Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2003 International Symposium
Special Report


Mitsuo SATO

Japan Peace Committee


Issues of U.S. Bases in Japan

I would like to speak about the current situation related to U.S. military bases in Japan.

The cruisers that took part in the first missile attack against Iraq on March 20, 2003 are based at Yokosuka in Kanagawa prefecture. In addition, it has been announced that some 3,000 U.S. Marines in garrison in Okinawa will be dispatched to Iraq in this coming February.

The US troops in Okinawa, while deeply involved in the Iraq War, are conducting repeatedly anti-terrorist exercises in the Philippines and make thus an open display of their military strength, claiming that they have to secure stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. maintains its military bases and facilities in Japan by virtue of a bilateral military alliance called the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. However, these bases are actually used as sortie bases for U.S. wars of aggression on a global scale, a use that is not provided for by the treaty.

Present Situation of US military bases in Japan

U.S. stations its navy, air, marines and army bases across the Japanese territory, with a total of 51,700 troops as of September 2001. The number of bases and facilities in Japan exceeds 130.

It includes the Japanese Self-Defense Force bases used jointly by the U.S. military, as provided for by Article 2-4B of the Status of Forces Agreement of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. The number of U.S. bases officially announced is less than their actual number, because, for example, Iruma Air SDF Base used by the U.S. as part of the U.S. Yokota Air Base is not included in the official counting. These U.S. bases occupy a total area of 1,010 km2, equivalent to 46% of the capital Tokyo. This area is approximately the same as the total area that was used exclusively by the U.S. forces in 1955, only three years after the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect.

The Status of Forces Agreement, in its Article 5, accords a great number of privileges to US military personnel and their families. The National Council of Prefectural Governors has been over the last years demanding the central government to メfundamentally reviseモ this humiliating agreement, but the contradiction between the local governments and the central government is deepening. This is common with the struggle in Korea that demands the revision of the SOFA.

The first characteristic of the U.S. military presence in Japan is that the bases are concentrated in the metropolitan area with Tokyo at its center (Kanto area) and form a huge group of bases, called by the U.S. military the メKanto Plain Base Conglomerateモ. In fact, U.S. Yokota Air Base where the headquarters of the United States Forces in Japan and the Fifth Air Command is located in Tokyo and takes 7,140,000 m2 of its land. Next to Tokyo, there is the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base that also serves as the headquarters for the Seventh Fleet. Atsugi Air Base and many other based are also found in this area.

Second, the Third Marine Expeditionary Force is stationed in and around Okinawa. I will leave the representative from Okinawa to report you the details of the situation there.

Third, U.S. naval and air forces whose major mission is to conduct wars of intervention and aggression outside Japanese territory have their bases in Japan. The Seventh Fleet assigned to cover the western part of the Pacific from Hawaii is stationed at Yokosuka, located at the opening of Tokyo Bay, serving as the homeport of the Aircraft-Carrier Fighting Unit. Assault ships stationed in Sasebo Naval Base, Kyushu, have the mission to make sorties carrying US Marines from Okinawa aboard. The U.S. air force deploys its mobile fighting troops in Misawa Air Base in Aomori prefecture in north and in Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in south. The F16 fighters based in Misawa and F15 fighters in Kadena, had been included in the rotations of the Aerospace Expeditionary Force even before the war on Iraq started and have been conducting warning and surveillance operations in the no-fly zones in the Iraqi air-space designated by the U.S.

Fourth, the bases in Sagamihara (Kanagawa), Urasoe (Okinawa), Sasebo (Nagasaki) and some other places are made to serve as forward-deployed logistic bases, accommodating many supply facilities, warehouses and ammunition depots.

Fifth, U.S. bases in Japan are integrated in the U.S. global electric wave intelligence system, as seen in the ground deployment of Echelon radio interception station at Misawa Air Base, Aomori prefecture.

Sixth, U.S. troops secure themselves vast areas of Japanese territory for their exercise and training, including the use of drill grounds of the Japanese SDF.

As we have seen, the U.S. armed forces and their bases in Japan as a whole are playing an essential part in the U.S. global strategy. In the same time, the SDF are more and more integrated in the U.S. military operations through joint exercises conducted as routine work.

What gives leverage to these moves is the new guidelines for defense cooperation between Japan and the United States. By virtue of these guidelines, the SDF have now embarked on perilous actions in total disregard of the Japanユs Constitution, supporting the U.S. anti-terrorist campaign and going to Iraq.

Damage caused by bases and the burden imposed on Japanese people

As a result of all this, the U.S. bases are inflicting unbearable damage to the local communities in the surrounding areas. As many of these bases are located in urban areas, noise pollution and frequent plane crash accidents often cause extensive damages. Ultra-low flight exercises are conducted in mountainous areas, while vast air space as well as see surface and underwater are offered to the U.S. troops for their training use. This threatens the safety of civil air and sea transportation and frequently causes damage to the fishing industry. Shelling exercise is also destroying natural environment.

Atrocious crimes committed by U.S. soldiers and sexual offenses against women are also arousing serious concern. Due to the limitations on the Japanユs police powers imposed by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) , the Japanese police cannot arrest suspected soldiers before they are indicted.

Discontent of the Japanese people toward such injustice is increasing. We need to strengthen our campaign in Japan by learning the lessons from the struggle demanding the SOFA revision in Korea.

Moreover, the Japanese government every year allocates the so-called メsympathy budget モ to cover the expenses of stationing U.S. troops, an expense that is not provided for by the bilateral security treaty. In FY 2003, Japan spent approximately US$ 2.47 billion (272.5 billion Japanese yen; US$1 = JPN 110) accounting for as much as 75% of the total stationing cost of the U.S. troops in Japan.

The US military bases in Japan and nuclear bases

We cannot condone the issue of introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan. Until 1972 when the right of government of Okinawa was returned to Japan, the deployment of nuclear weapons in Okinawa had been an open secret. On the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, both Japanese and U.S. governments explained that nuclear weapons would not remain there. However, since the U.S. government has adopted the so-called メneither confirm nor deny (NCND)モ policy, there is no way to know whether there are nuclear weapons in Okinawa or not. Some declassified U.S. official documents indicate that there had been a secret agreement between the two governments on bringing nuclear weapons into Japan in the event of an emergency, but the Japanese government has pretended ignorance and never admitted the fact, despite repeated questioning in the Diet debates. Meanwhile, nuclear-powered submarines often call at Japanese seaports. During 2003, 11 nuclear-powered attack submarines made as many as 49 portcalls. Every time it is questioned, the government replies that nuclear weapons are not brought into Japan, as there has been no proposal for prior consultation from the U.S. side, as provided for by the Security Treaty. The government has no intention to verify on its own accord the absence/presence of these weapons aboard of these submarines.

Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The メNon-nuclear Kobe Formulaモ, born out of a city council resolution of Kobe, has prevented U.S. warships to enter the Kobe Port (all warships coming into Kobe Port are obliged to submit the certificate of non-presence of nuclear weapons on board prior to their portcalls). The campaign to spread this formula nationwide is going on. We will not allow the nuclearization of U.S. bases in Japan.

We are determined to further strengthen our campaign to get the Japan-US Security Treaty scrapped and realize a nuclear-free, neutral, non-allied and truly independent Japan.