Saturday, February 26, 2011

John Feffer: "Okinawans continue to resist in Takae"

(Okinawans engaged in nonviolent action to protect their beloved, biodiverse Yanbaru Forest from unwanted U.S. military training helipad construction. Photo: The Situation in Takae Higashimura and Yanbaru Forest website.)
Okinawans Continue to Resist in Takae

By John Feffer

Co-director, Foreign Policy in Focus, Network for Okinawa
HuffPost, Feb. 25, 2011

Some animals should be endangered. Consider the V-22 Osprey. The tilt-rotor aircraft, which takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane, costs more than a $100 million apiece, killed 30 personnel in crashes during its development stage, and survived four attempts by none other than Dick Cheney to deep-six the program. Although it is no longer as crash-prone as it once was, the Osprey's performance in Iraq was still sub-par and it remains a woefully expensive creature. Although canceling the program would save the U.S. government $10-12 billion over the next decade, the Osprey somehow avoided the budget axe in the latest round of cuts on Capitol Hill.

It's bad enough that U.S. taxpayers have to continue to support the care and feeding of this particular Osprey. Worse, we're inflicting the bird on others.

In a small village in the Yanbaru Forest in northern Okinawa, the residents of Takae have been fighting non-stop to prevent the construction of six helipads designed specifically for the V-22. The protests have been going on since the day in 2007 when Japanese construction crews tried to prepare the site for the helipads. "Since that day, over 10,000 locals, mainland Japanese, and foreign nationals have participated in a non-stop sit-in outside the planned helipad sites," writes Jon Mitchell at Foreign Policy In Focus. "So far, they've managed to thwart any further construction attempts. At small marquee tents, the villagers greet visitors with cups of tea and talk them through their campaign, highlighting their message with hand-written leaflets and water-stained maps."

It's all part of the plan that would shut down the aging Futenma air base in Okinawa, relocate some of the Marines to Guam, and build a new facility elsewhere in Okinawa. The overwhelming majority of Okinawans oppose this plan. They want to shut down Futenma, and they don't want any new U.S. military bases.

But the Japanese government has essentially knuckled under to U.S. pressure to move forward with the agreement. Building these helipads in a subtropical forest, with a wide range of unusual wildlife, is all part of the deal.

The recently re-elected Okinawan governor Hirokazu Nakaima opposes the relocation plan. And, according to Pacific Daily News, "Nakaima may actually have the authority to disrupt the plan because of his authority under the Japan Public Water Reclamation Act, which gives the Okinawa governor final authority over reclaimed land." Washington has said that it won't move forward on the deal without local support.

The Osprey is a budget-busting beast. The Okinawans don't want it. Both Tokyo and Washington are desperate to trim spending.
More background on the V-22 Osprey:

Last year, The Sustainable Defense Task Force, a commission of scholars from a broad ideological spectrum appointed by U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (the House Financial Services Committee chairman) and the White House Fiscal Commission (co-chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles) both recommended eliminating U.S. spending on the problematic and costly V-22 Osprey.

"Generals clash on cause of April Osprey crash" (The Air Force Times, (Jan. 22, 2011).

"Boeing Craft, Helicopters Gain in Pentagon's $671 Billion Defense Budget" (Bloomberg, Feb. 14, 2011).

"Proposed budget cuts take aim at F-35, V-22" (Star-Telegram, Nov. 10, 2010).

"Cuts to U.S. defense budget would hurt some investors, RBC Capital report says" (National Post, Nov. 16, 2010.)

"Obey's Afghanistan: At Long Last, it's Guns versus Butter" by Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy (Fire Dog Lake, June 19, 2010).

"The Military Money Pit" by Joshua Green (The Boston Globe, June 17, 2010). (Green quotes Dick Cheney description of the V-22 Osprey as a "turkey.")

"Panel commissioned by Barney Frank recommends nearly $1T in defense cuts" (, June 11, 2010).

"Key Amendments to H.R.1, Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations Bill" compiled by The New York Times. (Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (Democrat, Illinois sponsored an Amendment To Eliminate Financing for the V-22 Osprey Aircraft (H.AMDT.13). The House of Representatives voted (326 to 105, mostly Republican, but also Democrats) against this amendment; resulting in U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for at least $415 million for the V-22 Osprey aircraft this year. So far, the Osprey has cost Americans $60 billion.)

