Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2004
Special Report


Onishi Teruo

President, Nago Peace Committee/ Co-Chair, Anti-Helicopter Base Council
Okinawa, Japan


The Struggle against Offshore Base at Henoko Amounts to One Protecting Culture of Peace and Preservation of Earth's Environment in the 21st Century


I send warm greetings to dear friends from overseas and from across Japan assembled in the Japan Peace Conference. Let me take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude for your support to our struggle to stop the construction of a new base, and show you a magnificent figure of our boat, which was a gift from our supporters. Today marks the 2369 plus 216th day since we set up a tent village at Henoko Fishing Port in order to block the drilling survey for the construction of the base. Tomorrow, we will stage a seaborne demonstration, where Peace Committee boats, including Heiwa-maru, Dugong-I and canoes, will join. On December 21, we are planning another on-the-sea demonstration to commemorate the citizensユ referendum.

At the end of January this year, at the Henoko Solidarity Meeting of the last Japan Peace Conference-Okinawa, I spoke in my diving suit and sailed on Dugong-I over the sea area of the proposed construction site of the base. It was the expression of my will to launch the on-the-sea struggle as you see today. I was a high-school teacher then. Around that time, when our struggle was about to enter a new stage, I was so busy in organizing the campaign to block the planned drilling survey, violating the Environmental Assessment Law, in working with the Dugong Watch group and Anti-Helicopter Base Council to negotiate with the Okinawa Prefectural Government, the Defense Facility Bureau and the Ministry of Environment, as well as in holding study meetings and publicity activities on the issue. And in preparation for the confrontation with the riot police once drilling survey actually started, I was always carrying my note of resignation in my pocket. Thanks to our successful efforts, I was able to reach my tenure and retire in March without blotting my copybook, and received a full amount of retirement allowance. After I retired, on April 19, Naha Section of the Defense Facility Bureau tried to start the drilling survey, but we blocked their attempted, and have continued our sit-in at the tent village for 216 days since then. Through our struggle, the people of Okinawa have clearly expressed their opinions -- only 6% of them are in favor of the construction of the base, while over 80% of them oppose the construction at Henoko.

144 Days at the Tent Village

Let me present to you our struggle in the video. The first scene was shot on September 6, the 32nd and the latest confrontation with Naha Section of the Defense Facility Bureau. The one before this encounter was their officials' visit to our tent village on August 12, when we questioned them "whether Futenma Airfield is regarded as dangerous or not". After the Defense Facility Bureau side said, "No, it is not dangerous", the very next day, on August 13, a U.S. helicopter crashed on the Okinawa International University. In this scene we are denouncing the wrong perception of the Defense Facility Bureau. You can see how powerfully Mr. Gushiken Toru, Board member of Nago Peace Committee is arguing, while I sat back and relaxed behind him.

Governor Inamine and Naha Section of the Defense Facility Bureau saw the helicopter accident as a golden opportunity, and on September 9, started a preliminary study for the drilling survey from the territory of Camp Schwab. This showed a shameless attitude of the Japanese government to act under the wing of U.S. Marines. When the helicopter crashed on the Okinawa International University, the Japanese government protected the U.S. Marines taking free actions at the accident spot, and in return, was given access to use Camp Schwab this time.

Establishment of Non-Violent Struggle

Since September 9, when they started the preliminary study of the drilling survey, we have conducted dual-front struggles: demonstrations by boats and blocking actions by canoes on the sea, while we continue our sit-in on land.

Through the process, we in the tent village have maintained and established the "Absolute Non-Violence" as the principle of our struggle. This does not mean doing nothing. Rather, we "sit-in in order", follow the instructions of the Anti-Helicopter Base Council, solve even small problems through our leaders, deal with the Defense Facility Bureau through the responsible leaders group, and share their debate with all members at the village through radio. In case some agents, Defense Facility Bureau staff or riot police storm in, we will sit firmly in a scrum and resist, and will not undo the scrum and sit-in, even if someone get arrested. Please look at the seriousness and firm conviction in the eyes of the members.

The struggle of Okinawa is called the "struggle without arms". The historic accumulated experience of Okinawa, characterized by the belief in non-violence and five fingers by Ahagon Shoko, the untiring struggle by Senaga Kamejiro and the absolute pacifism of Nakasone Seizen and others is succeeded in our struggle today, and is also included in the "Declaration on a Culture of Peace" issued as a U.N. resolution in 1999.

Therefore, for over 7 months, there have been no one injured in confrontations. Even in a more dangerous offshore demonstration, we use not engine-driven boats, but canoes as our man force. Our effort to observe and develop the spirit of non-violence is verified day by day.

Struggle of Henoko is the Major Trend of the 21st Century

Eastern coastal area of Nago City is one of the 500 designated marshlands of Japan, and is designated by Okinawa Prefectural Government as the Class-A coastal conservation area. The coral reef and shallow inland sea (lagoon) is the "sea of treasures" rich in bio-diversity, where sea turtles spawn and dugongs inhabit. Old men and women in Henoko call it a "life-nursing sea". The reef and inland sea is like a farm and a place of love for land and marine creatures. In this fertile sea, dugongs live and seagulls spawn and go back to the southern ocean. In the current international trend where the observance of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly called the Washington Treaty), the Ramsar Convention and the Convention of Biological Diversity are much called for, the preservation of the sea of Henoko is both symbolic and practical obligation for Japan. The mountains that contribute to creating this sea area are also the reservoir of rare species -- a possible site for a World Natural Heritage.

