Japan Peace Conference 2007
Secretary General, Japan Peace Committee
Organizing Committee, 2007 Japan Peace Conference
1. Aim of the Conference (Central theme of the Keynote Report)
Okinawa, the venue of this year's Japan Peace Conference, is where a historic struggle is taking place both in opposition to the US military build-up and for the retraction of the government's censorship on history textbooks that attempts to whitewash Okinawa's tragic history of forced "mass suicide" during WWII. Okinawa is a foal point of our struggle where we can learn first-hand the reality involving the US-Japan military alliance and the Constitution of Japan. I call on you to learn together with the people of Okinawa, get to know and encourage each other, and work together for the success of the conference.
This conference is being held in a tumultuous situation involving this country's peace and future course, and when the struggle for peace is making advances. Let me name some of the progresses we have seen and made in recent months. In July, with the crushing defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Councilors' Election, the power balance between the ruling and opposition parties in the upper house has turned back. In September, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who upheld as his administration's main goal the "departure from the post-war regime", threw out his post in the midst of his tenure. In the same month, 110,000 people gathered at the Okinawa People's Rally calling for the retraction of the school textbook censorship that distorted the historical facts of the battles of Okinawa. And we successfully frustrated an extension of the Special Terrorism Prevention Act, which led to the withdrawal of Japan's military ships from the Indian Ocean. And local municipalities and people are putting up staunch fight against the transformation and build-up of US military forces, disturbing the US and Japanese governments, for "it could impede the transformation process, which would mean a repeat of the failed implementation of the 1996 agreement of SACO (the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, for the construction of new US military bases in Japan).
We have gathered here in Okinawa with the realization and conviction that "our actions can make a difference in politics." Let us confirm our achievements and build on the development of a new situation to further drive the US and Japanese governments into a corner.
Based on these achievements, I would like to focus on how we are going to advance in our movements against a new terrorism prevention act, sending of Japanese troops abroad and the transformation of US forces, and also how to go forward with our public mobilization efforts and with developing the movements against the US-Japan military alliance.
2. Recent development over issues of war and peace
2-1. Progress in people's opinion and movement -- a difference that the public mandate has brought about
There is no doubt that the driving force of what is driving the government into a corner and bringing about significant changes in the politics is the progress in people's opinion and movements.
-- The struggle against an extension of the Special Terrorism Prevention Act was the cause of resignation of Abe, who concluded that the extension was difficult to achieve. And on November 1, with the termination of the Act, the Japanese troops, which had been deployed in the Indian Ocean, was ordered to withdraw. This is an unprecedented event in our history, to have military troops withdrawn, in defiance of the obstinate pursuit by the two governments for the continuation of the US-Japan joint military action, with the force of public opposition. It is important to deepen our conviction in this achievement. Now, a fierce battle is being waged over whether we would allow the resumption of Japan's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean, or we could put an end to that once and for all, and further get Japan's military forces to be withdrawn from Iraq.
-- In recent months, the Okinawan people's anger exploded over the government's attempt of distorting the historical fact of forced "mass suicide" of civilians during the ground battle of Okinawa fought as military's strategy of sacrifice for the "preservation of national polity", the Japanese Emperor, through the school textbook censorship. During the battle, a number of islanders were led, ordered and forced to commit "mass suicide" by the Japanese military, in which even family members were left with no choice but to kill one another. The people's actions culminated in the Okinawa People's Rally in September, which gathered some 110,000 people, and the struggle to restore the original textbook description of the tragic incidents and for the retraction of the infamous opinion for the whitewashing of the historical fact is being waged throughout the island. As a result, some textbook publishers have taken actions to restore their original description of the event, and now the government's recalcitrant refusal to retract the censorﾕs opinion is sharply questioned.
The glossing over and distortion of Japan's war of aggression by so-called the "pro-Yasukuni" forces are also criticized in other countries, further isolating the pro-war forces. In July this year, the US Congress passed a resolution calling on the Japanese government to make a clear apology for comments made by the former premier Abe and other officials to the effect that "there was no fact of Japan's war-time government having forced women to work as comfort women for the military." Similar actions calling for Japan's official apology are being taken in the Netherlands, the Philippines and in the European Parliament.
-- Over the transformation and build-up of the United States Forces in Japan (USFJ), the US and Japanese governments have been driven into a situation where they are feeling a sense of crisis: if the situation continued as it is, they would repeat the failure of the 1996 Special Action Committee on Okinawa. Among many others, the government has enacted Special Measures for the Implementation of Swift Transformation of USFJ Act as a means to co-opt and coerce local municipalities and populations, under which the local municipalities are provided with subsidies according to the level of their cooperation to the USFJ transformation. The aim of the transformation is to fortify this country as a stronghold of US pre-emptive strikes and it has nothing to do with, or rather contrary to, the much publicized "defense of Japan" or "the reduction of Okinawa's burden." It will only exacerbate the suffering and burden on local communities caused by the US military presence. This is why the local governments of the "focal points" of the transformation, such as Iwakuni (Yamaguchi), Zama (Kanagawa) and Kanoya (Kagoshima), haven't given in an inch in their firm opposition to the plan based on their principle of defending the lives of their citizens and local autonomy. In some cities, including Yokosuka (Kanagawa) and Okinawa, the citizens are fighting back for the retraction of their city mayorsﾕ consent to the transformation plan.
