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Everything Going Wrong in Okinawa

By Doug Lummis | CounterPunch | October 11, 2019

On 23 February 2016 Admiral Harry Harris, then Commander US Forces Pacific, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked how the construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility was progressing. This refers to the super airbase the Japanese Defense Ministry is building at Henoko in northern Okinawa to house the units of the First Marine Air Wing now deployed at Futenma Air Station, in crowded central Okinawa.

Admiral Harris, his voice betraying irritation, replied, ”it’s . . . a little over two years late. It was going to be done by 2023, now we’re looking at 2025 . . .”

This made the front pages in Okinawa, though probably nowhere else. The next day Suga Yoshihide, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, was asked about this at a press conference. He wanted to say Admiral Harris was wrong, but attempted to put it more diplomatically: “It’s too early to say”, – which amounts to the same thing.

Harris was indeed wrong, but not in the way Suga wanted his listeners to believe. A year before this, in 2015, the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Defense Ministry’s branch in Okinawa, completed a report stating that their soil tests of the sea bottom of Oura Bay, scheduled to be filled to support the new airstrips, had yielded an N-value of zero. N-value is derived by dropping a 140 pound hammer on a hollow drill resting on the sea bottom. The number of blows required to drive it down six inches is the N-value. Thirty or more is considered a firm base. Zero means no blows were required; the drill sank of its own weight.

This information was kept from the Okinawan Government and public for two years, until an independent engineer managed to obtain a copy of the report. Judging from Admiral Harris’ statement, the information had also been kept from the US, and had not been taken into account in Harris’ (as we now know, wildly optimistic) “two years”. Before anything can be built on the “mayonnaise sea bottom”, as it is popularly known in Okinawa, it must be firmed up. The preferred way to do this is by implanting “sand piles” (pillars) into the slime. Huge hollow drills filled with sand are driven down until they reach bedrock. The drills are raised, the sand is left behind. The Okinawa Defense Bureau estimates that if this operation is repeated 77,000 times, the sea bottom will be sufficiently firm to begin construction. This is expected to take as much as five years. That means that 2025, the year Harris predicted the base will be completed, will be the year the sand pillar operation will be completed and sea wall construction on Oura Bay can begin – if all goes well.

If all goes well – and if Murphy’s law ceases to operate (Murphy’s law, If there is anything that could go wrong, it will).

But from the standpoint of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, everything is going wrong. First of all, they have failed to persuade (or to force) the Okinawans to give up their opposition to the new base, which they see as a danger, an environmental catastrophe and an insult. From the Governor’s office through the Prefectural Assembly through Okinawa’s two newspapers down to the daily sit-ins at various points where trucks can be blocked, from every direction, and using every non-violent tactic, including lawsuits, construction is being slowed. Then there is the fact that the site is surrounded by dozens of structures that violate FAA and DOD height regulations for airports. Then there are the two earthquake faults beneath the site, which the Defense Bureau has addressed by going into denial.

But it is on Oura Bay where Murphy’s law is doing the most damage. The Okinawa Defense Bureau’s soil tests have shown that in some places the mayonnaise sea bottom extends to 90 meters below sea level. Sand pillar implantation to 90 meters has never been attempted in Japan (some say, never in the world), nor do rigs exist capable of drilling to that depth. It’s not clear how the Okinawa Defense Bureau plans to deal with that – unless the comment by a government official that “maybe 60 meters will be good enough” can be considered a plan.

Until recently US government officials have avoided commenting on the problems plaguing the Futenma Replacement Facility project, saying, Japan is paying for it; it’s Japan’s problem. But that may be changing. This year’s Senate version of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act contains a section (Section 1255) that would require DOD, in cooperation with the General Accountability Office (GAO), to do a full-fledged review of the project.

Let’s hope they carry out this review with the proper severity of a Marine Corps barracks inspection. They’ll need more than one pair of white gloves.

