Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2009
Special Reports


Teruo Ohnishi

Representative member, No to Heliport Base Council
Nago Peace Committee, Okinawa Prefecture


Close Futenma Base, No to New Base in Henoko
We do not want US base anywhere in Japan

The question of closing of Futenma Base and the construction of a new base on the coast of Henoko has become a burning issue that is shaking the governments of both Japan and the U.S. Following the very successful rally organized by Okinawa people on November 11, U.S. Marines camped out at Camp Schwab during President Obama’s visit to Japan, as if to back up the president. President Obama acknowledged for the cheers by saying that he was “proud of U.S. soldiers” three times.

The coalition government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, intimidated by the US Defense Secretary Gates’ blackmail message on one hand and flattered by Obama’s statements in its favor on the other hand, is now subserviently committed to rapidly implement the Japan-U.S. agreement.

The courageous Henoko tent village continues to challenge the Japanese and U.S. connivance for relocating Futenma Base nowhere but Henoko. Our position on this issue is clear and invariable: “We de not want any U.S. base. We do not want it either in Ginowan Bay or Nago or anywhere in Japan. We demand its closure, the return of the occupied land and not its relocation”.  We reject either “relocation” as the media say or “lightening of the burden” as the Osaka governor claims.

During the thirteen years of struggle in Henoko with 2,063 days of sit-in, we had good times and bad times. It is a precious history of struggle whose gains we would like to share with you.  

We succeeded in getting the plan of a sea base rejected through a referendum, and defeated the plan of military-civilian airport through non-violent means and by the strength of public opinion. We maintain the obstacle to the construction of V-shaped runway required for the reorganization of U.S. forces by challenging the environmental assessment report. We are now building prospects for the third victory.  Let me briefly look into the factors that have contributed in winning these victories with people’s power.

One of the major factors is systematic sharing of information, learning, and building of public opinion by using means of non-violence.

The second important factor is the cooperation with groups and individuals working for culture of peace and biodiversity, and conscientious international networking.

The third factor is the persistence, steadfastness, refusal to obey and bend, giving priority to friendship, dialogue and negotiation.

And above all, the courage of that young girl and her parents that is still moving the history that seemed running into at the dead-end.   

Dear friends, can we win the battle and how?

Today the government and the media are trying to sell the “plan of a new base with V-shaped runway” (the so-called road map) as the “plan” on the table. This plan is a key for the reorganization of U.S. forces and is being implemented, bound by the obligation to be completed by 2014. The Heiwa-maru Foundation is working in many ways: organizing protest action against the preliminary study, illegal environment assessment surveillance, study of corals, learning activities on boat etc.

The governmental plan was delayed by 8 months due to 400 public comments on the assessment result. We have submitted opinions and proposals to the Assessment Examining Committee. In this effort we have given importance to building close cooperation with researchers and scholars, and in our comment published in the Okinawa Times on December 31, 2007, we valued the work of researchers and scholars stating that the Committee is conscientious – the governor denied the Committee’s opinion”. 

We submitted about 5,000 letters to the preparatory document and the Committee eventually recommended the governor that the assessment should be conducted again.

My letter was 105 pages’ long. Okinawa Peace Committee and the Heiwa-maru Foundation presented letters of opinion to the Assessment Examination Committee regarding military and environmental problems (we find the opinion letter of Ohkubo excellent).

The blog diary “Takarano Umi (sea of treasure)” is updated every day (since September 2004) to disseminate information about Henoko, and more and more blogs about Henoko have been created.

Taking advantage of the confrontation of different opinions over the assessment, the Democratic Party of Japan succeeded in attracting popular support with a proposal for “relocation to outside Okinawa or outside Japan”. But once convinced of its victory in the general election, the DPJ toned down the demand to call for “revision of the U.S. forces reorganization,” and now being in power, it shamefully stresses the need for Japan to honor the previous Japan-U.S. agreement, serving the interests of the U.S.

The true aim of the governments of the two countries is to remove the deadline of “completion by 2014”. The Japanese government and media are using the rhetoric of “relocation” or “reducing the burden on Okinawans,” in desperate attempt to hide the real issue. A new base will be a “fortress of devil” in the Asia-Pacific region. We go back to the starting point of our struggle.  This year will mark a major change in history, a change brought about by the forces for the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

The year 2010 starts with the mayoral election in Nago City. It took a courageous struggle of the citizens to be united in support of the candidate who is against the new base. Let us work to achieve a Nago City that refuses any military bases. We are looking forward to having a vast support from our friends around the country.