Japan Peace Conference 2004
Secretary General, Japan Peace Committee
Reorganization and Buildup of US Military Bases in Japan and Peace Movement
Friends from overseas, thank you very much for coming to the 2004 Japan Peace Conference. I want to report on the struggle of the Japanese people to defend peace, particularly the struggle against the on-going moves to reorganize and buildup U.S. military bases in Japan.
1. U.S. Military Bases Serving as Sortie Base for Iraq War, and the Struggle of Japanese People for Peace against the Koizumi Government Cooperating in the War
Opposing the unlawful war of aggression waged by the U.S. against Iraq, the Japanese people have been challenging the policy of the Koizumi Government to support and participate in that war.
It is all too clear now that the U.S. attack on Iraq was a war of aggression waged in gross violation of the Charter of the United Nations. The U.S. is currently carrying out strikes against Fallujah and other cities in Iraq, slaughtering their residents. This is an unacceptable act committed by an invader in his attempt to wipe out his opponents by the use of force. We shall not allow such outrage to continue. We demand the U.S. stop attacking those cities immediately.
The Japanese government under the Koizumi Cabinet, one of the first government to express their support for the U.S. war on Iraq, continues to support it. In addition, it has allowed the U.S. to use its bases in Japan as sortie bases for that war.
The Tomahawk missiles launched at the outset of the preemptive strike on Iraq were fired from the U.S. warships dispatched from Yokosuka Base. The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk homeported at Yokosuka, F16 fighters deployed in Misawa Base as well as F15 fighters from Kadena Base were all sent to Iraq to play a part in the air campaign. The U.S. base here in Sasebo Base serves as an ammunition and fuel supply base of the U.S. Navy. Many support and transport vessels have come in and out of this base to supply with fuel and ammunitions the U.S. warplanes that carried out a massive bombing against Iraqi citizens. From Okinawa, as many as 4000 U.S. marines have been sent to Iraq to take part in the mass killing operation. These marines were transported to Iraq by amphibious assault ships based in Sasebo. Last August, a U.S. helicopter departing from the Futenma Base in Okinawa crashed on the Okinawa International University. It was a serious accident that took place in the midst of the tightly scheduled maintenance and check-up work to meet the order of expedition to Iraq. From Futenma, about 40 helicopters have been being deployed in Iraq. As these facts show, U.S. bases in Japan constitute a major foothold for the U.S. to deploy its forces in Iraq. However, the Koizumi government has manifested any protest against these military operations although they clearly deviate from the provisions of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that gives ﾒpeace and security in the Far Eastﾓ as the reason for Japan hosting U.S. bases.
Far from it, the Koizumi government, in response to the U.S. demand, sent the SDF troops to Iraq. It was the first time in Japan's post-war history that it dispatched its armed to a theater of combat. This is a gross violation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that prohibits the possession of any war potential, and the threat and use of force. Moreover, the government last August bypassed the Diet to go ahead with decision to participate in the "coalition forces" that are now carrying out the clean-up operation against the resistance forces. The Iraqi people has grown more and more hostile to the SDF thus integrated in the occupation forces. The SDF camp has been shelled several times and demonstrations have been organized to call for the withdrawal of the SDF. Even Japanese NGOs and journalists have become targets of attack, and in October a Japanese young man was kidnapped and killed. It should be noted also that SDF vessels dispatched to the Indian Ocean to provide supplies for U.S. military activities in Afghanistan and other places are actually supplying the U.S. aircraft carriers engaged in military activities in Iraq.
Through providing extensive assistance to the U.S. in its war on Iraq, the Koizumi government has also tried to prepare the ground for more SDF dispatch abroad and more support for the U.S. military forces, in total of disregard of the peace principles of the Japanese Constitution. At the same time, it railroaded through the Diet the contingency or wartime legislation making it possible, under on pretext of "imminence of armed attack" against Japan, to mobilize the SDF to support the U.S. forces and to involve local governments, private sector and the population as a whole to cooperate with SDF activities in the event of the U.S. government starting a war in areas surrounding Japan.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komei Party as well as the leading opposition Democratic Party, are now attempting to revise the Constitution, especially Article 9, so that the SDF together with the U.S. military can wage a war abroad without any legal restriction. Obviously, they are trying to meet the U.S. demand expressed by the Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage who said that Article 9 is an obstacle to the Japan-U.S. alliance.
We have mobilized public opinion and developed the movement against these perilous moves.
