Protect Northern Okinawa from Environmental Distruction by US Military Bases

Please email President Obama here if you’d like to see US military bases in Okinawa removed or limited for the good of the Okinawan people and their natural environment.

Below is an open letter sent to the current Prime Minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, the head of Japan’s first liberal government in over 50 years, sent to me by one of the tens of thousands of dedicated activists opposing the continuation of environmental destruction in Okinawa by the US military bases there.

To Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

Dear Sir,

More than 90,000 people from Okinawa and other parts of Japan attended the rally, at Yomitanson, Okinawa, on April 25, to oppose the relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air-station to any place inside the Okinawa Prefecture. The rally was a clear expression of the consensus of the Okinawan people. Mr. Prime Minister, you said that the opinion expressed by the rally was a “part of the people‟s will”. Are you going to take this “part of the people’s will” seriously? Your cabinet action seems to be trampling upon the consensus of the Okinawan people.

On April 26, the day after the rally, the conference on the practical issues concerning the Foreign and Defense affairs, which has been adjourned for a while, was resumed in the Washington DC. Mr. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State commented that he was encouraged by the new Japanese proposal concerning the Futenma problem. He made clear that his government is resolute on solving the problem based upon the 2006 bilateral agreement forcing the relocation site on Henoko. Mr. Campbell was "encouraged‟ since you are now trying to relieve yourself from the no-win situation by abandoning an attempt to find a relocation site outside the Okinawa Prefecture and approaching his side.

We, Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong, have been active for ten years since 1999 to preserve the ecosystem so that the Okinawan dugongs, critically endangered population, can continue to live. We are deeply concerned over your decision to turn to a modified version of the 2006 bilateral agreement containing a plan to landfill a place off Henoko and a part of the Oura Bay, a plan direly destructive to the dugong’s habitat.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have kept your ideas on solving the Futenma problem secret until recently when you told Mr. Torao Tokuda, a former member of the House of Representatives and considered to be influential upon the Tokunoshima politics, that you are considering to relocate a part of the Marines in Futenma to the Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture and use the island to host some of their trainings. You are still refusing to tell the details of the modified version of the 2006 agreement while planning to visit Okinawa on May 4.  It is evident that your visiting is an attempt to persuade the Okinawa Governor Nakaima to accept your idea of relocating the Futenma base inside the Okinawa Prefecture.

It is reported that you are modifying the current plan of choosing a part of the Camp Schwab and the coast nearby as the Futenma relocation site in order to obtain the approval of the US government. The modified plan, it is reported, consists of moving the runway further offshore from the location asserted by the current bilateral agreement; the runway would be either a pier-type airstrip supported by piles or a certain „mega-float‟ construction. We are certain that the both plans, just as the current plan of reclaiming the place off Henoko, would destroy the ecosystem of the area. Driving thousands of piles into the seabed will destroy the coral reef. The pier-type runway will block the sun-light necessary for photosynthesis. The „mega-float‟ structure consists of a large number of giant steel pontoons connected together upon which a runway will be constructed. It also blocks the sun-light. In order to fasten the runway, giant seawalls and mooring system must be constructed. This would destroy the seabed ecosystem. The seawalls would alter the sea-current. We have seen how the passage-way connecting the Katsuren Peninsula and the Henzajima Island constructed in the Kin Bay altered the sea-current and seriously disturbed the reef ecosystem.

Either one of the plans would put a giant lid on the sea. Both plans kill the ocean ecosystem just as the current landfill plan. They are, as you said as regards the landfill plan, “blasphemy against nature”. If you think, as reported by the media, that any plan other than the reclamation will reduce the environmental impact you are seriously mistaken.

Destruction of the coral reef by driving thousands of piles into the seabed, vibration and noise caused by pier-type structure or "mega-float‟ would chase away the remaining dugongs. The only food for dugong is a kind of sea-grass growing in shallow water not far away from the shore. Dugong must remain close to the shore. Sea-grass grows by photosynthesis and so needs sunlight. Putting giant lid on the sea would destroy the only feeding place for dugong.

We are strongly against your "modified‟ plan of forcing the Futenma relocation site off Henoko. The citizens of Ginowan, shouldering the burden of "The Most Dangerous Air-station in the World‟, the Futenma Air-station, just want to have the Futenma Air-station closed and returned immediately. The citizens of Ginowan and the Okinawan people hope to have the Island free from the military bases. They do not want to see the base moved from one location to another within the prefecture. Mr. Prime Minster, your party, the Democratic Party Japan, came into power to realize the sovereignty for local communities. It simply goes against your platform to deny the consensus of the Okinawan people so clearly against the new base inside the prefecture.

Mr. Prime Minister, your duty is not to look for a relocation site for the Futenma Air-station; your duty is to stand firmly and request the US government for an immediate closure and return of the Air-station; only then a first step for establishing an "equal relationship with the US‟ may be realized. It is a crime to destroy the natural environment of Okinawa by forcing a new military base upon the people and deny the way of life depending on products from sea and earth.

For six years we have continued sitting-in on the Henoko beach with the local people to oppose the base construction. Our non-violent action has stopped the destruction of the sea where dugong lives. We remain resolute against any attempt to build a new base off Henoko.

Mr. Noboru Houjuyama, a former Director of Naha Defense Facility Agency, once voiced his hope to „live with the US bases‟. We, instead, want to live with nature. Together with our friends we shall continue our effort. Let us also be clear that we are firmly opposed to choose the beautiful Tokunoshima Island or any other place in the Ryukyuu Archipelago as a Futenma relocation site or as a place to move a part of the military trainings presently done in Futenma.

April 30, 2010
Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong
Representative: Masako Suzuki

May 10 update on this situation