Hope to see you there!

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No Helipads in Takae!: Walk for Peace in Kyoto on the 39th Anniversary of Okinawan Reversion

"Once people know what is happening in Okinawa, there is no way that they can NOT raise their voices against the bases. I came to know about the situation by chance. Now I will not stop protesting until the bases and helipads are gone and Okinawans can lead normal lives...”
Chords resounding from several Okinawan sanshins echoed through the busiest streets of Kyoto as I asked the 32-year old women pictured above why she was marching in Kyoto on Sunday. The peaceful walk, that gained smiles of encouragement from Sunday shoppers in Kyoto, was organized to raise awareness of the dangers accompanying the construction of 6 new helipads in Takae.

Although the young woman wished for her face not to appear in this picture, her message resonates nonetheless. Throughout the walk, she held up a succession of nearly 15 different placards asking passersby to imagine themselves in Okinawan shoes: How would they react if helicopters were flying over Kyoto? What do you think your friends in Okinawa would want? How would you feel if Kyoto land was constantly being gobbled up for the construction of new U.S. military bases?

Local Kyotoites march down Kawaramachi with signs reading "No Helipads in Yanbaru Forest" and "Our future is connected to Okinawa" (Courtesy of Kyoto Shinbun 5.15.2011)
The name of the organization arranging the peace walk, “People Meeting to Plan Something-like-a--demo to Raise Awareness About Takae,” sheds light on the egalitarian nature of the participants and the event. Understanding that some people hesitate to participate in protests, the group emphasizes that the gathering is more than just a demo, but a venue for sharing ideas, learning, raising our voices for what we believe in, and networking.

This was my second time to walk in Kyoto on the anniversary of the Okinawa reversion. For some walkers, this was their first time to participate in something like a demonstration. Others had organized events to support the Okinawan struggle for over 20 years, and others regularly join locals in sit-in protests in front of U.S. bases and/or their planned construction sites. The organization spreads the word about the demonstration through email, websites, and twitter.

Despite the opposition of an overwhelming majority of Okinawans to the construction of new U.S. military helipads and a new Marine base, and government promises that they would, at minimum, construct any new bases in Japan outside of Okinawan soil, the Japanese and U.S. governments are deceitfully forging on with their original plan (dating from the 1960's) s to build a base in Henoko. Not only has the U.S. erected a fence around the planned construction area for the new base in ecologically fragile Oura Bay, but also construction of 75-meter in diameter helipads has already begun. In 1996 the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed at the Special Action Committee on Okinawa to add an additional 6 new helipads to the 15 helipads already menacing residents in Higashi Village near the U.S. Northern Training Area, a facility where the U.S. military tested napalm and trained soldiers in "jungle" warfare.

Not only are the helipads a source of intense sound pollution, but crashes of the accident-prone V-22 Osprey that the 6 new helipads are planned to accommodate, have already killed 34 people in the United States and Afghanistan. How many more fatal accidents must there be before the endangered Osprey is no longer used?

"No helipads in Takae!"

Furthermore, the Yanbaru forest, where the U.S. wants to build the new helipads, is home to over 4,000 different species of wildlife, many of them endangered. Construction of the helipads is temporarily on hold until July 1 due to the breeding season of the critically endangered Okinawan rail. Residents and their Japanese and international supporters are taking the pause in construction as an opportunity to push even harder for a permanent end to the imposition of the helipads.

In the months leading up to the construction, locals and their allies led peaceful sit-in protests, interrupted by questionable police arrests. On December 22, 2011, a US helicopter hovered so close to the sit-in-tent that it was blown over. However, resistance continue, and Okinawa Peace Walk, held in Nago City on Sunday, attracted over 3,200 participants. As a part of this action, 150 demonstrators attached banners reading “No More Bases” and “Protect Biodiversity” on the fence at Henoko Bay (See previous Ten Thousand Things post on the 39th Anniversary of the Revision of Okinawa).

The Okinawan rail, or as known locally, the Yanbaru Kuina
In Japan, groups such as US for Okinawa and Kyoto Action are also working to spread awareness and pressure the U.S. and Japanese governments to listen to the Okinawan people. US for Okinawa arranges study tours in Okinawa while Kyoto Action holds weekly Saturday rallies in the heart of the Kyoto shopping district to raise awareness of the U.S. bases in Okinawa, participated in the demonstration. The international Network for Okinawa, based in the United States, brings representatives from peace groups together to “protect Okinawa’s environment, culture, and people’s lives from the bases.” A list of organizations that belong to the network may be found here.