"V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame" ( TIME Magazine's Sep. 26, 2007 cover story).

"Accidents and incidents involving the V-22 Osprey" (Wikipedia).

More background information on the movement to protect Takae Village and Yanbaru Forest:

"Voice of Takae".

WWF's "No Military Helipads in Yanbaru Forest".

"Saving the Okinawan Woodpecker," (The Center for Biological Diversity).

Jon Mitchell's "Postcard from Takae," ( Foreign Policy in Focus).

Peace Not War Japan’s Film/Live Music Festival Highlights Citizen Movements: Mt. Takao・Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest・ Iraqi Refugees in Jordan (TTT, Nov. 12, 2009).

Takae Village Sit-in protest against US Helipads in Pristine Yanbaru Forest (TTT, Jan. 25, 2010).

"Peaceful New Earth Celebration" in Tokyo spotlights Okinawa, indigenous cultures, sustainability, & global networking (TTT, June 24, 2010).

Biodiversity 100: Preserve the biodiversity on Okinawa Island, including Yanbaru Forest's spiny rat, Noguchi's Woodpecker, & Namiye's Frog (TTT, Oct. 27, 2010).

Save Takae Village and and the biodiversity of Yanbaru Forest (TTT, Jan. 4, 2011).

"Latest Photos of Nonviolent Action to Protect Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest" (TTT, Feb. 3, 2011)

"Futenma is not the only problem" by Yoshio Shimoji (The Japan Times, Feb. 20, 2011).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Network for Okinawa Statement/Press Release on New U.S. Military Construction in Yanbaru Forest & Henoko, Okinawa

Network for Okinawa Statement/Press Release on New U.S. Military Construction in Yanbaru Forest & Henoko, Okinawa

Construction Accelerates at Two U.S. Military Sites in Okinawa Prefecture
Advocates Express Concern for Treatment of Peaceful Protesters
WASHINGTON – The Japanese Defense Ministry’s Okinawan Headquarters (the Okinawan Defense Bureau) accelerated construction of new facilities at two military bases in northern Okinawa during the last week of January — despite recent signals from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the United States would be more flexible in the realignment of bases in Okinawa. The construction prompted calls of protest from international peace and environmental organizations.

Construction workers pushed past local residents to move material and equipment into Takae Village in the Yanbaru Forest. Crews also replaced a barbed wire barrier with a temporary wall on a beach bordering Camp Schwab in an effort to block the view of new construction from protesters. Residents have continuously protested both construction sites since US and Japanese governments announced their plans at the end of 1996; and cite the many sensitive environmental and cultural treasures at risk. Both sites are home to rare and endangered species found only in Okinawa.

“The actions of the Okinawan Defense Bureau are of deep concern and demonstrate the legitimate grievances of the Okinawan community. We urge all parties to exercise firm restraint. We call on the Japanese and American governments to respect the democratic wishes of Okinawans who have overwhelmingly voted to prevent new base construction on Okinawa,” said John Feffer, spokesperson for US-based Network for Okinawa.

Plans for the US Marine Corps’ jungle training area near Takae Village include six new helipads capable of handling the military’s new V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Residents object that the construction will surround their village of 160 people and damage the biodiverse Yambaru Forest. Takae’s local residents successfully prevented construction from 2007 until December 2010 when a protest camp was partially destroyed by a US helicopter and construction crews forcibly restarted construction work.

Residents near Camp Schwab oppose construction of a new airbase and military port over coral reefs in Henoko Bay. Military leaders cite this new megabase as a replacement for the existing controversial Futenma airbase in central Okinawa. The plan has drawn international criticism because of the endangered species that live within the construction area. In 2008, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Defense had violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to “take into account” in the planning of the construction of a US military base in Henoko and Oura Bay the effects of the construction on the Okinawa dugong, a Japanese “natural monument.” Last November, Okinawa elected a governor who campaigned on the promise to close Futenma and relocate it outside the prefecture.

