Japan Peace Conference 2006
Secretary General, Japan Peace Committee
For the Abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Military Alliance and Removal of Bases
It is a pleasure to welcome you in the 2006 Peace Japan Peace Conference for the Abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Military Alliance and Removal of Bases. On behalf of the organizing committee, I would like to present a keynote report to the Conference, making an appraisal of our struggle for peace during the past year and a proposal of action plan for the year ahead.
1. Development and Outcomes of the Struggle for Preserving Peace during the Past Year - Public Opinion and Movement for Peace is Exerting Power in Generating Changes
First of all, I would like to congratulate ourselves for the fact that the struggle for preserving peace has vigorously developed in different fields both in Japan and abroad. We in Japan have carried on our struggle to scrap the attempts to make Japan a war-waging nation, especially by opposing the realignment and reorganization of U.S. bases.
(1) Public Opinion and Movement for Peace Have Developed in Various Fields, Creating Changes
Change in the struggle to oppose the adverse revision of the Constitution and the Basic Law on Education and to denounce the governmentﾕs uncritical attitude about Japanese aggression
ABE Shinzo, who has recently taken office, is the first prime minister after World War II to include on top of his political agenda the "revision of the Constitution within five years". He also has made it clear that the primary aim of revising the Constitution is to amend Article 9, so that Japan can exercise the right to collective self-defense and take part in a war waged by the U.S. However, the opposition to such constitutional revision is also growing vigorously. In fact, the number of "Article 9 Associations" reached 5,639 by the end of October 2006. The petition against the revision of the Constitution has been endorsed by the majority of residents in several municipalities. On November 3, the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution, rallies and meetings were held across the country, with several thousands of people participating in them.
To pave the way for the constitutional revision, the Japanese government is now trying to amend the Fundamental Law of Education. As a heated debate is going on in the current Diet session on the amendment bill, we see a promising change is taking place in the campaign against the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education. As a matter of fact, we are witnessing an extensive development in concerted popular actions at local level, as seen in the October 14 Meeting held in Tokyo with 27,000 people attending, and in the rally in Hokkaido that gathered more than 10,000 people, organized jointly by trade unions with different political orientations. This change finds its echo in the mass media, and they are becoming more and more critical to the revision of the education law. According to opinion polls, a majority of the population is opposed to the amendment bill. Let us prevent the forcible passage of the bill in the current Diet session, and strengthen our effort to raise public opinion calling for the bill to be scrapped. The struggle we have carried on during the past months has successfully made known to the public that the planned revision of the Fundamental Law on Education is an insidious attempt aiming to transform our country into a "war-making nation" that would deprive our children of their bright future. At the same time, our struggle has convinced us that the people has a tremendous power to reject any arbitrary state control over education, and to take back the control in their own hands. Let us build on this conviction to further develop our movement.
The irresponsible attitude of the Japanese government with no intention to make a serious reflection on the war of aggression, as manifested by the official visits to Yasukuni Shrine by the former Prime Minister Koizumi, runs counter to the very premise of the peace order established in the postwar international community. We have been taking the lead in criticizing such an attitude, and criticism has also grown among Asian countries and worldwide. The Japanese government finds itself more and more isolated in the international community. Prime Minister Abe who had always expressed his adherence to the "Yasukuni vision of history" that glorifies war of aggression, has been forced to confirm the official "statements" that expressed remorse and apology for Japan's colonial rule over and war of aggression against Asian nations. One of the statement was made by the former prime minister Murayama Tomiichi, who officially acknowledged the state responsibility of war of aggression. The other was of the ex-foreign minister Kono Yohei that admitted the involvement of the Japanese military in the wartime sex slavery system. Prime Minister Abe has also resumed summit meeting with China and South Korea. These are some positive developments that demonstrate that the current for peace and progress is growing wider.
Development of Struggles of Municipalities and Their Residents against Realignment of U.S. Military Bases
The struggle against the reorganization and realignment of U.S. bases, the struggle we have focused ourselves on, is the core of our resistance to the attempt of making Japan a war-fighting nation. In this particular area too, we can take pride in our achievements in resisting against both the Japanese and U.S. governments in their joint attempt to strengthen military bases. At many local fronts across the country, our struggle has not allowed them to push ahead with the plan as they wish.