October 11, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

US Base in Okinawa to Be Relocated Despite Referendum Results – Japanese PM Abe

Sputnik – 25.02.2019

A total of 72.2 percent of those who voted in the referendum on the Japanese island of Okinawa voted against plans to build a new military airfield for US troops in their prefecture, the referendum’s results showed on 25 February.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he “took seriously” the results of the referendum in Okinawa on transferring the US Futenma base to Henoko in the same prefecture, but “it is impossible to postpone the transfer dates”.

“I have considered the referendum results with all seriousness and will do everything to reduce Okinawa’s burden… It’s been over 20 years since Japan and the United States signed an agreement about returning the entire territory of Futenma [to the prefecture]. But it has still not been returned. We cannot postpone the relocation any longer”, the prime minister stated.

He continued on by saying that the authorities need to “avoid a situation where the Futenma base, considered the most dangerous in the world, keeps being surrounded by schools and residential buildings”.

The statement comes after a non-binding referendum was held in Okinawa on 24 February, in which local residents expressed their attitude to the relocation of US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from the densely populated city of Ginowan, where it is currently situated, to the Henoko district.

A total of 19.1 percent of voters supported the plans for the US base relocation, while 8.8 percent refrained from responding yes or no.

In numerical terms, 434,273 people voted against the Tokyo-Washington plans, while 114,933 supported the move, with 52,682 others choosing neither of the options.

The US Marine Corps base Futenma was constructed in 1945. Talks on its relocation to a less populated area within the Okinawa prefecture started over two decades ago, but the government’s plans have been hampered by local residents’ protests.

While Ginowan residents have been calling on the government to close the Futenma base due to their environmental concerns, aircraft incidents and accidents related to the behavior of US troops, residents of Henoko district are also unwilling to see the base relocated to their region. The administration of Okinawa would like to see the base outside the prefecture instead of its relocation to another site within its administrative borders and called a non-binding referendum in hopes that it would demonstrate the prefecture’s strong opposition to the relocation project.

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February 25, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese PM Abe set to ignore local referendum on US Okinawa military base relocation

RT | February 23, 2019

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said his government will press ahead with the controversial relocation of a US military base on the island of Okinawa, despite local objection.

Okinawa is home to two-thirds of the US’ Japanese bases. Tokyo wants to relocate one of these – US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in a densely populated area – to the more remote coastal area of Henoko. While residents near the base have been angered by a series of aircraft accidents, they also oppose the relocation to Henoko, claiming that planned land-reclamation works there will devastate the coral-rich coastal environment.

Okinawans will vote on the relocation on Sunday in a non-binding referendum, with nearly 70 percent expected to vote ‘No,’ according to a poll by Kyodo News. Okinawa’s Governor Denny Tamaki, who campaigned on an anti-base platform last year, has also traveled to Washington DC to lobby against the move.

The Japanese government intends to go ahead with the relocation “without being swayed by referendum results,” Abe told parliament on Wednesday.

Many Okinawans are unhappy with the base’s current location, as well as the planned relocation. They hope a ‘No’ vote will force the government to move the base off the island altogether.

The behavior of US troops stationed on Okinawa has also incensed locals, with the 1995 kidnap and gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US soldiers triggering mass protests on the island. Two cases of rape and murder by US troops again caused protests in 2016. One year later, Okinawa was back in the news after a drunk Marine plowed his truck into another vehicle while running a red light, killing an elderly Japanese man.

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

How the tentacles of the US military are strangling the planet

By Vijay Prashad | Asia Times | October 3, 2018

In June this year in Itoman, a city in Okinawa prefecture, Japan, a 14-year-old girl named Rinko Sagara read out of a poem based on her great-grandmother’s experience of World War II. Rinko’s great-grandmother reminded her of the cruelty of war. She had seen her friends shot in front of her. It was ugly.

Okinawa, a small island on the edge of southern Japan, saw its share of war from April to June 1945. “The blue skies were obscured by the iron rain,” wrote Rinko Sagara, channeling the memories of her great-grandmother. The roar of the bombs overpowered the haunting melody from the sanshin, Okinawa’s snakeskin-covered three-string guitar. “Cherish each day,” the poem goes, “for our future is just an extension of this moment. Now is our future.”