The Twitter account for "Something-like-a-Demo for Takae (Takae Demomitai)" served to notify people about the gathering, yet continues to provide useful and sometimes fun updates on the situation in Takae and in greater Okinawa:

[Spread the Word] We are opposed to the construction of the helipads in Higashi Village, Takae, Okinawa Prefecture, the place known to be the habitat of the Yanbaru Kuina (Okinawan Rail). On the 15th of May we will gather together to demonstrate, raise our voices, stroll through town? Meet at 3pm along the river at Sanjo. We start walking at 5. Hope you can make it! We will also be selling books about Okinawa. (May 2)

[Spread the Word] Petition campaign for President Obama to stop construction of the helipads in Takae! The petition is in English, but you just need to enter your name and other details. (May 5)

The Takae something-like-a-demo has begun! People are starting to gather together and it is getting lively.(May 15)

It looks like there were 50 participants in "Something-Like-a-Demo. Future plans for "Something-Like-a-Demo"- Let's make the Yanabaru Forest APPEAR?! in Kyoto. We'll dress in costumes, or maybe do cos-play? Oh! Sounds like fun! Getting excited! (May 16)

Mr. Isa from the Group against Helipads in Takae reports that during the government's construction of the helipads in January and February, there was extensive tree trimming. Now the calls of the Okinawan rail and their nests are nowhere to be heard or seen. This is blatant destruction of the environment. (May 16)
In a democracy, legitimate political power stems from the citizenry, however, the demands for no more bases by the majority of Okinawan people are being ignored. Allies of the Okinawan people continue to work in solidarity so that the Okinawan voices can be heard. Through these demonstrations, peace walks, gatherings, whatever you call them, may our collective voices reach the ears of the U.S. and Japanese governments.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Stop the Monju" global appeal to close decrepit breeder reactor

(The governor of Fukui prefecture allowed the fast experimental breeder nuclear reactor Monju to resume operation after a suspension of more than 14 years. It was shut down after its malfunctioning coolant system caused a fire. The problematic, decrepit reactor (ironically named after the Buddhist bodhisattva of wisdom) in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, in western Japan, was activated on May 6. 2010.)

Two months after the tsunami and the explosion at Fukushima, the situation in Japan is still very dangerous, even if the corporate media is not reporting this. All over the country, earthquakes are still taking place, some of great intensity. Japanese people are very worried because of the radioactive contamination of air, ocean, potable water and agricultural soil. The ruined Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant will continue emitting this radiation for an indeterminable period.

This is why several groups have initiated a renewed campaign against nuclear energy: the first step towards definitive change on a worldwide scale. We are all connected by invisible links and share a common fate. Nuclear power is not only injurious, but also deadly. The people of Japan are asking for help to collect signatures from all over the world to convince their government to close all of Japan's nuclear plants.

During the past weeks, people worldwide signed a petition supporting the Japanese people's demand for the closure of Hamaoka nuclear plant which is located directly on a faultline manifesting seismic activity. On the sea, the plant is near the renowned geographical symbol of Japan: Mount Fuji. The petition cited the imminent risk of a nuclear explosion that could destroy the centre of Japan, including Tokyo.

On May 6th, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, announced that he requested the closure the Hamaoka plant. His administration also announced their decision to focus on the development of natural energy, rather than nuclear power.

However there are still more than fifty nuclear plants in Japan, some are at extreme risk. People in Japan say they must demonstrate the international support of their campaigns to close them, to be successful.

This website (mainly in Japanese) contains online petitions (in English, Spanish, French, and Russian) demanding the closure of other nuclear plants, starting with Monju, the most dangerous: http://www.page.sannet.ne.jp/stopthemonju/.

"Stop the Monju" has been working for many years to close the Monju nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. Here is their latest appeal:
Appeal To Everyone Around the World,

Now we are walking on the brink of an unfathomable catastrophe and we do not know what tomorrow will bring. This is because of the potential of the catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and impending subsequent disaster. Already, a massive amount of radiation (several hundred thousand terabecquerel) has been released, and many people, including young children, have been exposed to radiation.