“It is an incredible tragedy the Japanese and American governments insist on pushing forward with a construction plan that would cause irreparable damage to one of the world’s most diverse biosystems,” said Mr. Feffer. “During a time of economic crisis and mounting deficits, it is shocking that both countries have embraced a plan that cuts education and social welfare programs while supporting a construction plan that benefits only the military-industrial complex.”

The Network for Okinawa (NO) is a grassroots coalition of peace groups, environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academia, and think tanks, which oppose additional military construction in Okinawa and support the democratic decisions of the people of Okinawa.

Japanese version:

「Network for Okinawa」(沖縄のためのネットワーク)声明文



建設作業員が建設資材や機材を高江の山原(やんばる)の森へ移動する際、地元住民を押しのけて通り過ぎました。また、キャンプ・シュワブと海辺の境界にある有刺鉄条網を臨時の壁に置き換えることで、建設現場を抗議者の 視界から妨げる試みです。住民は、1996年末に日米政府が計画を発表して以 来、両建設現場では住民たちが反対運動を行ってきました。住民たちは、繊細な 環境および文化遺産の危機をずっと訴えてきました。両方の現場は、沖縄でしか見つけることのできない希少種や絶滅危惧種の生息地です。

「沖縄防衛局の行為は大きな懸念であり、沖縄地域の正当な不満をあきらかにしています。私たちは、工事関係者には不適切な行動を慎むよう要求します。私たちは、日米両政府に対し、沖縄の圧倒的大多数の人々が新基地建設阻止のために投票した民主的な願いを尊重するよう求めます」と、米国を拠点にしている「Network for Okinawa」の代表のジョン・フェファー氏は語りました。

高江近くの米海兵隊のジャングル訓練場の計画は、米軍が開発した垂直離着陸機V-22オスプレイが操作できる米軍のヘリパッド6つを含みます。住民は、建設が160人の住む村を囲み、生物が多様なやんばるの森に被害を及ぼすと異議を唱えています。2007年から2010年12月までの間は、建設の阻止に成功していましたが、今回、抗議テントが米軍のヘリコプターによって部分的に破壊され、建設作業員 たちが強制的に建設を再開しました。2007年から2010年12月までの 間は、建設の阻止に成功していました。



※「Network for Okinawa」(沖縄のためのネットワーク)は、米国と世界の平和・環境団体、宗教的奉仕活動団体、大学・研究機関やシンクタンクの代表者を結びつけ、沖縄に おける軍事施設建設に反対し、民主的な判断をサポートする草の根のネットワークです。

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feb. 19: Day of Remembrance Commemorating Japanese American WWII Detention

This year's Japanese American National Museum Day of Remembrance spotlights parallels between persecution of Japanese Americans after the Japanese Imperial attack on Pearl Harbor and the ongoing persecution of Muslim Americans after the terrorist (mostly Saudi Arabian nationals) attack on New York City on September 11, 2001:

The Day of Remembrance is held each year around February 19th to commemorate the day that Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which resulted in the incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

This year's theme, "September 11: Ten Years After” was selected because of growing anti-Muslim sentiments and attacks on mosques across the country. The DOR committee affirms the importance for Japanese Americans to support the Muslim American community.

Former Congressman and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will address why Japanese Americans have a special responsibility to speak out against civil rights violations and the importance of reaffirming our support for the Muslim American community. In order to understand what the Muslim American community is experiencing, Imam Hamza Perez (New Muslim Cool) will talk about the difficulties he faced setting up his mosque in Pittsburgh. In an effort to prevent further hate crimes and violence, DOR will inspire community members to reflect and take action for community solidarity.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

8th Anniversary of Global Protest Against Iraq War—Relook at Phyllis Bennis' Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, & the UN Defy U.S.

Thousands in NYC protest the Bush administration's planned invasion of Iraq war on February 15, 2003. (Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton, via Common Dreams)

On February 15, 2003, tens of millions of people, on the streets of 600-800 cities worldwide, co-created the largest anti-war demonstration in history to protest the US/UK invasion of Iraq.