Camp Schwab of U.S. Marines in Henoko houses the main combat forces that repeat massacres in Fallujah, Iraq. The news media in Okinawa report about the forces every day, but is it the same in other parts of Japan? On November 9, amphibian tanks ran at full speed on the beach of Henoko, as if they were praising the all-out attacks on Fallujah. If the Japanese government stops shouldering the expenses related to U.S. bases, including through the so-called "sympathy budget", these bases cannot be maintained. They are virtually the Marine forces funded by Japan, or "mercenary forces of Japan".

In 1996, in the midst of fierce protests of the people of Okinawa, Japan-U.S. Summit Talks were held to redefine the bilateral security treaty and reinforce U.S. bases in Okinawa, and through the SACO (Japan-US Special Action Committee on Okinawa), the process of transferring U.S. bases from Okinawa to different parts of Japan was accelerated. Further, the Japanese government passed the Law on a Situation in Areas Surrounding Japan, paving the way for the military emergencies legislation and revision of the Constitution. Today, taking advantage of the heightened resistance of Okinawa, U.S. Forces in Japan are being reorganized to virtually "occupy Tokyo Metropolis" and make Japan an operational partner in the dangerous U.S. global strategy. The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is to be further redefined and Article 9 of the Constitution is now the target of fierce attacks into annulment.

If 1 trillion yen is poured by Japan into constructing the most state-of-the-art offshore base at Henoko, this "Marines of Japan" or "Special Forces of Japan" (if U.S. Army Headquarters is moved to Zama) will be the stronghold for aggression on a global scale. The task of the Japanese peace movement to defeat this attempt of the government is becoming ever more important.

The struggle of Henoko now represents the combined struggle of two global tasks in the 21st century for the future of the earth.

1. The task of preserving the earthユs environment and bio-diversity all over the world, as declared in the final document of the 1992 Earth Summit and the "Earth Charter" adopted by 8000 NGOs of the world.

2. The task of establishing the culture of peace based on non-violence and peaceful resolution of conflicts in the 21st century for the sake of humanity, as opposed to the 20th century characterized by discrimination and violence. It was declared in the "Declaration on a Culture of Peace" and the 10-year Programme of Action adopted in the U.N. General Assembly session in September 1999.

Environmental Impact Assessment and the Role of Peace Organizations

The struggle of Henoko has now entered the stage of blocking the attempt through attaining just and due assessment on the environmental impact. In the Japan Peace Conference held in Tokyo, I stated that we had to struggle on the academic front, too. The Law on the Environmental Impact Assessment of Japan is the most backward kind in the developed countries, tailored for the convenience of development contractors. The recent trend of the world is to conduct a "strategic assessment", which includes recommendation for cancellation or providing alternatives for the projects concerned as an option.

That was why we set up the "Okinawa Dugong Watch Group of the Environmental Assessment", which has made public the illegality of conducting a drilling survey prior to the assessment study, conducted sit-ins and jointly staged on-the-sea demonstrations and campaigns. (The drilling survey might be forcibly conducted during the week of the Japan Peace Conference.)

We have been successful in preventing the start of the drilling survey, which was due to start last year, and also in preventing it this year, which included the preliminary study in April and was due to complete in December. We will not let the 7 years (2639 days) of struggle end in vain, which was continued by old men and women of the Henoko community with a slogan, "Even a single stake should not be driven on this beach". The document on the methodology of the environmental assessment by the Defense Facility Bureau and written opinions from the people are to be examined by the Review Panel on the Environmental Impact appointed by Governor Inamine, and the result should be returned to the Governor by November 29. However, due to the large number of problems presented, it seems unlikely that the result will be announced in time. People are beginning to know the faulty nature of the methodological note and the technique in the drilling survey, which are full of contradictions and lacking democratic procedures.

In carrying out our struggle, we must be prepared to go through harsh conditions in the tents on the beach in cold winter or on the canoes on the sea. But we believe that we will be able to open new perspectives by honestly and stubbornly holding up the torch of our struggle day by day, overcoming each juncture -- not like shooting wireworks, but like smoldering as mosquito repellent coils, until we achieve our aim.

Our boat Heiwa-maru will play an important role in our struggle. Even if the drilling survey were forced through, it would not mean the end of our struggle. New phases of struggle are waiting for us, including document preparation, environmental surveys and academic researches. All living creatures making up the entire ecosystem will play their roles as key players in the struggle. Given a premature law on environmental impact assessment in this country, the roles of lawyers, biologists, experts in architecture and civil engineering, photographers and underwater photographers are very important. Building good cooperation between these experts and people's movement groups for peace, environment and other fields is crucial for our victory.

I am confident that Heiwa-maru will become an invaluable vehicle for our activities and will help many people involved familiarize them with the sea of Henoko, and further foster the culture of peace.

Please send your donation to: Heiwa-maru Kikin
C/o Mr. Gushiken Toru
Ordinary Account No. 2868611
Nago Branch (959), Okinawa Rodo Kinko