The last year's Peace Conference pointed out that the "U.S. military realignment" being implemented in Japan was aimed at :(1) expanding the Japan-U.S. military alliance to a global scale with more aggressive roles; (2) further reinforcing and consolidating the U.S. bases in Japan to make them sortie or command bases with global missions; and (3) making Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) more integrated into and dependent on U.S. forces, in order to build up a mechanism that will enable the SDF to take part in a U.S. war anywhere in the world. It also emphasized that this problem is closely linked with the moves for amending Article 9 of the Constitution. It therefore underscored the relevance of the struggle for stopping the U.S. military realignment for establishing peace not only in Japan but also in Asia and worldwide. The Conference called for further efforts to develop the campaign against the strengthening of U.S. bases at local level, involving local governments and residents.
About six months after that conference, in May this year, the Japanese and U.S. governments arbitrarily made a final agreement on the realignment plan in disregard of the opposition of many municipalities and their residents across the country. Based on this agreement, the Japanese government has conducted a large-scale plot designed to force the municipalities to accept the plan. Regrettably, some municipal heads have accepted the plan for strengthening of the base. However, what is more important is that the residents would never accept the plan. In fact, despite the government's desperate efforts resorting to all possible means including coercion, threats and bribes, many local governments and residents are still fighting to oppose the permanent presence and consolidation of military bases in their communities. In addition, these municipalities are working in solidarity with each other to resist the governmental plan. In particular, in Nago City, Okinawa prefecture, the citizens' 10-year struggle has given a breakthrough after it succeeded in foiling the plan to construct a new base decided by the Cabinet Meeting. They did not allow the government to drive a single stake to start the construction work. This is an outstanding struggle in our postwar history.
Looking back on the year passed, we realize how much the struggle waged here in Iwakuni and Hiroshima Prefecture against the relocation of U.S. carrier-borne aircraft to Iwakuni has been inspiring and encouraging other anti-base struggles across the country. In particular, the campaign for a referendum on the relocation issue that won victory last March bears a historic significance. It was indeed a historic victory, as it was made possible through tremendous efforts to develop a broad cooperation among the citizens, rejecting the claims of the government that the base issue falls within the jurisdiction of the state and that a referendum is meaningless. Refusing to yield to the extraordinary pressure from the government, those who led the campaign succeeded in convincing their fellow citizens, either supported or opposed the relocation, to take part in the referendum, through their campaign under the slogan, "We the citizens are the ones to decide our own destiny." Iwakuni Mayor and other municipal heads in the western part of Hiroshima Prefecture, who have stood firm against the government's demand, upholding their opposition to the base consolidation until the end, have set a model for other municipal heads of what a municipality hosting a base should do. In Zama, Sagamihara, Kanoya, Tsuiki and other localities with military bases, too, local governments and citizens are working together in joint struggles against the military realignment plan. This fact itself shows that the strengthening of U.S. bases is not compatible with the primary mission of a local government, that is, to protect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens.
In Okinawa, a fierce struggle over the construction of a new base has been going on. With a momentum of public opinion that 70-80 percent of Okinawa people are opposed to the new base, five opposition parties put up a united candidate, Itokazu Keiko in the gubernatorial election and fought for the defeat of the construction plan and the reduction of U.S. military bases. Although Itokazu lost, she received 310,000 votes while her rival backed by the LDP and Komei Party suffered a low turnout of 51 percent votes. Furthermore, the LDP-Komei candidate could not help promising the public to "remove the danger of Futenma base within three years," and to "oppose the government plan of the new base." Using "economic boost measures" as his centerpiece public pledge, his camp carried out a desperate campaign, enlisting the support of local corporations and organizations. Opinion surveys conducted during the election showed a majority of the prefectural people are still opposed to the construction. The new governor will face with harsh opposition from the prefectural residents if he, together with the central government, pushes ahead with the construction of the base. The elected governor has already tried to start negotiations as soon as possible to reach an agreement with the government, which has taken an arrogant attitude, saying: "It takes more time to get Futenma returned"; "we are not going to change the government plan"; or "Dual-directional flights on a V-shaped runway is acceptable in the event of an emergency." This attitude only helps to intensify contradictions with local people.
Pressed by the national government, some municipal heads accepted the plan, but it will not be easy for the plan to take shape as they put various conditions in exchange for acceptance. Above all, contradictions between bases and the people are not gone. Local people's struggles against bases are going on across Japan. Yokosuka Mayor, who was elected promising to oppose the deployment of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to his city, shifted his stance and unconditionally accepted the plan using as an excuse the "explanation" of the Japanese and US governments that "nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is safe." However, opinion polls show that 60 percent of Yokosuka citizens oppose the plan. They launched a campaign to make a direct claim to the local government to request the holding of a referendum on pros and cons of Yokosuka port being a mother port of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Organizations cooperating in the Japan Peace Conference jointly organized a rally on July 9 in Yokosuka. Its success with the participation of 30,000 people became a springboard to produce further cooperation and joint effort. Yokosuka's struggle is symbolically significant from the viewpoint that the plan is a core of the realignment of US bases in Japan, and that Yokosuka mayor gave way to the government's pressure. Therefore, I once again call on you to extend solidarity and support to the Yokosuka struggle.