Among the people who marched for peace: 3 million in Rome • 750,000 in London • 50,000 in Glasgow, Scotland • Between 100-200,000 in Paris (total of 500,000 in 80 cities in France) •  Between 300-500,000 in Berlin (joined by Germans in 300 cities and towns, including trade unionists and church leaders •  100,000 in Brussels •  10,000 in Warsaw • 150,000 in Athens • 80,000 in Lisbon • 60,000 in Oslo • 60,000 in Stockholm & Gothenberg, Sweden • 100,000 in Montreal •  80,000 in Toronto • 40,000 in Vancover (& more in 67 other Canadian cities) • 300,000 to one million in NYC • 50,000 in LA • 4,000 in Colorado Springs (withstanding violence from police using tear gas, stun guns and batons) • 100-300,000 in Damascus • 10,000 in Beirut • 5,000 in Jordan • 25,000 in Tokyo, followed by another 5,000 the next day (including protests at some of the 100 US military bases located in Japan and Okinawa-- where the U.S. train and station troops before deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan) • 10,000 in India • 3,000 in Seoul • 20, 000 in Cape Town, South Africa • 200,000 throughout Australia • 10,000 in New Zealand.

As global mass protests shake up Empire as usual—on the 8th Anniversary of Global Protest Against Iraq War—we're taking a relook at Democracy Now!'s Feb. 15, 2005 "Look at Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, & the UN Defy U.S. Power" by Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who advises we must work to stop upcoming wars before they start.
AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis has a new book, arguing the anti-war movement has evolved into a major force for global change. The book is called Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the U.N. Defy U.S. Power...

PHYLLIS BENNIS:...We didn’t succeed at stopping the war. But I think that would be a very partial assessment. What was created—and it wasn’t only around February 15, but that emerged as the centerpiece of this extraordinary global mobilization—was an exemplar of what it’s going to take to challenge this global drive towards empire, this drive towards war that has been so characteristic, not only of the Bush administration, but in a far more blatant and aggressive way than we had ever seen before.

It was an amazing thing, because I think what was so important was not only that you had so many people in the streets in so many different cities mobilized under one slogan in so many different languages—"The world says no to war"—but it was powerful enough that governments around the world were forced, for a combination of reasons, the pressure of their own citizens being the most important, but for their own opportunist reasons, as well, to do the right thing, even if, for the wrong reasons sometimes, to stand up to the U.S., to refuse to give in to the pressure that not only the powerful countries like France and Germany, but smaller, weaker countries, those on the Security Council, the six so-called uncommitted six, that refused to give in to U.S. pressure, under enormous threats. Chile, Mexico, Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Pakistan. These were not countries that could ordinarily go head to head with the U.S. When there were enough of them, it forced the U.N. to do what the U.N. is supposed to do, but so rarely does, which is to stand against what its own charter calls the "scourge of war."

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis, I wanted to stop you for a second on the issue of the U.N. Security Council right before the invasion, which goes to another controversy that the Bush administration is trying to deal with right now, and that’s the issue of domestic spying, the idea of spying on Americans.


AMY GOODMAN:: But we saw this before the invasion, and that was on the U.N. Security Council members.

PHYLLIS BENNIS:: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN:Can you remind us what happened?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: That’s right. In the months leading up to what was hoped by the Bush administration to be a vote on a real resolution endorsing the war, a vote they were never able to get, they were spying—the way they’re spying on the American people now, they were spying on every major country in the United Nations. They were spying on U.N. missions, on U.N. ambassadors, on cars, perhaps on the U.N.’s own territory, something which is not new. We know there has been spying on U.N. delegates ever since 1948—sorry, 1945, when the U.N. was first created. But this was an extraordinary blatant effort to find out what delegations were thinking and figure out ways to pressure them.

But we know it didn’t work, and I think this is what’s important about that mobilization. It wasn’t able to succeed at making this war globally acceptable and legal. That was what the Bush administration desperately wanted, and that’s what they failed to get, because the U.N. refused to vote to endorse the war, because government stood against it, and crucially, because there was this global movement that brought millions of people, somewhere between 12 and 14 million people, what the Guinness Book of World Records said was the largest global mobilization in history. It brought those people into the streets to say no to war. And that meant that when they did launch the war, there was no question around the world that this was an aggressive, illegal war.