This week, the people of Okinawa elected Denny Tamaki of the Liberal Party as the governor of the prefecture. Tamaki’s mother is an Okinawan, while his father – whom he does not know – was a US soldier. Tamaki, like former governor Takeshi Onaga, opposes the US military bases on Okinawa. Onaga wanted the presence of the US military removed from the island, a position that Tamaki seems to endorse.

The United States has more than 50,000 troops in Japan as well as a very large contingent of ships and aircraft. Seventy percent of the US bases in Japan are on Okinawa island. Almost everyone in Okinawa wants the US military to go. Rape by American soldiers – including of young children – has long angered the Okinawans. Terrible environmental pollution – including the harsh noise from US military aircraft – rankles people. It was not difficult for Tamaki to run on an anti-US-base platform. It is the most basic demand of his constituents.

But the Japanese government does not accept the democratic views of the Okinawan people. Discrimination against the Okinawans plays a role here, but more fundamentally there is a lack of regard for the wishes of ordinary people when it comes to a US military base.

In 2009, Yukio Hatoyama led the Democratic Party to victory in national elections on a wide-ranging platform that included shifting Japanese foreign policy from its US orientation to a more balanced approach with the rest of Asia. As prime minister, Hatoyama called for the United States and Japan to have a “close and equal” relationship, which meant that Japan would no longer be ordered around by Washington.

The test case for Hatoyama was the relocation of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Base to a less populated section of Okinawa. His party wanted all the US bases to be removed from the island.

Pressure on the Japanese state from Washington was intense. Hatoyama could not deliver on his promise. He resigned his post. It was impossible to go against US military policy and to rebalance Japan’s relationship with the rest of Asia. Japan, but more properly Okinawa, is in effect a US aircraft carrier.

Japan’s prostituted daughter

Hatoyama could not move an agenda at the national level; likewise, local politicians and activists have struggled to move an agenda in Okinawa. Tamaki’s predecessor Takeshi Onaga – who died in August – could not get rid of the US bases in Okinawa.

Yamashiro Hiroji, head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, and his comrades regularly protest against the bases and in particular the transfer of the Futenma base. In October 2016, Hiroji was arrested when he cut a barbed-wire fence at the base. He was held in prison for five months and not allowed to see his family. In June 2017, Hiroji went before the United Nations Human Rights Council to say, “The government of Japan dispatched a large police force in Okinawa to oppress and violently remove civilians.” Protest is illegal. The Japanese forces are acting here on behalf of the US government.

Suzuyo Takazato, head of the organization Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, has called Okinawa “Japan’s prostituted daughter.” This is a stark characterization. Takazato’s group was formed in 1995 as part of the protest against the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen based in Okinawa.

For decades now, Okinawans have complained about the creation of enclaves of their island that operate as places for the recreation of American soldiers. Photographer Mao Ishikawa has portrayed these places, the segregated bars where only US soldiers are allowed to go and meet Okinawan women (her book Red Flower: The Women of Okinawa collects many of these pictures from the 1970s).

There have been at least 120 reported rapes since 1972, the “tip of the iceberg,” says Takazato. Every year there is at least one incident that captures the imagination of the people – a terrible act of violence, a rape or a murder.

What the people want is for the bases to close, since they see the bases as the reason for these acts of violence. It is not enough to call for justice after the incidents; it is necessary, they say, to remove the cause of the incidents.

The Futenma base is to be relocated to Henoko in Nago City, Okinawa. A referendum in 1997 allowed the residents of Nago to vote against a base. A massive demonstration in 2004 reiterated their view, and it was this demonstration that halted construction of the new base in 2005.

Susumu Inamine, former mayor of Nago, is opposed to the construction of any base in his city; he lost a re-election bid this year to Taketoyo Toguchi, who did not raise the base issue, by a slim margin. Everyone knows that if there were a new referendum in Nago over a base, it would be roundly defeated. But democracy is meaningless when it comes to the US military base.

Fort Trump

The US military has a staggering 883 military bases in 183 countries. In contrast, Russia has 10 such bases – eight of them in the former USSR. China has one overseas military base. There is no country with a military footprint that replicates that of the United States. The bases in Japan are only a small part of the massive infrastructure that allows the US military to be hours away from armed action against any part of the planet.

