Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2009
International Symposium


Tadaaki Kawata

Executive Board Member, Japan Peace Committee


Roles of Movements and Public Opinion for Building up Peace in Asia

Under the theme of the symposium, I will speak about the roles of Japanese citizens’ movements and opinions in Asia.

The relocation of US Marines Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa is getting to be a political focus.  Look at Map 1. A number of elementary and junior high schools, kindergartens and hospitals are marked. They are located near the base. You will see that the base stays in the center of the people’s daily life. On Aug. 13, 2004, a big helicopter for transportation, which belonged to Futenma base, crashed into Okinawa International University and went up in flames. Fortunately, no citizens were injured. But if it had crashed into a more crowded place, it could have been a disaster.

The US bases stationed in Japan is threatening the people’s safety and lives. If the government says that security means protecting the people, shouldn’t it remove the “threat” immediately as a political responsibility? Based on the Constitution that proclaims the “right to live in peace, free from fear and want”, I demand the closure and removal of Futenma base as the execution of the right.

The Japanese government pays much attention not to undermine the Japan-US alliance. Many commercial mass media are reporting that US is irritated and trust between the two countries is wavering. However, look at the world. No countries have been suffered from the closure of US bases and the deterioration of relations with the US.

The US forces, deployed to Manta base in Ecuador, withdrew in September this year, following the decision of the Ecuador government that refused the extension of the base lease agreement. There is no sign that this has intensified tension in their bilateral relations. Now the US is not able to do as it likes by force even in Latin America where was once called its “backyard”. A serious question is rather the US attempt to build a new base in neighboring Colombia. It is not the removal of bases but the construction of a new base that creates tension.

Public Opposition to US Bases Works – US strategic documents

It is extraordinary that the US has a network of over 1000 military bases in about 40 countries. At the same time, there is a growing current of taking an independent position without relying on US bases and military alliances with the US, which has raised an awareness of the US administration that the era of holding bases on its allies and using them at its disposal is coming to an end.

The Bush administration was faced with worldwide criticism for its war on Iraq and Afghanistan. It was forced to respond with priority to the “political conditions of the US allies”: Use of the bases and transit of airspace and territory of allies were getting restricted by the development of public opposition.

For instance, the US military strategy, announced after 9/11 terrorist attack says that the reorientation of the posture abroad should be reviewed, taking account of new challenges, particularly anti-access and area-denial threats. While putting forward strengthening US posture abroad, a document “Strengthening US Global Defense Posture”, submitted to the Congress by the Bush administration in 2004, emphasizes that the heavy footprint that abrades on regional sensitivities should be avoided. (The heavy footprint includes damage and economic loss caused by the bases.)

There is a thesis of a US Marine that expresses such concern more frankly. Its author Lieutenant Colonel Dale Houck says, “Consequently, we must be concerned that allies and friends will not grant the US rights to access its territory when needed.” And he gives the following reason that “More and more often our interests do not seem to match those of our friends and allies. Many of our allies are now less dependent on us for security…As a result, there seems to be a dramatic increase in anti-Americanism, antiglobalization, and anti-US presence throughout the world and particularly in the third world”.

The “dramatic increase in anti-Americanism, antiglobalization and anti-US presence” can be put in another way the “evolution of public opinion and movement against US bases”. 

Moreover, a document, released by the Department of Defense in 2005, expresses concern that many countries may feel unable to hold out particularly when the political situation restricts basing, overflight or US presence. He picks up Japan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, South Korea and Italy as examples of reduced foreign tolerance for basing of US forces in their countries. It is not too much to say that the list reflects the advance of our movement.

Saying that “hostility in countries that host US bases has brought about a change in basing arrangements”, Mr. Anita Dancs, Foreign Policy in Focus, concludes that those in the core of the US strategy have been unable to ignore critical opinion of the people about US bases.

Thus, the US thinks that public opposition will bring about no access to the bases. The US bases and training sites in Ecuador, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Italy were closed. Turkey, at the time of Iraqi war, and Greece, at the time of bombing to former Yugoslavia, refused US access to their airspace and territories. Of course, the US has always found other options and it will never give up the bases. But our movement and public opinion has work effectively, so that the US is worried that public opposition may lead to the removal of bases. If the US tries to do anything to deal with the worry, we will counter them.

For an Asia without nuclear weapons and without foreign military bases – Roles of civil society

Japan’s public opinion and movement for peace and against US bases has played a part in the growing current for peace in Asia.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims at establishing an ASEAN community in 2015. According to its Charter, the community is characterized by “peace, safety, stability and a nuclear free zone”, and has the principles of “independence, sovereignty and equality”, the “renouncement of aggression, threat and use of force”, “peaceful settlement of disputes” and a “ban on foreign military bases”.