Fearing the coming of this day, many people throughout Japan have been working desperately, but despite these efforts, the tragedy at Fukushima was not prevented. It is truly disappointing.

At the same time, we feel outraged toward those who make the excuse that it was “unexpected”, and continue to promote nuclear power without reflecting at all, even with the reality that is in front of us. From now, radiation will contaminate the food, and the health of all citizens throughout Japan will be threatened whether we like it or not. In addition, it will also cause major losses in the economic world.

If an earthquake directly strikes the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, Monju, or the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture, it will be the end of this country. Everyone, shouldn’t we at least prevent that catastrophe from happening? It is not too late now. If we remain silent, for certain, the day of disaster comes closer. The energy will not be a problem without nuclear power.

Let us make the voice of “no nuclear power” into a big shape, and seek a change in policy. Please help to gather signatures so that we will never again expose more people to dangerous radiation leaks from nuclear plant accidents.
For more on Monju, please see:

• May 6, 2010 post: Monju resumes operation after 14 years; Citizens' Nuclear Information Center calls this playing "Russian Roulette"

• 2009 post: "Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009: The renaissance of nuclear energy is much exaggerated (with the possible exception of Monju)"

(The post pays tribute to the late Jinzaburo Takagi, founder of Tokyo-based Citizen's Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). The visionary activist and other Japanese citizens were able to temporarily compel the closure of the problematic Monju reactor after a notorious nuclear accident and attempted cover-up. Takagi also worked to legitimize the plight of Chernobyl victims who developed cancer, following an International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA )1991 report that claimed "radiation from the Chernobyl accident had almost no effect on the local population.")

• "FAQs on Japan's prototype fast breeder reactor MONJU, May 29, 2005 (Revised)", Green Action

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Anniversary of Okinawa Reversion: Locals attach 100 protest banners to fence surrounding land the U.S. Marines have earmarked for new base

(Photo courtesy of the Okinawa Times)

This morning on the anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa, 150 people in protest attached 100 banners on the U.S. military fence towering over Henoko Bay surrounding the land earmarked for the "relocation" of Futenma Air Base. May 15th marks the 39th anniversary of the "return" of Okinawa to Japan, yet Okinawa remains in a de facto state of occupation as policy-makers in Tokyo and Washington, D.C. continue to ignore citizen cries to remove bases from Okinawa and to end the ceaseless co-option of pristine forest and sea-side for relocation of U.S. bases.

It has recently been brought to my attention, that when discussing the construction of the new base, military and governmental officials use the term "relocation," which gives the false impression that once Futenma is no longer used as an air base, the land Futenma is on will magically return to how it was before; that the destruction the base has caused on the ecosystem and on the Okinawan people will magically disappear. "Relocation" is used to hide the fact that Washington and Tokyo officials, at the expense of Okinawan people, are adding yet another military base to the list of over 800 U.S. bases around the world. As US for Okinawa expresses in a February 2011 press release, "To us, the promise being made to Okinawa sounds like telling a man you will give him back an arm you have cut off only as long as you can remove his leg."

Click here, Ryukyu Asahi News clip, to view footage of citizens in action. A translation follows below:
Next is Okinawa Prefecture news. The U.S. military has finished erecting a fence at the seaside along Henoko Bay in Nago City. Today, civil organizations and fellow citizens participating in 5.15 Peace Walk, attached banners to the fence to protest the construction of a military base at the site.

The fence, which reaches as much as 4 meters-high, was completed on the beach which connects Henoko Bay to Camp Schwab. Citizens and local groups engaged in a sit-in on the 14th protesting the construction of a new base there, were joined on the 15th by more citizen groups and protesters participating in the Peace Walk to hang banners on the fence saying "NO" to bases in Okinawa.

Ashitomi Hiroshi, joint-representative of the Anti-helipad Construction Cooperative Group stated, "(Our action at this fence) is a good way to show everyone that the plan to relocate Futenma to Henoko will be a failure."
A similar Asahi News clip may be viewed here.

