Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Disaster relief is not a good excuse for destroying eco-systems in Okinawa for another U.S. base

It's strange some people think U.S. assistance in bringing water and food to victims of Japan's natural and nuclear disasters is an argument to build yet another U.S. military base in Okinawa.

Destroying Oura Bay, the last habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, to build a mega-base, and cutting down old-growth trees in biodiverse Yanbaru, one of the last surviving subtropical rainforests in Asia, to build V-22 Osprey helipads for U.S. jungle training is the last thing Japan needs right now. The archipelago already has 100 U.S. military bases and facilities, including 30 on 20% of Okinawa.

After the earthquake and tsunami destruction of the beautiful Tohoku coastline and the ongoing irradiation of idyllic rural areas, Japan does not need (nor did it ever need) further environmental devastation by the U.S. military in Okinawa. It's long past time for the Tokyo and Washington to honor Okinawan democratically expressed choice to protect the exquisite eco-systems and peaceful villages in northern Okinawa.

CNN's Eve Bower wrote this on the day after 3/11. She describes continued Okinawan efforts to save Henoko Village, Oura Bay, Takae Village, and Yanbaru Forest from unwanted and unneeded destruction by the U.S. military. "Earthquake response doesn't shake Okinawans' opposition to U.S. bases:"
Every morning at 7:30, Hiroshi Ashitomi trudges up sand-dusted steps, pries open a metal folding chair, and joins a handful of his fellow retirees under a plastic tent, facing seaward. They are staging a protest.

Their "sit-ins" are in opposition to a perceived threat that many of his neighbors also fear: the planned expansion of a U.S. military base on Okinawa's east-facing Henoko Bay.

On Saturday, however, both the routines of Ashitomi and of the U.S. military were upset. And even though the reason for that disruption -- a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami -- demonstrated the advantage of having U.S. bases, Ashitomi and others say they will not alter their efforts to get the U.S. military off the island...

In an interview with CNN Saturday, Susumu Inamine, mayor of the city of Nago on Okinawa, pointed out that he was elected on a platform of "no new construction of U.S. facilities" on the island. He also recited a litany of statistics that many in Okinawa have committed to memory: 75% of all U.S. bases in Japan are on Okinawa, an island that makes up less than 1% of Japan's territory; and 20% of the land on the island is already taken by U.S. bases.

Inamine said his constituents feel that the Japanese central government requires a disproportionate "burden" of Okinawans, relative to residents of other parts of Japan. He wants some of the U.S. presence currently on his island to be relocated to another Japanese island.
Read Bower's entire article here.

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