- Constitutional revision: The number of people who oppose the revision of the constitution is steadily on the rise, and now the voice in favor of the preservation of Article 9 of the Constitution is a majority of the nation. There is no doubt that the force behind the majority-building is the grass-roots movements, such as the Association of Article 9, which have been organized across the country in 6,734 groups (as of Oct.18, 2007.) It is indeed this public opposition that has been holding the government from starting discussion in the Panel on Constitutional Revision, despite having steamrolled the bill for the procedure of constitutional change (National Referendum Act.) Conference on the Security Legal System, an advisory body for the constitutional change set up by the former Prime Minister Abe has been unable to do business.
Let us be confident in the power of public opinion and our grass-root peace movements that have played an important role in creating the current situation, and vigorously advance our work.
-- Behind-the-door talk between Liberal Democrats and Democrats --- Danger of the two party system:
In the post-election development, we need to pay great attention to the behind-the-door-talk the leaders of the LDP and the Democratic Party held, and that they once agreed on the making of a "grand coalition" of the two parties and on the promotion of the enactment of a permanent military dispatch act. While they had to retract the initial agreement in the face of very critical public reaction, Ozawa, the leader of the Democratic Party, was dissuaded from resigning by his party's ranking members over his responsibility of having unilaterally sought the coalition. This incident has clearly revealed the inherent danger of the conceived two-party system operated by the parties that do not differ from each other but share the basic principles of maintaining the military alliance with the US, promoting the sending of Japanese troops abroad and revising of the Constitution. We should never underestimate its dangerous nature. At the same time, the Democrats now have reaffirmed their opposition to a new terrorism prevention act in response to the fierce public opinion. So the situation has become quite complex on this matter, and from the standpoint of people's demand we need to mobilize more voices and build stronger movements both in quantity and quality. In doing so, the forces working against the constitutional revision and the military alliance need to play a leadership role and develop their ability.
2-2. Change in international arena
The dangerous United States policy of military hegemony has come to a standstill also in the international arena, where some important changes are taking place, including the gaining force of the current for a peaceful world order based on the UN Charter. We, of course, should not underestimate the Bush Administration's deadly nuclear strategy: its continued adherence to and modernization of nuclear weapons, and the expansion of its nuclear target list. The Administration also remains committed to the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has expressed its intension of not excluding the option of military strikes against Iran, and promotes the global military transformation for its pre-emptive attack policy. We need to pay attention, however, to the fact that these policies are going in disarray and bankruptcy, and are facing with the development of various forms of opposition by peace seeking peoples.
The unlawful occupation of Iraq is in quagmire, the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen and if the things continue to go as they are, the war cost is estimated to reach as high as 3.9 trillion dollars by 2013. All these developments are reasons for a record high 68% of American public opposing the war in Iraq (CNN opinion poll.) The war of retaliation in Afghanistan is feeding to the vicious cycle of terror and no exit can be seen. More and more people are saying across the globe that terrorism cannot be fought with war, and calling for not military but political solutions to the problems. Once again this year, the United Nation's General Assembly demonstrated the overwhelming support of the international community for the abolition of nuclear weapons. An opinion poll has shown 73% of the American people support the abolition of nuclear weapons and even some in the establishment are calling on the US government to seriously seek the abolition also for the purpose of preventing nuclear proliferation. In Latin America, a growing number of countries are electing governments that seek policies independent from the United States. The latest case is Guatemala, where the people elected a left-wing government. In December last year, the Ecuadorians elected a left-wing president, who ran on the platform of achieving the withdrawal of US military bases from the country, and in March this year, the very first international conference for the abolition of foreign military bases was held in the country. The movement against US military presence is gaining ground internationally.
Against this background, the Bush Administration has been compelled to somewhat revise its policy, which is too dependent on military response. Its efforts of seeking peaceful solution to North Korea's nuclear issue through the six-party talks and the promotion of Strategic Partnership with China are among such modification the administration has made in its foreign policies. Especially notable is the scheduled start of the agreement-based complete dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program within this year, and the agreement on the start of negotiations for a conclusion of the Korean War in the form of a joint statement. The US and North Korea are also engaged in the talks on normalization of relations. What stands out amidst these ongoing efforts for a peaceful Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia are our government's lack of foreign policy and the inclination toward militaristic response to situations, which are quite abnormal.