This is the 34th annual Okinawa Peace Walk. According to the Okinawan Times, participants started marching at 9am from Ginowan City Hall. They separated into two groups, one going to the north, one to the south, so as to surround Futenma Air Field. Around 2000 marchers will meet at 12:30 in Ginowan Beach Park to demand that the "Host Support Fund" being paid to the United States to occupy Okinawa be transferred to reconstruction efforts in Tohoku and that bases be removed from Okinawa. This is the first year that organizations outside of Okinawa were not invited to take part in the march. Organizers want to prioritize earthquake relief and show solidarity with earthquake and tsunami survivors whose suffering has been compounded by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. The event which usually spans over three days, was shrunken to one this year

Today, solidarity demonstrations and actions will be taking place all across Japan to appeal to remove bases from Okinawa and terminate plans to construct helipads for the V-22 Osprey aircraft, which have already taken the lives of 30 people in the U.S. and 4 in Afghanistan.

In Kyoto, citizens are meeting at Sanjo Ohashi at 3pm, and in Osaka, people are meeting at the Taisho Okinawa Kaikan at 2pm.

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Masahide Ota on Peace Boat's 73rd Voyage: Just as people of Japan are working together to recover, people of the world must work together for peace


Former Okinawa Governor Ota Masahide's speech is interpreted by Peace Boat staff member Julia Malecky.

Masahide Ota joined Peace Boat's 73rd voyage, his first on the peacebuilding NGO's ship, leaving Yokohama on April 24.

The president of Peace Boat's Global University and former governor of Okinawa shared an Okinawan maxim:
In Okinawa we have a motto: "Peace, independence and co-existence."
The visionary scholar and leader suggested just as the people of Japan are working together to recover from natural disaster and nuclear catastrophe, the people of the world must work together to build peaceful societies.

More about Masahide Ota, his scholarship and peacebuilding:

• Extensive interview by Satoko Norimatsu published at The Asia-Pacific Journal: "The World is beginning to know Okinawa": Ota Masahide Reflects on his Life from the Battle of Okinawa to the Struggle for Okinawa

• In this essay, Ota cites the 5,200 Okinawans who have been victims of crimes perpetrated by U.S. soldiers, still uncollected unexploded bombs and bodily remains of Okinawans from the Battle of Okinawa, and ongoing collective post-traumatic stress, in a plea for peace and the end the militarization of Okinawa:
Thus the war is still going on for the people in Okinawa. Why shall we start preparing for a new war, while the old war is not over yet?
"The war is still going on for the people of Okinawa" was published in Magazine 9 in 2007.

• "Supreme Court of Japan Testimony on U.S. Troop Presence," given by Masahide Ota when he was governor of Okinawa, published at JRPI Critique in 1997.

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 7, 2011 Okinawa Bitter Gourd Protest: “U.S. government itself is a ‘master of manipulation and extortion’”


On May 7, Okinawans protested derisive remarks by Kevin Maher made public earlier this year. The U.S. State Department's former director of the Office of Japan Affairs called Okinawans "masters of manipulation and extortion" and described them as "too lazy to grow goya (bitter gourd), a vegetable widely grown throughout Okinawa.

About 200 people gathered at the public square in front of the Okinawa Prefectural Government office to demonstrate against Maher's remarks and Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa’s visit.


They held banners and signs:
•  “Give us back quiet days!" (Plaintiffs' Group for Futenma US Airbase Noise Pollution Lawsuit )

• “No US Helipads in Takae!”

• “Sky of Futenma and Earth of Futenma are Ours”

• “Deceptions plus Expedience = Henoko (new base)“

• “Take the US-Japan Military Bases back with you to Mainland Japan!”

•  Japanese (Mainlanders)! Military Bases outside Okinawa! It is the time to take bases in Okinawa to the mainland!“

• “Anger”

•  We never allow base construction in Henoko”

• ”Close and Remove Futenma Airbase now. There is no place for US Military base”

•  “We oppose deployment of Japan Self Defense Force in Yaeyama and Miyako”
Before the protest, an Asahi Newsexplosive Wikileaks series exposing deceitful and fraudulent US-Japan machinations regarding Okinawa energized the entire prefecture. The Ryukyu Shimpo published an article retorting "U.S. government itself is a 'master of manipulation and extortion'":
Shikou Sakiyama, Chairman of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center, criticized both governments, saying, “I resent how the United States and Japanese governments have deceived the Okinawan people. Kevin Maher, former Director of Japanese Affairs in the State Department, was quoted as saying “Okinawans are masters of manipulation and extortion of Tokyo,” but those very same words apply to the U.S. government. The Japanese government, which has confirmed what Washington has done, is just as blameworthy as their U.S. counterparts. Japanese citizens should not tolerate what both governments have done.”

