Japan Peace Conference 2007
Statement of the Panelists of the International Symposium
The International Symposium of the 2007 Japan Peace Conference was held on November 22-23, 2007. On the panel were Geov Parrish, executive director of the Washington Peace Action, USA; Paulina Elizabeth Ponce Cando, International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases - Ecuador/ head of the communication affairs of the human rights watch section of the Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights, Ecuador; Andrea Licata, PhD, Committee of Inhabitants and Workers of East Vicenza-Against the Construction of a New Base in Vicenza- For the Conversion of Camp Ederle to Civil Uses, Italy; Ko You Kyoung, Bureau Chief, Campaign for Eradication of Crimes by U.S. Troops in Korea, Republic of Korea; and Kawata Tadaaki, Executive Board Member, Japan Peace Committee. Fuse Keisuke, Director of International Bureau, National Confederation of Trade Unions acted as Coordinator. The Symposium heard special reports from the Chief of the Department of Base Affairs, Ginowan City Government of Okinawa Prefecture, and from the Zama Peace Committee of Kanagawa Prefecture.
The International Symposium took place amidst the increased international isolation of the U.S. policy of aggression and oppression, while the movement and public opinion against U.S. bases and U.S. military presence are gaining significant ground in different parts of the world. In March 2007, the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases was held in Ecuador for the first time in history, which resulted in the establishment of an international network against military bases. The struggles to oppose military bases were also emphasized in the Counter-Forum for the G8 Summit held in Rostok.
In Japan, in Iwakuni, Yokosuka, Zama, Henoko, Takae, local people have been working, together with their local governments, in opposition to the ongoing realignment and reinforcement of U.S. military forces and construction plans for a new base. The movement to defend Article 9 is also making progress. The withdrawal of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, having been dispatched to the Indian Ocean to help the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, was an historic achievement of public opinion and movement. It was also significant that in Okinawa, where the people of the entire prefecture are involved in the struggle against the government's decision to delete the reference from school textbooks to the responsibility of the Japanese military for forcing the local people to commit mass suicide, the peace movements of Japan and other parts of the world met and exchanged their views.
The International Symposium served as a forum where the panelists and participants shared their experiences, learned from and expressed their solidarity to each other.
Geov Parrish reported that in the United States, the movement of the people against the Iraq war has created a historically unusual change in the public opinion, and that the bigger challenge would be to change the political decision-making by the power of the public opinion. He stressed the importance of supporting those who refuse to serve in the war in Iraq, of developing public opinion through non-violent resistance to prevent weapons and equipment from being sent to Iraq, and of mobilizing people through students' resistance against military recruitment activities at high schools and colleges.
Paulina Ponce spoke of her experience of developing the movement against the military base in Manta, one of the U.S. forward operating location, through making it known to the public the impact of the military presence and the role of the base as foothold of the U.S. domination of Latin American countries. The effort at local and national levels had led to the creation of the No Bases Coalition-Ecuador, which contributed to the success of the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases. Pointing out future tasks of the international network as establishing an international coordinating committee, organizing international campaigns, establishing an international observatory system and promotion of participation of organizations in Africa and Middle East, she called for cooperation and solidarity between the anti-base struggles around the world.
Andrea Licata reported on the struggle against the U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy, which is planned to be expanded. And he reported on the successful 200,000 people rally held in February this year and a variety of activities carried out by the people. He cited concrete examples from Germany and East Europe of the process of the conversion of military bases for civilian use and stressed that the removal of military bases is an urgent challenge for the people and community also from the sake of employment and effect on local economy. At the same time, he pointed to the importance of informing the people of the fact that the base is being used for preemptive attacks.
Ko You Kyoung made clear that while some part of the U.S. military bases in South Korea has been returned according to the U.S. military realignment plan, the rest of the bases are being expanded and their functions are being strengthened. She referred to the contamination problem in the former military base sites, saying that more and more Korean people are calling on the U.S. to take the responsibility for cleaning up the contaminated area. She also said that heinous crimes of brutality such as sexual crimes and arson committed by U.S. military personnel in Korea are increasing. She pointed out the impact of the war in Iraq on the increase of crimes committed by U.S. soldiers. Then she expressed her hope that the movement to eradicate U.S. crimes and achieve peace would promote more exchanges and solidarity between the movements in the Asian region.
Kawata Tadaaki, having referred to the achievement of the Japanese movement on the question of JSDF involvement in the war in Afghanistan, emphasized the importance of promoting international solidarity of anti-U.S. base movements, based on the struggles of local peoples and local governments. Especially, he pointed out the importance of international cooperation in eradicating U.S. military crimes and of exchanges among movements of different countries aiming to achieve a sustainable development of local economy by removing military bases. And he also stressed that the struggles against U.S. bases is part of the global effort to achieve a just world, resisting the outrage of neo-liberalism, which offers new conditions for broader joint actions.
The Symposium made clear that despite the serious damage caused by the U.S. military presence, including crimes and environment pollution, and the danger of the U.S. world strategy, the U.S. attempt to dominate the rest of the world by military force has met with strong resistance in many parts of the world. The participants had interactive discussion on how to promote public opinion and cooperation, on advocacy for the conversion of military bases for civilian use, and on creative ideas and experiences in the movement.
The struggles waged in different countries and regions are important not only for their respective places, but are integral part of the global struggle to reject the domination by big powers and to create a peaceful and just world order. Let us globalize our the joint actions and solidarity in opposition to U.S. military bases, and open up a new horizon for creating a foreign bases-free and peaceful world and Asia.
Paulina Elizabeth Ponce Cando
Ko You Kyoung