And the question of how to mobilize against it was put much more on the agenda. Now, of course, the challenge for us is to figure out how to make real, when the governmental opposition has collapsed, the U.N. opposition has collapsed—what we have left is the most important centerpiece, the global people’s movements against this war, how to remobilize them to take up the demand to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq, bring all of the troops home now at a time when we know there’s going to be troop withdrawals. They will probably be on a large scale but will not lead to an end to occupation, and at a time when we have to be mobilizing to prevent the expansion of the war into Iran in the face of these extraordinary threats that are going on.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, you met with Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary General; Harry Belafonte; and South Africa’s, well, former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: On the morning of February 15, before the demonstrations began, we had an extraordinary moment when that small group went to meet with Secretary General Kofi Annan on the 38th floor in his office at the United Nations, only moments before the rally was to begin downstairs on that freezing cold New York day. And Bishop Tutu opened the meeting, and he said to his old friend—the two Nobel Laureates, African statesmen, who had worked together for so many years—he looked at Kofi Annan across the table, and he said, "We are here today on behalf of the people that are marching in 665 cities around the world. And we’re here to tell you that those people marching in all of those cities, we claim the United Nations as our own. We claim it in the name of the global mobilization for peace."

It was an extraordinary moment. It was the last thing Kofi Annan wanted to hear, at a moment when he was under such enormous pressure from the United States to put the U.N. on the side of the U.S. war. But he refused and ultimately did say the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal. We have to reclaim that role for the United Nations. It didn’t last long. It was a blink in history. It was an eight-month moment, when we had the countries, the governments and the U.N. on the side of this popular mobilization, but it’s that three-part mobilization—people, governments, and the U.N.—that we’re going to have to rebuild to stop the war that’s going on now, to prevent the next war that’s emerging as we speak...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yoshio Shimoji: Takae's helipad issue — Criticizing Sen. Inouye

Takae's helipad issue — Criticizing Sen. Inouye

Yoshio Shimoji
Naha, Okinawa

Futenma is not the only base issue anguishing Okinawa these days. There's a village called Takae in northern Okinawa and the problem facing Takae is that, in return for an unused portion of the U.S. Marine Corps Northern Training Area, Tokyo agreed with Washington to construct six helipads (diameter: 75 meters each) for the U.S. Marines' V-22 Ospreys in the lush forests surrounding the village.

The helipad construction is apparently interconnected with the planned relocation of the Futenma air station to Henoko, located also in northern Okinawa. The noise pollution caused by the Ospreys is said to be beyond human forbearance as the storm of protest showed lodged against the Marines on January 27 by the citizens of Brewton, Alabama, for the maneuvering of the Ospreys at the city’s airport.

Takae's lush forest where Tokyo wants to construct of six helipads (diameter of 75 meters each) for U.S. military V-22 Ospreys. Over 192 plant and animal (most are endangered) species are unique to this area. Photo: Yoshio Shimoji)

Takae sits amidst lush forests and natural beauty. Imagine how horrible its beautiful landscape would become if the construction actually started. The training and the deafening noise of the infamous Ospreys would certainly destroy the peaceful environment for not only the Takae villagers but also those precious species, some already listed as endangered, that are indigenous to Yanbaru (or Northern Okinawa Highland).

According to the February 12 Japan Times, Senator Daniel Inouye again urged Tokyo to make headway for the early relocation of Futenma, saying “The U.S. side has been patient, although it cannot wait indefinitely.” This is a gangster’s typical pet line when he intimidates others — that is, Senator Inouye is threatening Tokyo to expedite Washington’s decades-old design of Futenma’s relocation to Henoko.

He may not know, but the Marines or the U.S. Navy representing them submitted to U.S. Congress every fiscal year in the 1960’s a blue print for the relocation of Futenma to Henoko for a budgetary approval, which was never approved because of sky-rocketing Vietnam War expenditures. How dare he say “the U.S. side cannot wait indefinitely”? That’s a laughing matter, indeed.

The blueprint for a new air station, a military port, and a pier, from the Master Plan of Navy Facilities on Okinawa, 1966. Image: Asia-Pacific Journal) 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.