Like the people around the world, the Japanese people conducted a broad campaign in opposition to the Iraq war. The anti-war movement took an unprecedented scale involving different sectors of citizens. This helped to create an anti-war public opinion with 70% of the Japanese public opposing the Iraq war. The government is now trying to extend the stationing of the SDF troops in Iraq beyond December 14, the deadline for their stay in Iraq while the poll shows that more than 60% of the Japanese people are against the extension. The growing criticism among the Japanese public against the governmentﾕs subservience toward the U.S. was reflected in the setback suffered by the LDP in the last general election. In every poll, the Japanese people in their majority support Article 9, and broader sections of people have welcomed the creation of the "Article 9 Association" by 9 prominent figures including Nobel Laureate for Literature OE Kenzaburo. Now coordinated initiatives are rapidly growing in different fields and at different places across the country to support the Association's call for the preservation of Article 9.
Regarding U.S. military bases in Japan, we also see campaigns developing in different municipalities to end damage caused by the bases and outrageous acts of U.S. military. In Okinawa where U.S. military bases are concentrated, public opinion calling for the revision of the SACO is growing stronger, particularly after the crash of U.S. helicopter. Their demands include the removal of Futenma Air Base, stopping of the relocation of Futenma Base to Henoko, Nago City, and the relocation and buildup of U.S. bases in general.
2. Objectives of Reorganization and Buildup of U.S. Bases in Japan that Contadict with the Japanese People and the Perspectives for our Struggle
What is particularly serious at this moment is that the U.S. its bases in Japan are being reorganized in connection with the SDF strengthening so as to enable them to engage in activities abroad as their main task, and that adverse revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is being planned.
The reconfiguration of U.S. military now under way on a global scale is aimed at ensuring that the Bush administrationﾕs preemptive strike strategy is delivered more effectively in every part of the world. The reconfiguration of the U.S. bases in Japan consists of concentrating the command center in our country to fight wars in the whole Asia and Pacific region, and to strengthen the ability to deploy attack capabilities all over the world. It is said that they are planning to relocate the U.S. Army First Corps headquarters to Zama Camp, Kanagawa Prefecture, and to integrate Yokota Air Base in Tokyo into the 13th Air Headquarters. Both headquarters are assigned to carry out operations in Asia and the Pacific, and rest of the world.
At the same time, the consolidation of the U.S. bases includes plans to increase their ability to "strike" on a global scale: the plan to construct new, huge air and naval bases as well as urban warfare exercise facilities for the Marines Corps in Okinawa, organization of a group of Marine Expeditionary Assault Unit centered on amphibious assault ships deployed in Sasebo, planned deployment of a nuclear aircraft carrier in Yokosuka in 2008, deployment of attack missile-borne Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan, integration of bomber units in Misawa and Kadena into the Air Expeditionary Force and the beefing-up of their long-range combat ability.
All these are aimed at reinforcing U.S. military bases in Japan to transform them into "hub stations" from which the U.S. can deploy its forces at any time in the area from the Middle East to North-East Asia, the regions directly linked with U.S. interests. .
Another objective of the reconfiguration of U.S. bases in Japan is to promote the integration of the SDF into the U.S. forces, including the common use of the bases. It has been reported that the U.S. plans to relocate part of the Marine Corps in Okinawa to bases in the mainland of Japan, to transfer the Air Self-Defense Force headquarters to the Yokota Air Base, to relocate Air Self-Defense unit based in Naha to Kadena Base. All these aim to reinforce the SDF as junior forces to conduct exercises together, go to combat together, and to live together with the U.S. forces.
However, these moves contradict with Japanese people's opinion and the current effort for peace prevailing in Asia. They have no future for many reasons.
First of all, they will further aggravate the aberrant situation of Japan, a state restructured into U.S. bases.
U.S. bases stationed in Japan are the only bases outside the U.S. where U.S. "strike forces" such as aircraft carrier fighting troops and Marine Corps are concentrated. They are sustained by a generous support budget offered by the Japanese government, whose amount is 1.6 times higher than support budgets of all other U.S. allies combined. U.S. bases all over Japan including Tokyo metropolitan area are granted the extra territorial rights by virtue of the SACO, inflicting serious damage on the residents living around the bases. The damage suffered by the Japanese citizens is ever more serious as the U.S. bases in Japan have become sortie bases for the war in Iraq. In the neighboring areas of Futenma and Atsugi Air bases, noise damage is worsening to an extent that civil life and war-time U.S. military bases can no longer exist together.
The reconfiguration of U.S. bases will only aggravate such base-related risks and damage.
