Thursday, December 1, 2011

"We call on the Japanese & US governments to respect the democratic wishes of Okinawans who have voted to prevent new base construction on Okinawa.”

Okinawans demonstrate on Dec. 1, 2011 at the Okinawa Defense Bureau,
a division of the Japanese Defense Ministry 

Two still relevant statements from earlier this year by Americans who support the Okinawan democracy and peace movement that seeks to halt US military destruction of unique, biodiverse, irreplaceable ecosystems in northern Okinawa (a subtropical rainforest & a coral reef habitat that is the home of the critically endangered and federally protected Okinawa dugong):
January 7, 2011

Dear U.S. Ambassador Roos,

US for OKINAWA, a peace action network formed by U.S. and other citizens from around the world, strongly denounces the sudden restarting of construction of an additional 6 new helipads in Takae, Okinawa. Such destruction further destroys the important biodiversity of the region, endangers the lives of local residents, and shamefully continues to undermine democracy in Okinawa.

As U.S. citizens, we call upon our country to use its great power to start fostering global environmental sustainability—not blatantly destroy the forests, waters and wildlife of other countries under the guise of “security.”

We call upon our country to stop the practice of trodding over the democratic processes of other countries supposedly in the name of promoting the American value of democracy. This is deceitful, and harms not only others, but our own stature in the world as well.

Finally, with an arsenal of more than 13,000 nuclear weapons, a chain of approximately 1,000 military bases around the world, fleets patrolling the world, inordinate stockpiles of conventional weaponry, and annual military spending far outstripping any other country, we call upon our country to halt this unnecessary new military construction in Takae.

It's time for the U.S. to step into a new era of fostering peace and stability in the world through more peaceful and just means. Let's start by halting further destruction of Takae.



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

Feb. 16. 2011

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。
Background from Hideki Yoshikawa in Okinawa:
The Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa (Okinawa BD): Call for Your Attention and Action:Protect Yanbaru Forest and Local Community from Helipad Construction

Dear Concerned Citizens and Organizations,

On February 3, 2011, amid local people and their supporters’ protests and calls for dialogue, members of the Okinawa Defense Bureau marched in and began felling trees in Takae area of the Yanbaru forest in Okinawa, Japan to resume the construction of six new helipads for the US military.

The resumption of construction has brought a new intensity to the stand off between the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the local people and their supporters, who have been carrying out a peaceful sit-in protest to protect the living environment and the Yanbaru forest.

The Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa (Okinawa BD) is calling for your attention to this latest development in the Yanbaru forest and is asking for your action to help halt the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s construction work in the forest.

Located in the northern area of Okinawa Island, the Yanbaru forest (about 26, 000 ha) is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in Japan. It is home to over 1,000 species of high plants and 5,000 species of animals, including numerous indigenous and endemic species such as the endangered Okinawa Woodpecker and Okinawa Rail. It is also home to people who live in small and isolated communities. Takae is one of these communities.

The Okinawa prefectural government promotes the Yanbaru forest as a key area in its efforts to get the Ryukyu Islands designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The Japanese government announced its intentions to designate the Yanbaru forest as a national park during the10th Conference of Parties to the Convention for Biological Diversity
(COP10) held recently in Nagoya, Japan.

Helipad Construction

Since 1957, the US military has been using a large part of the Yanbaru forest for training. Today, 30% of the Yanbaru forest is a US military training area. In this training area, there are already 22 frequently used US helipads, causing various problems to the environment and the nearby local communities. Thus, since the construction plan was revealed in 1999, local people, NGOs, and experts have been opposing to the plan and expressing their concerns that the construction of new helipads in the Takae area will certainly further impact the Yanbaru forest and the Takae community.

After conducting its Environment Impact Assessment for the helipad construction plan, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has concluded that the construction and use of the helipads would have no impact on the environment and the community. While local people, NGOs, and scientists/experts have criticized the EIA for its lack of transparency, accuracy, and reliability, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has been proceeding with the construction plan, based on the EIA’s “no-impact" conclusion.

International voices, meanwhile, have been loud and clear. The International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) has twice called for conservation of the endangered Okinawa Woodpaker and Okinawa Rail in the forest. On the occasion of COP10 in Nagoya, the Guardian newspaper urged the Okinawa Defense Bureau to “consider alternative sites [for helipad construction] that will not impact Okinawa's unique biodiversity.”

This is why the residents of the Takae community and many others have been opposing the construction plan and calling for explanation and dialogue with the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

Okinawa Defense Bureau Filed Lawsuit

So far, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has shown no willingness to resolve the criticism and concerns. Instead, it has reacted to the local opposition by filing a lawsuit against residents of the Takae community for obstruction of traffic in November 2008, who were engaged in a peaceful sit in protest against the helipad construction.

In what many consider a “SLAPP lawsuit,” the court has ordered both the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the local residents to enter negotiation outside of court. Negotiation has not, however, has taken place as the Okinawa Defense Bureau keeps declining to negotiate.

It is in light of these developments that the Okinawa Defense Bureau marched in and began felling trees in the Takae area of the Yambaru forest and the stand off between the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the protesters has intensified.

Please Voice Your Objection and Concerns!

We of the Okinawa BD ask the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the Japanese government to immediately halt the helipad construction in the forest. We also ask them to enter dialogue with the local people, NGOs, and experts/scientists in order to seek ways to protect the rich biodiversity of the Yanbaru forest and the peaceful living environment for the local people.

We invite you and/or your organization to voice your objection to and/or concern over the resumed construction of helipads in the Yanbaru forest, and to send them to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Japanese government, the Okinawa prefectural government, and the US government,

Hideki Yoshikawa

Chief Secretary
Citizens’ Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa

Contact Addresses

-Okinawa Defense Bureau
Tel: 81-(0)98-921-8131
Fax: 81-(0)98-921-8168

Japan Ministry of Defense
Tel: 81-(0)3-5366-3111

Japan Ministry of the Environment
Tel: 81-(0)3-3581-3351

Okinawa Prefectural Government/Military Base Affairs Office
Tel: 098-866-2460
Fax: 098-889-8979

US Embassy in Japan
Tel: 81-(0)3-3224-5000
Fax: 81-(0)3-3505-1862

US General Consulate in Okinawa
Tel: 098-876-4211
Fax: 098-876-4243

Information on Yanbaru Forest, Takae Community, and Helipad Construction

- Okinawa Prefectural Government, “The Nature of Yanbaru” (in English)

- Japan Hotspots, “A Treasure Box of Subtropical Laurel Forests” (in English)

-Takae People’s Blog, ”What is going on in Takae, Higashi village” (in Japanese)

-“Voice of Takae” (Jun. 2008) (in English)

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