In various parts of Japan where the US strike forces are concentrated as "central stronghold", consistent struggles involving local governments have been continuing and have prevented new bases from being built. Our resistance has given a severe blow to the US policy that tries to establish a war system. It is truly dangerous for the Abe government to take on a course toward the expansion and reinforcement of the Japan-US military alliance on a global scale, and to "revise the Constitution within five years." But we have to have confidence that our struggle has impacted on public opinion and created changes. With this conviction, let's make further progress!
(2) The world is changing
In the past one year, the world witnessed the remarkable development of a trend seeking peaceful resolution of conflicts. This brings into relief the isolation of Abe cabinet that denies Article 9 and supports the strengthening of military alliance. We belong to the trend of overwhelming majority.
Based on its preemptive attack strategy, the US Bush administration pushed ahead with the Iraq war and occupation. But now its failure is clear to everybody. The cause Bush upheld totally collapsed and it was made clear that the war was unlawful. It inflicted enormous damage, killing 650,000 Iraqis, and now Iraq is in a civil war. US soldiers' death toll from the war already exceeded 2,800, and the Bush camp suffered a crushing defeat in the November midterm election. Both Rumsfeld and Bolton are forced to resign. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who pushed on the war of aggression together with the United States, was also driven from office. The Abe government is the only one in the world that still unconditionally supports the war. The trend in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons and the peaceful order based on the U.N. Charter is getting to be a major one in the world.
There is a move to create a peaceful community in each region of the world: Nonaligned movement countries, which account for 80 percent of the world population, has taken peace initiatives; there is also effort by ASEAN, Shanghai Cooperation and South American Community of Nations, etc. In the Central and Latin America, left-wing governments were born in Nicaragua and Ecuador recently. Hugo Chavez was reelected with support of the overwhelming majority people. Many countries are trying to take an independent way from the U.S. However, Japanese government is still following the U.S. That government is a minor in the world. It is clear that underlying this change, there is the development of anti-war, anti-nuclear and peace public opinion and movement.
Such a world trend for peace also reflects in the international community's response to North Korean nuclear weapons test. Its nuclear test is never permissible. It betrayed its own promise and an international agreement to pursue denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and heightened the tension between Asia and the rest of the world. We have called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear development program and to return to the "Six-Party Talks." At the same time, we have called on the international community to make concerted efforts to settle this issue in a diplomatic manner. The international community has dealt with this in a harmonized way, not in a military way, as shown in the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution. This is what the present world has accomplished. Later, North Korea expressed its will to return to the "Six-Party Talks."
However, using the North Korean issue as an excuse, the Abe government and some political analysts are provoking the need to strengthen military bases and the Japan-US military alliance. The attempts to strengthen the bases and the military alliance, build up a wartime regime, and discussing Japan's nuclear armament and bringing-in of nuclear weapons all lead to heightening tension. They will be obstacles to a way for peaceful settlement of disputes. The UN resolution calls for a swift implementation of the "Joint Statement of the 4th Six-Party Talks," which is aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear development program, eliminating mutual hostility, easing tension, and building a peaceful relationship with countries concerned. In the present world, there is no room for advocators in favor of military buildup to get the basis for their argument.
2. Tasks, prospects and directions of movements against military bases and alliance
It has been the tradition of the Peace Conference, among others, to grapple with war and peace issues of the time in need of urgent response on which struggle is desperately called for. At the same time, it has played an important role of developing the stream of eliminating U.S. bases and Japan-U.S. military alliance, which are the root causes of all the problems. Let this Conference be a new starting point, from which we will fight against the realignment and building-up of the U.S. bases and against the ﾒwar-nationﾓ building effort and defeat all assaults on peace. Let me make some proposals for further build-up of the movement, into one that will involve a majority of the people.
(1) Building on landmark achievements of local municipalities and residents against the base consolidation
As we have seen, the brave struggles of local municipalities and people against the consolidation of U.S. military bases have proved to be a major challenge for the U.S. and Japanese governments. Local people's earnest desire of passing on a peaceful community to their children without jet noise of warplanes has become so incompatible with the base consolidation plans. While maintaining our final goals of removing military bases and abrogating the military alliance, we have worked in unity and cooperation with local people on issues of urgency on the point of consensus. Further, in the referendum in Iwakuni City and in the ongoing campaign in Yokosuka City for putting the question on the referendum, alliances of a wide spectrum of groups and individuals have been made possible by focusing on the most fundamental demand of having our government listen to the voices of the local citizens, going beyond the consensus of opposing military bases. We should learn from here and closely examine the possibility for a greater cooperative action on what should be the agreed points, and analyze the effective ways to promote our movement.