There is no proposal to downsize the US military footprint. In fact, there are only plans to increase it. The United States has long sought to build a base in Poland, whose government now courts the White House with the proposal that it be named “Fort Trump.”

Currently, there are US-NATO military bases in Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria, with US-NATO troops deployments in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The United States has increased its military presence in the Black Sea and in the Baltic Sea.

Attempts to deny Russia access to its only two warm-water ports in Sevastopol, Crimea, and Latakia, Syria, pushed Moscow to defend them with military interventions. A US base in Poland, on the doorstep of Belarus, would rattle the Russians as much as they were rattled by Ukraine’s pledge to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and by the war in Syria.

These US-NATO bases provide instability and insecurity rather than peace. Tensions abound around them. Threats emanate from their presence.

A world without bases

In mid-November in Dublin, a coalition of organizations from around the world will hold the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases. This conference is part of the newly formed Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases.

The view of the organizers is that “none of us can stop this madness alone.” By “madness,” they refer to the belligerence of the bases and the wars that come as a result of them.

A decade ago, a US Central Intelligence Agency operative offered me the old chestnut, “If you have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” What this means is that the expansion of the US military – and its covert infrastructure – provides the incentive for the US political leadership to treat every conflict as a potential war. Diplomacy goes out of the window. Regional structures to manage conflict – such as the African Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – are disregarded. The US hammer comes down hard on nails from one end of Asia to the other end of the Americas.

The poem by Rinko Sagara ends with an evocative line: “Now is our future.” But it is, sadly, not so. The future will need to be produced – a future that disentangles the massive global infrastructure of war erected by the United States and NATO.

It is to be hoped that the future will be made in Dublin and not in Warsaw; in Okinawa and not in Washington.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, which provided it to Asia Times.

October 3, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-US base candidate wins Okinawa governor elections

RT | September 30, 2018

A staunch opponent of the planned relocation of a US military base within Okinawa Island, where the issue sparked major public protests, has beaten a government-backed competitor in the local governor elections.

Denny Tamaki, a former opposition lawmaker and the son of a US marine, has got a win against Atsushi Sakima, the former mayor of a local city of Ginowan, who was backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The vote was largely determined by the issue of the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which has been a source of controversy for the locals over the years.

Tamaki vowed to continue fighting against relocation of the US base from the crowded town of Ginowan to the less populated coastal region of Nago, which would put corals and dugongs, the endangered marine mammals, at risk, according to environmental activists. He also pledged to follow the steps of the former Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, who had been an outspoken opponent of the relocation until his death in August that prompted early gubernatorial elections.

His major rival in the four-person race, Sakima, also supported the closure of the existing Futenma base but did not clarify his stance on the issue of relocation. Tamaki, meanwhile, vowed to continue fighting for the base to be relocated off the island.

Tamaki’s victory is considered to be a blow to Abe’s plans as the prime minister is pushing for the controversial base relocation plan despite vehement opposition from the locals, the Japanese media report. Okinawa, which amounts to less than one percent of the Japanese total land area, hosts about a half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan.

The US presence on the island has long been a source of discontent for the locals. Okinawans have raised concerns about machinery mishaps, noise, sexual assaults against Japanese women, and even some deadly incidents – all of which triggered massive protests. Onaga also repeatedly clashed with the government over the relocation issue in particular.

In 2015, he revoked an approval for the construction works issued by his predecessor. His decision was overruled by the central government, which went ahead with the project. In August, the local government retracted the permission again. Since then, the work has been suspended.

Following Onaga’s death in August, 70,000 people protested the Japanese government’s plan to relocate the US air base. Participants also held a one-minute silence to pay respect to the late governor.

September 30, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Second emergency landing in three days for US helicopters in Japan

RT | January 8, 2018

A US attack helicopter made an emergency landing near a hotel in Japan’s Okinawa on Monday. The incident came as a disabled rotorcraft was removed from a beach, where it had landed on Saturday.

The AH-1 helicopter landed on the premises of a hotel in the village of Yomitan after a warning light had come on, the Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. No injuries or damage were reported in the incident.