First, the reconfiguration includes plans to provide new bases with increased abilities, which will expand damage. The relocation of night landing practice (NLP) to Iwakuni Air Base, relocation of part of the Marine Corps in Okinawa to the mainland will further consolidate Japan's extraordinary status with no parallel in the world as a nation structured as U.S. bases. This is so because such relocation will provide new bases with upgraded functions, will proliferate and expand damage caused by bases, and will not help either to reduce radically damage caused by the U.S. military presence or to hasten the return of the bases.
Secondly, a large number of the Japanese people are opposing the war in Iraq, and becoming more and more critical toward their government's submissive attitude to the U.S. government. As the realignment of the bases will make them command and sortie bases for preemptive strike or preventive war waged by the U.S. throughout the world, contradictions with the Japanese public will inevitably deepen.
Having such weakness from the beginning, reconfiguration moves have created new possibilities for developing the struggle against bases. Many municipalities hosting the bases to be consolidated such as Sagamihara and Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, the local people have voiced against the plan, upsetting what the U.S. and Japanese government authorities. Above all, in Okinawa, a great change has taken place in people's opinion, through accumulated experiences of struggle including the 8-year struggle of Nago citizens who have managed to prevent the construction of a new base in their city. Building on these experiences, a candidate leading the campaign for the withdrawal of Futenma Air Base and against its relocation was elected mayor, and in the House of Councilors' election, a candidate standing for the withdrawal of base opposing the relocation won, testifying to a steady change at political level.
It is possible to make use of new possibilities to develop a campaign against realignment of bases rallying the local governments and residents as a whole. I hope that initiatives to develop such a campaign will come out of this Peace Conference.
3. Japanese peopleﾕs international responsibility is to defeat ongoing restructuring of US bases, to prevent the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty and to defend Article 9
It is serious that the expansion of the dispatch of the SDF and their reorganization are being pressed ahead along with the global reconfiguration of the US bases all over the world. The review of the "Defense program", scheduled at the beginning of this coming December aims to assign the SDF overseas expedition as its central duty, based on the argument that the improvement of international security environment is a task for self-defense. This is an outrageous theory introduced to justify military intervention along with the reinforcement of laws, military equipments and systems.
Restructuring of US bases in Japan and the SDF would make Japan a command and sortie base for waging war in any part of the world beyond the limitation of the "Far East" covered by the Security Treaty. This must be regarded as a new attempt to adversely revise the Security treaty, which will make Japan's SDF to jointly operate with the US forces globally.
In this context, a change is happening in the Japanese public opinion as the people see better that the military alliance is not for "Japan's defense", but an aggressive alliance that imposes on Japan subordination to the U.S. and participation in a US war. A public survey, conducted by Mainichi Shimbun on Jan. 15 this year, showed that those who support the maintenance of the treaty in the future stood at 37% while 31% wanted it to be replaced with a friendship treaty; 14% wanted Japan to become neutral by abrogating the treaty. The percentage of those who want the abrogation of the treaty is increasing. As for Japanﾕs diplomacy, 76% respondents wanted that it should rely more on United Nations while only 13% wanted it centered on the cooperation with the US.
The Japan-U.S. military alliance has stepped up as far as to require the SDF to use force abroad and has become incompatible with Article 9 of the Constitution. The push for the revision of the Constitution is therefore growing stronger that it is now being put on the political agenda. In the same time, the opposition to the revision of the Constitution is developing at the grassroots and peace-loving people and those who are deeply concerned about the moves of revising the Constitution will inevitably come to question the Security Treaty. Here we find an objective condition to enable us to materialize the opposition to the military alliance into the call of a majority of the people.
At international level too, we can see growing movements seeking for an international order for peace based on the UN Charter in countries of NAM (non-aligned movement), the EU, the ASEAN and the Conference of Islamic Countries. In particular, there are new developments in Asia in favor of the international peace order such as an increase in the membership of the Southeast Asia friendship treaty and the effort of the ASEAN countries for the establishment of "a non-military security community". Of countries with military ties with the US, only Japan hosts bases for expedition forces. In contrast with the moves of Asia and the world, Japan stands out with its aberrant subordination to the U.S., clinging to the military alliance and facilitating the restructuring of US bases. Such an attitude will make Japan more and more isolated within the international community.
All these dangerous attempts pose a threat to the peoples of Asia and the world and increase the danger of war. It is an international duty for the Japanese people to defeat these moves and to abrogate the Security Treaty with the US to make Japan a country worthy of the peaceful principles of it Constitution.
I want to conclude my speech by expressing my resolve to develop our movement in every corner of Japan to fulfill that duty using this Peace Conference as a springboard.