Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2006
Special Reports


KONNO Hiroshi

Yokosuka Residents Oppose Deployment of US Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier


Kanagawa Association for a Non-Nuclear Government

The Japan-US Security Consultative Committee in May 2006 announced its plan to advance the Japan-US alliance to a new stage through following steps: 1) To globalize the role of the alliance; 2) To strengthen the system of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military jointly operating aboard; and 3) To reinforce and perpetuate U.S. bases in Japan. As part of these steps, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy is to be deployed in Yokosuka to replace aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk after its retirement in 2008.

Yokosuka is known as the city where the first western-style steel plant in Japan was constructed in 1865 to build ships made of iron. In 1884, the Meiji government established a Naval command in Yokosuka, and placed the steel plant, which was now called shipyard, under control of the command. After the 1894 Japanese-Sino War, the 1904 Japanese-Russo War, and the invasion of northeastern China started with the 1931 Manchuria Incident, Yokosuka became the largest navy base of the Imperial Japan.

As our foreign friends also know, post-war Japan established the current Constitution pledging to the world that Japan will never wage a war and be armed again. Now that the vast area that had been occupied by the military port and facilities became useless, they wee made available for public use for a peaceful development of the city. To this end, in 1950, the Law to Convert Former Military Port Cities was enacted, supported by 87 percent of the voters in Yokosuka City.

But the law was never enforced despite the Yokosuka residents' wish. The Korean War broke out, and the U.S. occupation forces continued to use the port to dispatch troops to the Korean Peninsula. This was a clear deviation from their original mission, occupation of Japan. The United States, even after the Japan-US Peace Treaty came into effect in 1952, maintained its right to station its military bases in Japan under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty concluded together with the Peace Treaty.

Although US bases were partially returned to Japan, the basesユ functions have rather been reinforced, with Japan's Self-Defense Forces involved more and more in the U.S. military activities, each time when the United States waged a war against Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The scope of cooperation on the part of Japanese Self-Defense Forces has been expanded to the point that they cannot go any further without amending the Peace Constitution of Japan.

The plan to deploy a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier poses two major problems. First, it will impose further burden on the Japanese people. Secondly, it will increase the risk of a nuclear reactor accident.

Regarding the first problem, the new nuclear aircraft carrier's capacity to have aircraft, firearms and other ammunitions, as well as crewmembers on board is far greater than that of the outgoing aircraft carrier. The deployment of such a nuclear aircraft carrier will impose even more burden on the Japanese people, with higher possibility of nuclear weapons brought into Japan in greater amount, although the U.S. will never tell us the truth about these issues. Noise pollution will also spread across the country, as it has become a serious concern among Iwakuni residents after they learned that the number of the carrier-borne aircraft to be deployed in Iwakuni base would increase.

The second problem is also grave. Imagine if there is a nuclear reactor accident with massive radiation leakage. The consequence is catastrophic. Tokyo and adjacent prefectures have the largest population, and overpopulated cities. Within 100 kilometers in radius, some 30 million people, about 25 percent of the entire population, are living. If an earthquake registering a weak five hits the area, the transportation facilities will be paralyzed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded. How can be possible for millions of people to evacuate at once? Even army-owned tents cannot accommodate all these people. They will be left in the field without knowing when they can go home. Barely escaping the radiation, some evacuees may die in harsh conditions in the shelter. Under such circumstances, Japan's central government will not be able to function any more. Who can assure us that a nuclear meltdown like the one that occurred at Chernobyl will never take place here in Japan?

The US government argues in a fact sheet that US Navy's nuclear reactors are completely safe, but nuclear experts are very skeptical about the fact sheet, because it fails to give a clear explanation to support the US government's argument. The only way to clear up doubts about safety is to check the fact sheet with the real reactor. However, the US will never let us see the reactor, because it is a military secret. I have no word to explain how irresponsible the Japanese government is to blindly accept what the U.S. says.

Residents of Yokohama are currently carrying out a campaign to collect signatures calling for a referendum on pros and cons of the plan to deploy a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. This is the first anti-base action actively taken by residents of the base city in Yokosuka's 100 years of history.

The day will come, when Japanese people can no longer put up with high-handed US colonial occupation of Japan will come for sure. We will continue to fight to make this happen as soon as possible.

For the day that all peoples of the world become brothers and sisters!