Japan Peace Conference 2007
Zama City Peace Committee, Kanagawa Prefecture
Camp Zama is a U.S. military facility built after the U.S. forces took over the Japanese Army academy after the end of WW II. In 2004, we got to know for the first time by newspaper reports that a U.S. Army command is planned to be relocated to Camp Zama from its mainland. Since the base site had been forcibly bought by the Japanese Army from local people, those land owners were hoping for their lands to be returned after the war. However, their hope seems never be fulfilled. After the site was given to the U.S. forces, another plan was emerged for allowing the Self-Defense Forces to jointly use the U.S. military facility. Although we opposed the plan, the city accepted it and exchanged a memorandum with the national government. It reads "The government was required to contact the city when it would give any change to the base, and it is also required to ban the SDF from using the facility if it fails to fulfill the promise." Facing the relocation plan of the U.S. Army command to Zama which emerged in violation of the memorandum and will lead to the strengthening and perpetuating of the base, the city insists that it cannot accept it and urges the national government to show specific measures leading to the reduction and return of the base to local people.
Camp Zama lies across Zama City and Sagamihara City, both of which have expressed opposition to the U.S. Army command relocation. The Sagamihara City mayor said he would oppose the plan even if he is run over by a tank, while Zama City mayor stated he was also against it even if attacked by a missile. Their remarks caught public attention. The Sagamihara mayor was replaced due to his illness. Now the new Sagamihara administration is promoting the return of the U.S. Sagami Supply Depot.
Zama City authority, the assembly and the liaison council of residents' associations established an association to oppose the strengthening and perpetuating of Camp Zama. It organized two rallies, including its inauguration meeting of the association. The mayor, the assembly chair, and the chair of the residents' liaison council together made representations many times to the government. The association's newsletter reports those actions and is distributed to each resident's association. The newsletter is available in libraries, cultural centers, and other facilities of the city.
In the end of August, the setup of a working team for the relocation was announced. In October, Humvee (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle) was sent in. Things are going ahead to the direction that local people don't want. While Zama city was excluded from the municipalities entitled to the government special subsidy for the realignment of U.S. bases, the neighboring Sagamihara City was reported to receive it. Such subsidy should be given to municipalities in proportion to how much base burden they are enduring. It ridicules the people to give subsidy, depending on how much they are cooperating with the realignment plans and how much the result is. Using the tax money of the sovereign people to suppress their will is an violation of the spirit of the Constitution.
Such a series of acts by the U.S. forces and the Japanese government have added fuel to anger and distrust of the city. It has not changed firm opposition to the relocation plan.
The city assembly has occasionally adopted statements and sent them to the government. It also adopted unanimously a resolution calling for a nuclear-free declaration of Japan in September.
Residents have carried out various peace activities. The liaison council repeatedly conducted signature collection, petition and protest to the Diet (parliament) and the Defense Ministry. We also submitted a protest note directly to Camp Zama and held a rally. The Zama Peace Committee was reestablished. In cooperation with groups which have relations with different political parties, we organized a lecture meeting inviting Mr. Masaji Shinagawa, permanent director of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, as a speaker. We sent a request note to the leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan, urging them to keep opposing the anti-terrorism special measures law. We also submitted petitions to the liaison council as well as to the mayor. We exchange information about each otherﾕs events and jointly organize monitoring activities in front of the bases. There are some people who suggest receiving the subsidy in exchange for making a compromise among the city assembly members, the directors of the liaison council and the leaders of residents' associations. We have to increase residents' voices in order to encourage the mayor and the liaison council, which maintain opposition to the relocation. When accomplished facts are being created one after another, we are now working hard to make a success of a big rally to be planned on December 2 in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area as an opportunity to show people's opposition to the relocation.
We carried out street campaigns simultaneously in front of the railway stations in Zama and Sagamihara cities, calling on passers-by to sign the petition and participate in the rally. We also conducted a one-day campaign by car. Through actions, we have felt that public interest in this issue is increasing. The number of signatures is increasing also. But it is not enough to change the situation. However, we were encouraged to see the rally in Okinawa being participated by about 110,000 people. We were convinced that we could make a breakthrough if we gather voices of the wide range of local people.
The success of the Dec. 2 rally against the war command relocation, roar of war planes, and a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, will encourage Zama City, the only municipality in Kanagawa that keeps opposition to the realignment. It will also play a significant role in expressing Kanagawa people's anti-base calls. We hope to be strong enough to fight in solidarity with struggles against U.S. and SDF bases in Okinawa, Iwakuni, and other parts of Japan.
Please come to join the rally and send us messages from the Tokyo Metropolitan area and throughout Japan.