Shigenobu Arakaki, Chairman of the Okinawa Coalition, who had been suspicious about the veracity of the numbers of U.S. Marines being put forward, said, “both the U.S. and Japanese governments deceived Japanese citizens the same way as they did with secret pacts about the return of Okinawa, which clearly reflects how both countries have developed since World War II. Unless the people of Japan abandon the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, we will not be able to establish our own sovereignty.”

Hiroshi Ashitomi of the Helicopter Base Objection Association insists that, “The Democratic Party of Japan insults Okinawa. They think that they can sacrifice Okinawa in order to lighten the load on the main islands of Japan. When deciding their future, the Okinawan people cannot expect anything from either the U.S. or Japanese governments. They must determine their own future.”

Mie Kunimasa, member of the anti-base women’s group, “Kamado guwaa no tsudoi” (“Meeting of the Kamados”), organized by housewives residing around Ginowan City, said, “The negotiations totally ignore the situation here. The Okinawan people don’t see the issue in terms of burden of expense or the number of military personnel; we simply ‘say no’ the existence of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. We need to keep raising the matter of the situation in Okinawa.”
On March 8, the Okinawa Prefectural Government adopted a "Resolution of Protest Over The Remarks made by Mr. Kevin Maher, U.S. State Department Director of The Office of Japan Affairs demanding that the former U.S. diplomat rescind his alleged remarks and apologize to the citizens of Okinawa Prefecture.

The Goya Protest has continued at Okinawa Goya Project 2011, a blog from Okinawa challenging Maher's comment that Okinawans are "too lazy" to grow goya. The site is an evidentiary record of goya grown in Okinawa.

News links:

• The Yomiuri Shimbun: "Futenma problem still up in air"

(After the meeting, Okinawa Governor Nakaima told reporters, "I'll never allow Futenma to become a permanent facility, " and criticizing Japan Defense Minister Kitazawa, "If he only comes to tell us what the government can't do, he'll only lose the trust of the international community.")

• QAB news (in Japanese): Kitazawa’s visit on May 7, 2011

(Japan Defense Minister Kitazawa met with Okinawa Gov. Nakaima on May 7. The talks didn't bring agreement on the Futenma issue any closer.

While Governor Nakaima made a 10 point-demand including the relocation of U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma outside Okinawa and the return of most of the facilities south of Kadena, Kitazawa insisted upon the destruction of Oura Bay to make way for another U.S. military base; saying otherwise there would be no progress. At this meeting, Kitazawa did not mention the most recent method the Japanese government has in mind for the destruction of Oura Bay, habitat of the federally protected and critically endangered Okinawa dugong (manatee).

• QAB news (in Japanese) Japan Defense Minister Kitazawa’s press conference on May 8, 2011

(On May 8, Japan Defense Minister Kitazawa made his first visit to the Japan Self Defense Air Force Miyako island station and met with Miyakojima Mayor Shimoji. Kitazawa said would consider how Japan would defend the Sakishima islands and southernmost Japan in this fiscal year. When he returned to Naha, Kitazawa divulged at a press conference that he did not feel the negotiation with Nakaima was tough. He said that since he knows Nakaima’s character, "We had a very good talk.")

For more information, please see The Network for Okinawa's website, Closethebase.org.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Asahi News' May 4 Wikileaks series reveal Tokyo-D.C. deception & fraud re their proposed U.S. Marine base in Okinawa

Okinawan peace and life activists resisting the destruction of a beautiful eco-system (habitat of the Okinawa dugong), by proposed U.S. military base construction at Henoko & Oura Bay. (Image: Save Life Society)

Here's a complete set of links to the complete set of The Asahi News' May 4, 2011 Wikileaks series revealing Tokyo-D.C. deception & fraud re the planned "Futenma Replacement" U.S. Marine base in Okinawa.

"THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (1)": DPJ government never committed to Futenma alternatives": http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105040063.html
Between late 2009 and early 2010, a number of high-ranking officials of the Yukio Hatoyama administration told their U.S. counterparts that they would seek alternatives to the 2006 agreement to relocate Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. But they also secretly said that, in the end, Japan would go along with the 2006 agreement if the United States rejected the proposed alternatives.
"THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (2): U.S. used 'China card' to thwart Futenma alternatives": http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105040065.html (Note: China spends between 1/7th and 1/10th of what the U.S. spends on military. Beijing's total military spending equals $70 billion, equal to the amount Washington wastes annually on military spending according to the General Accounting Office (GAO).)

"THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (3): Numbers inflated in Marine relocation plan to increase political impact": http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105040066.html:
Japan and the United States in May 2006 compiled a road map for realigning U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan. Under the plan, a provisional agreement was reached in December 2008 on the move to Guam that included the financial burden on each nation.

A diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to the U.S. State Department that provided details on the negotiations explained that Japan's share was made to appear smaller with the inclusion of an unnecessary project costing $1 billion (81 billion yen) to construct a military road by the United States.

The cable also explained that the numbers of those to be moved to Guam was inflated to 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members to "optimize political value" (of the agreement).

A diplomatic cable said that in 2006, there were "on the order of 13,000" Marines based in Okinawa. Okinawa prefectural government officials argued that the actual number was 12,000 and criticized the figure included in the relocation road map as an exaggeration.

Although the issue was taken up in the Diet, the government at the time refused to confirm the actual number of personnel to be moved. The cables back up Okinawa's doubts about the figures.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government was not the first to make secret promises on the Futenma relocation issue that differed from official statements. Such discrepancies can be found in cables from the era of the coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The Japan-U.S. road map compiled in May 2006 included figures that differed from reality due to political considerations made by both governments.

Soon after Barack Obama became president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Japan in February 2009 and signed the agreement on the move of Marines to Guam with then Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.

At that time, the Japanese bureaucrats and the U.S. government wanted to create a legal framework that would require the immediate implementation of the Futenma relocation plan if the DPJ took over control of government following a Lower House election expected that year.

A "secret" cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to Clinton that provided an explanation before her visit to Japan said, "Japanese officials believe the agreement and the allotment of over $900 million in realignment funding during the next fiscal year will buttress Japan's commitment to the May 1, 2006, Alliance Transformation Agreement even if there is a change in government here."
"THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (4): LDP ministers made secret promises to Okinawa governor on Futenma": http://www.asahi.com/english?TKY201105040067.html:
A "confidential" cable dated March 12, 2007, and submitted to the U.S. State Department from Kevin Maher, then consul general in Okinawa, said: "(Then Defense Minister Fumio) Kyuma then argued strongly that we need a fifty-meter revision in the FRF (Futenma Replacement Facility) plan in order to get Gov. Nakaima to agree to cooperate with the environmental impact assessment. I responded that we do not, and that to show any flexibility on this point is a mistake and a misreading of the situation in Okinawa."

Kyuma was forced to resign as defense minister in July 2007 after he said the U.S. atomic bombings in World War II could not be helped. Replacing Kyuma was Yuriko Koike, who served as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's special adviser on national security issues.

However, Koike was also forced to step down two months later after a confrontation with Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya over personnel decisions.

No longer defense minister, Koike nevertheless visited Okinawa in November 2007 and met with Maher at the Kanucha resort across the bay from Camp Schwab.

A cable classified as "confidential" and written by an official at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in place of Maher mentions a secret promise Koike had made with Nakaima.

The cable said, Koike "admitted that as minister she had given the governor an informal 'promise' that after the EIA (environmental impact assessment) is completed, Tokyo will agree to slide the runway 50 meters more toward the ocean."

According to the cable, Maher told Koike that the United States had an "aversion to revising the plan at all," asking her, "What happens if there were no scientific reasons resulting from the EIA to justify any revision to the runway relocation?"

The cable said Koike responded, "There will be a different administration by 2009, so it doesn't matter what we've promised him."
"THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (5): Hatoyama's Asia plans created further friction with U.S. officials": http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105040068.html.

"THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (6): Japanese bureaucrats also critical of DPJ government": http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105040069.html