What should be taken note of is that importance is attached to the participation of civil society including NGOs in establishing the community. The article 1 of the ASEAN Charter proclaims, “to promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from” (Provision 13). Since the Charter entered into force at the end of last year, a dialogue forum between representatives of governments and citizens was held twice with the participation of the secretary general of ASEAN and ministers of each government. In the second forum held in October, the representatives of civil society and governments discussed the demands of the citizens such as disarmament, no use of force and ban on nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Cooperation between governments and citizens has just started. It is a fact that there are discords between them, but it is significant that the establishment of the community is being promoted, involving civil society. This shows that the establishment of a new international order of peace needs effort of not only governments but also of the peoples of the world.

Vital role of anti-nuclear opinion for peace of Asia

Public opinion and movements in favor of peace has played an important role in the history of Asia. For example, the US planned to use nuclear weapons in Asia several times, but the plan was aborted by strong opinion against nuclear weapons.

In November 1950, General Douglas MacArthur proposed to make nuclear attack on Chinese mainland in order to achieve a breakthrough in the Korean War. Against the backdrop that US President Truman, who ordered atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, gave up the attack this time, there was “irresistible force” represented by a surge of the signature campaign in support of the Stockholm Appeal. This was referred by Henry Kissinger.

Some years later, the US again planned to use nuclear weapons. In 1954, then Vice President Nixon proposed to President Eisenhower to attack Vietnam with nuclear weapons in order to support the French Army in the battle of Dien Bien Phu. It was public opinion that prevented the attack from happening.

In his note of April 7, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles insisted that 3 atomic bombs could put an end of the life of Viet Minh. The Department of State, however, gave up the attack, by reason that the use of atomic bombs might cause serious effects on public opinion in Asia and response of allies to the US. (Note of the State Department of May 11, 1954)

Without doubt, the US bore Japan in mind. Because at that time, there was a surge of nationwide movement against A and H Bombs which was triggered by Japan’s exposure to the US Bikini H-bomb test in March, 1954. The signature campaign against A and H Bombs spread across Japan, which led to the holding of the 1st World Conference against A and H Bombs.

I want to add that a surge of anti-Vietnam war movement became a turning point to the development of the current of peace in Asia. In November 1971, the ASEAN special foreign ministerial conference, held in November 1971, declared a “zone of peace, freedom and neutrality” with an aim of establishing a peace community. Behind ASEAN went through a change from an anti-communist and closed body, there was a surge of international anti-war movement in Japan and the rest of Asia. In 1976, next year of the end of the War, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) was concluded. With the USA and EU as signatories, it has developed into a framework that covers 68% of the world population and puts forward a peace platform.

With confidence of the role of public opinion and movement in Asia, we are needed to develop our movement further.

For a new Japan-US relations and the establishment of an international order of peace

What public opinion is Japan’s movement required to build up?

On the Futenma base issue, Japanese government is thrown into confusion, which stems from its stand of regarding Japan-US military alliance as axis. There is a tendency that many politicians and commercial mass media in the two countries regard enormous US presence and the Japan-US military alliance as fixed, saying that they work as “deterrence “ to the threat of North Korea. We have to overcome the “myth” and build up a national opinion seeking new relations with the US. It is significant for Japan to join the current of peace in Asia.

Mr. Suchit Bunbongkarn, one of drafters of the constitution of Thailand, mentions about relations between Japan and ASEAN:

“ASEAN hesitates in strengthening cooperation with Japan positively because Japan is dependent on the US in defense and security.” “Unless Japan breaks away from dependence on US, it would be hard for us to cooperate with her in the field of security”.

As US troop strength and strategy show, Japan cannot be equal with US within the framework of military alliance. Naturally, the US policy is prioritized. Japan must break away from the stance of regarding the military alliance as axis and is needed to create a nonmilitary relations with the US based on equality. With this relationship, I believe that both countries will make more valuable contribution to the global issues such as global warming and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the Futenma base issue is a touchstone to measure whether Japan can proceed to the new relations with the US.

If the new bilateral relations based on equality and friendship is established, it will have positive influence on the whole of Asia. The security environment of Asia will change fundamentally. It will also be a great contribution to putting an end to the world order of wealth and power and the realization of cooperation of all nations for peace and equality. Next year marks the 50th year from the revision of Japan-US Security Treaty. We have to promote dialogue with the people and build up public opinion in favor of the establishment of the new constructive relations with the US and the abrogation of the Security Treaty. I conclude my presentation, expressing my determination to make utmost effort for this cause.