(2) Let's speak out against the big feast to the U.S. military at the cost of social program and people's lives!
While informing the public and engaging them in discussion about the perilous nature of the military build-up, in order to form a majority force against it, we also need to draw attention to the extravagant amount of tax money of 3 trillion yen appropriated to the U.S. military here, in the face of slashing expenditures for the people. A bill on special measures on the consolidation of U.S. military bases in Japan is in the pipeline for the Diet's next ordinary session, whose purpose is to crush the resistance of local governments and people against the U.S. bases transformation. The bill is said to include a dirty trick of increasing subsidies according to the level of local governments' cooperation for the military transformation. This is nothing short of slapping people's faces with bundles of notes in order to impose the onerous burden on them. The bill also includes a provision on appropriating a large sum of money to pay for the cost of a new U.S. base in Guam. We must speak out against such flagrant spending spree of people's tax money for the U.S. military at the cost of social programs, local municipalities finance and people's livelihood.
(3) No to military build-up and SDF overseas operation, aimed for Japan's participation in wars like the completely failed war against Iraq
The aim of the transformation is to establish a structure in which U.S. forces could be swiftly deployed and operate in any part of the world to wage unlawful war like the one being waged against Iraq. It is also to promote further integration of Japanese military forces into the U.S. military and SDF's full-scale overseas operation, as backed up by the bill to upgrade the Defense Agency to the "Defense Ministry", so that the SDFs could globally engage in U.S.-led wars. A series of contingency laws under the guise of providing "safeguards to the people" is an integral part of this. Nothing could be more absurd for us than pouring our own tax money in the bases realignment and suffer from the war condemned by tens of millions of people across the world and one of whose proponents has been forced to resign for its failure. Let us speak out for the immediate withdrawal of SDFs from Iraq and stop this foolish attempt of military build-up.
(4) Conditions for forming a majority for withdrawal of U.S. bases and abrogation of military alliance
The contradiction between Article 9 of the Constitution and the Japan-U.S. military alliance has grown to its extreme. What has spurred the drive for constitutional amendment to be finally put on the political schedule is the ongoing globalization of the alliance. Objectively speaking, the broad public opinion in support of Article 9 and against a war-nation building has become completely incompatible with the military alliance. We are indeed at the crossroads of whether to engage in diplomacy for peace by exercising Article 9 or to amend the article to be a war-mongering nation that would exercise force along with the United States. Many of the people who are in support of the Constitution are now deepening their understanding on the real aim of the constitutional amendment and turning their eyes to what lies at its root. While promoting our cooperative efforts on the agreed point of defending the Constitution with good faith, we need to inform the public about the perilous nature of military bases and the military alliance and to engage in discussion in order to build a stronger force of public opinion against the military alliance which is putting the world peace at stake.
(5) For a stronger international solidarity against U.S. military base
The Peace Conference has long worked for a greater international solidarity against military bases and alliances. Our efforts for this have borne fruits in many parts of the world. At the World Peace Forum held in Vancouver, Canada in June, a meeting of many movements waged in different parts of the world in opposition to U.S. military bases was held, in which the joint struggle of people and local municipalities in Japan against U.S. bases draw great attention from the participants. Last month, a leftist government, which calls for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country was formed in Ecuador. We had the pleasure of inviting a peace group delegate from Ecuador to join in the last year's Japan Peace Conference. Next March, an international conference for a withdrawal of foreign military bases will be held in Ecuador for the first time in history. The conference is expected to provide a very important avenue for the movements in the world to strengthen their solidarity against U.S. bases. I call on you to prepare to send our delegation to take part in this international anti-base conference.
In conclusion, let me make some concrete proposals for actions for the coming months. As we have seen, struggles are being fought and enhanced and conditions for new solidarity work are growing nationwide. Let us exploit and build on this solidarity and inspiring one another. Our immediate support should be extended and strengthened to the petition drive for a referendum in Yokosuka city, which would be asking its citizens if they support or oppose the planned hosting of U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at Yokosuka port. We should also work for a success of the national rally planned on March 20, 2007 on the eve of the 4th anniversary of the start of the war on Iraq, demanding a withdrawal of SDF from Iraq, against the constitutional amendment and U.S. military transformation, as a way to show our national and international solidarity.