His letter letter, "How dare Obama ask Hatoyama to act without regard to democratic process in Okinawa?" was published at the The New York Times on May 28, 2010, and his article, "'Thanks' Doesn't Allay Okinawans," was published on July 11, 2010, at The Japan Times.

Sunday, February 6, 2011 Photograph of Christians protecting Muslims praying during protests in Egypt

Amazing image of solidarity: photograph of Christians protecting Muslims while they pray during protests in Egypt.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Global Article 9 Campaign Report on Japan's New Defense Policy (critics fear further undermining of Article 9)

The Global Article 9 Campaign's report on developments in Japan's military policy:
On December 17, the Japanese Cabinet published new defense guidelines - the first policy review since 2004.

Issued under the leadership of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), in power since 2009, the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) are to shape the country's defense policy over the coming years.

The policy revision takes place in a context of what the guidelines call a "global shift in the balance of power" with "the rise of emerging powers and relative change in the US influence." Indeed, Japan increasingly sees China's ongoing military modernization and North Korea's nuclear and missile development as threats to its national security. Furthermore, the new guidelines also aim to address new threats posed by cyber warfare, terrorism and piracy.

The new NDPG claim to be in conformity with Japan's defense policy tradition and Tokyo gave insurances that the country will "continue to uphold ... [its] exclusively defensive defense policy and the three non-nuclear principles." Yet critics have expressed their fear that the new guidelines may revisit some important principles enshrined in Japan's peace Constitution.

Among the most notable changes set forth by the NDPG figure the integration of the decision-making process under the leadership of the Prime Minister as part of an integrated security strategy, as well as the development of a "dynamic defense capability" (as opposed to Japan's traditional basic deterrence-based security policy). Though China is not explicitly mentioned in this context, analysts explain the shift as clearly referring to China - the language used in the guidelines being "southbound". A more proactive and flexible military approach will require a shift of resources from conventional heavy forces to more flexible and mobile capability (notably with an upgrade of Japan's fighter jets and expansion of its submarine fleet).

At the center of the review lies the desire to "deepen" the alliance with the US, deemed as "indispensable" to Japan's security. Washington has long been calling for Japan to play a stronger security role in the region. The NDPG also recommend the strengthening of security cooperation through "multi-layered" bilateral and multilateral frameworks in Asia-Pacific, notably with South Korea and Australia.

Further, the document calls for "a more efficient and effective manner" of participating in international peace cooperation activities. This implies a review of Japan's five principles on Peacekeeping operations - notably further discussions on the criteria for the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces abroad and the use of weapons, whose conformity with Article 9 of Japan's Constitution has been much debated.

The new defense policy, however, has refrained from explicitly calling for a review of the country's longstanding ban of arms exports.

Established in 1967 in the spirit of Article 9 of the Constitution, Japan's Three Principles on Arms Exports do not permit exports of weapons to Communist bloc countries, countries subject to United Nations sanctions, or countries involved in international conflicts. The export ban was virtually extended to all countries in 1976.

Though the government had initially been considering a review of the so-called three principles with the intention of loosening them, it eventually decided against including the debate in the NDPG to avoid alienating the Social Democratic Party, whose support was crucial. The issue of arms exports remains however at the center of the debate, as the government foresees that Japan will ''consider measures to deal with major changes" in that regard in the Diet and at the national level. But Seijo University associate professor Aoi Miho warns: ''the three principles are measures that embody Article 9, and as such should not be changed readily.''

The newly adopted defense policy guidelines are a source of concern among many lawmakers and political analysts in Japan and in the region.

Indeed, China perceives the new defense guidelines as "provocative" and "irresponsible," and criticized the NDPG stating they "will only create more suspicion and mistrust in the region." Likewise, Japanese analysts fear they could jeopardize regional peace and stability by creating suspicion and distrust among the country's neighbors, who may interpret the review as an indication of Tokyo's willingness to raise Japan's military profile.

In Japan, critics have raised their voice against what they consider to be a move in the wrong direction.

The Democratic Party of Japan was elected in 2009 after a campaign that put forward the DPJ's pacifist orientation, notably in regards to the US presence in Okinawa. The new NDPG, to many, seem to be questioning some of the core values enshrined in Article 9 of Japan's Constitution.

Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji, answering questions on the new policy, said: "The foundation of our country is our Constitution, and the three pillars are fundamental human rights, democracy, and pacifism... At the same time, however, I think that we must react properly to the changing times."

The debate over reviewing Japan's arms export policy and participation in UN peacekeeping operations abroad, as well as the country's new positioning in the region threaten to tarnish Japan's postwar pacifist image.

In the words of military journalist Maeda Tetsuo: ''Japan has had a brand image as a nation that neither sells weapons nor sends combat troops abroad, and for this, it has been valued by the world."

Article 9 of the Constitution renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential. It has also acted as an international peace mechanism that calls for a global peace that does not rely on force.

Read a summary of the NDPG report here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Photo essay: Nonviolent Citizen Action to Protect Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest

Okinawa Citizens Defense Force prevent construction work in Yanbaru forest with a ten-car brigade.

More than 15 cars block construction work.

Construction workers left with nothing to do after citizens block construction site.

(Above photos courtesy of The Situation in Takae Higashimura and Yanbaru Forest website (Japanese).)

According to latest reports from The Network for Okinawa, a U.S.-based grassroots network that draws together representatives from peace groups, environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academia, and think tanks:
Despite statements by the U.S. and Japanese governments that military construction would not proceed without local approval, the Japanese Defense Ministry's Okinawan Headquarters (the Okinawan Defense Ministry) forcibly started construction work on helipads in Okinawa at the end of last year.

These new helipads, where the U.S. wants to train Marines in the use of heavier, noisier, and dangerous MV-22 Osprey aircraft, would (if built) endanger the lives of local residents and irreparably destroy the pristine and biologically rich Yanbaru Forest in northern Okinawa.

On Feb. 1, several dump trucks and 50-60 workers threw bags of gravel over the fence at multiple entry points of the U.S. Marine Northern Training Area (a jungle warfare training ground used to test napalm during the U.S. war in Vietnam).

However, the Okinawan Citizens Defense Force (a pro-democracy and peace group) is engaging in nonviolent means to obstruct unapproved military construction.

Takae's lush forest where Tokyo wants to construct of six helipads (diameter of 75 meters each) for U.S. military V-22 Ospreys. Over 192 plant and animal (most are endangered) species are unique to this area. (Photo: Yoshio Shimoji)

More information and photos of the non-violent action can be viewed at Peace Philosophy Center.

New petitions and pamphlets in English and Japanese are also available.

For background information on the movement to protect Takae Village and the biodiversity of Yanbaru Forest, see "Voice of Takae;" WWF's "No Military Helipads in Yanbaru Forest"; Jon Mitchell's "Postcard from Takae," published at Foreign Policy in Focus; "Saving the Okinawan Woodpecker," posted at The Center for Biological Diversity; and these past TTT posts:

Peace Not War Japan’s Film/Live Music Festival Highlights Citizen Movements: Mt. Takao・Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest・ Iraqi Refugees in Jordan (Nov. 12, 2009)

Takae Village Sit-in protest against US Helipads in Pristine Yanbaru Forest (Jan. 25, 2010)

"Peaceful New Earth Celebration" in Tokyo spotlights Okinawa, indigenous cultures, sustainability, & global networking (June 24, 2010)

Biodiversity 100: Preserve the biodiversity on Okinawa Island, including Yanbaru Forest's spiny rat, Noguchi's Woodpecker, & Namiye's Frog (Oct. 27, 2010)

Save Takae Village and and the biodiversity of Yanbaru Forest (Jan. 4, 2011)

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From a Silk Cocoon screening at the National Museum of Japanese History in Tokyo on Feb. 5

The National Museum of Japanese History (Rekihaku Museum) in Tokyo will be showing From A Silk Cocoon on February 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm, as part of a special exhibition, Japanese Immigrants in the United States and the War Era.

Filmmaker Satsuki Ina will give a talk following the screening: "I'm very excited about this opportunity to share our story with the people in Japan in the context of this wonderful exhibit. I found that there was something powerfully healing about being able to see the Japanese American experience as part of Japanese history."

More information (in Japanese) about the screening at Rekihaku.