Subject: [cwj 65] Okinawa has sacrificed enough
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 15:17:27 -0700
Seq: 65

Published Wednesday, July 19, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News 

Okinawa has sacrificed enough

THIS weekend, Okinawa -- a tiny island chain on the other side of the
Pacific and the southernmost prefecture of Japan -- hosts the annual
meeting of the world's most powerful nations. These are Britain, Canada,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States, known as the
G-8. On our TV sets we may see snatches of the flag-waving, Okinawa's
beautiful beaches and traditional music and dance. We may also see the U.S.
military bases that take up 20 percent of Okinawan land -- a strategic
location off the mainland of Asia. What we won't see is the real story
behind this event. 

This year the Japanese government picked the coastal town of Nago to host
the summit as a ``reward'' for Okinawa's accepting a new U.S. Marine base
there. This is to be a high-tech floating heliport, built off the coast,
and paid for by Japanese taxpayers. The snag is, Okinawans have not
accepted the heliport. They have had it foisted on them by Tokyo and
Washington. Okinawan people continue to campaign against it, and on June 25
voters elected an anti-bases candidate, Mitsuko Tomon, to the Diet in
Tokyo, giving a clear message that it is not a done deal. 

Okinawans have been protesting the presence of U.S. bases since 1945 when
their land was confiscated for this purpose at the end of World War II. In
a 1996 prefecture-wide referendum, 95 percent of voters wanted the bases
removed. They cited hillsides burned by live-ammunition drills and damage
to marine life from military pollution. They cited severe noise as
contributing to deafness in older people and low birth-weight babies born
to women in residential areas near military operations. They mentioned
crimes against host communities, especially hit-and-run accidents. They
were outraged by the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S.
servicemen in 1995 -- just one incident of sexual violence in a list that
dates back to 1945. Yet, less than three weeks before the G-8 summit, a
drunken Marine broke into a house at night and molested a 14-year-old girl
while she slept. 

Among the roster of official visits, G-8 leaders will go to the Cornerstone
of Peace, an impressive black marble memorial engraved with over 200,000
names -- casualties of the three-month-long Battle of Okinawa of 1945 that
turned this lush island into a devastated treeless rubble. 

During the past month, activists, researchers, lawyers, policy-makers and
scholars from many countries have gone to Okinawa to participate in
meetings and protests that challenge the military security promoted by the
G-8. They argue that genuine security requires a sound physical
environment, an economy that provides for local needs, and respect for all
people. They oppose the building of the heliport at Nago and urge a phased
withdrawal of U.S. bases. 

This land should be cleaned of environmental contamination and redeveloped
to meet local people's needs -- to provide job opportunities, decent
housing, health care, and schools. These seemingly simple principles
constitute cornerstones of peace -- not only in Okinawa, but throughout the

Gwyn Kirk lives in San Francisco and is a member of the Bay Area Okinawa
Peace Network. 

Corporate Watch in Japanese
Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC)
P.O. Box 29344
San Francisco, CA 94129 USA
Tel: 1-415-561-6472
Fax: 1-415-561-6493
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