Also on Monday, a US heavy-lift transport evacuated a disabled US Marine Corps UH-1 helicopter, which had landed on a beach on the eastern coast of Ikeijima Island, near Okinawa, on Saturday afternoon.

No injuries or damage were reported in that incident either but the landing, just 100 meters from a residential area, fueled concerns of local residents over the US presence on the Japanese island.

Just before the New Year, Okinawans held a protest against the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, triggered by two incidents, in which helicopters flying from the base had dropped items on residential areas. Both endangered children on the ground, the protesters said.

Okinawa hosts roughly three fourths of the US troops deployed in Japan, with 30,000 service personnel living and working in bases that occupy about 20 percent of the island’s area. Local residents have long been protesting the bases, which they see as sources of pollution and crime.

One of the most memorable incidents involving a US Marine Corps UH-1 helicopter happened in 2004, when one crashed into a building at Okinawa International University. Fortunately, the school was largely vacant for summer break at the time.

January 8, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

US Marine chopper reportedly drops object on Okinawa nursery during flyover

FILE PHOTO: Sikorsky CH-53 © Wikipedia
RT | December 7, 2017

The staff of a nursery school located 300 meters from a US base in Okinawa has found an object, which apparently fell on the roof from a US helicopter. Some 50 children were playing in the grounds at the time of the flyover.

The object was discovered on the roof of the Midorigaoka nursery in Ginowan City, which is located beside the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. The staff found it on Thursday at around 10:20am, just after a US military aircraft flew over the daycare facility, reports NHK.

Head of the nursery, Takehiro Kamiya, said staff went to check what had happened when they heard a loud sound from the roof. They found a cylindrical object that was 10cm long and 7cm in diameter. It had a warning sign that read: “Remove before flight” painted in English, according to footage shown by the TV channel.

The director said the nursery provides daycare for 61 children. Around 50 of them were playing in the garden outside at the time of the incident, while others were inside. Nobody was injured, but people working at Midorigaoka say the outcome could easily have been different.

“I’m appalled to think what would have happened if the falling point had shifted just a little bit,” said Take Nago, the 78-year-old chief caregiver at the facility, as cited by Kyodo news agency.

According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion flew over Ginowan City at the time of the incident. The transport helicopters stationed at the Futenma Air Station have been a target for complaints by residents of the city, who have cited concerns about noise and risks associated with their flights. One of the most memorable incidents involving the aircraft happened in August 2004, when one of the Marine helicopters crashed into a building at Okinawa International University. Fortunately, it was largely vacant for summer break at the time. The crash was caused by poor maintenance of the helicopter, an investigation later found.

Another CH-53 crash-landed in northern Okinawa during a training exercise in October. The crash site was only a few hundred meters from the residential area of Higashi village. And last week, an F-35A Lightning II stationed at Okinawa’s Kadena Airbase dropped a panel during its flight, leaving a dent in its high-tech stealth coating.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Okinawa files new lawsuit to block relocation of US Marines base – local media

RT | July 24, 2017

The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa filed a new lawsuit against the government demanding a halt to construction work for the relocation of the US Futenma base, local media report. The relocation has been the target of protests among locals.

The prefectural authorities say that Tokyo is acting illegally without permission from the Okinawa governor, as seen in a copy of the lawsuit sent on Monday and obtained by the Okinawa Times.

The relocation of the base involves damaging seabed rock, which would harm the fishing grounds, the lawsuit states.
Earlier in July, an Okinawa Prefectural Assembly committee asked for legal action against damage to the fishing grounds caused by the relocation.

“The granting of fishing rights is considered a local government matter and it’s the prefecture that determines how to interpret those local government matters,” Kiichiro Jahana, the head of the executive office of the governor, told the assembly.

The US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station is going to be moved from the densely populated city of Ginowan to the less populated city of Nago in the Henoko coastal area. The city is already home to Camp Schwab, another US Marines camp which has caused numerous protests among the local population.

The base relocation has been repeatedly halted due to resistance from the Okinawa authorities and local residents.

Japanese authorities began the relocation of the base back in February this year, despite stiff opposition from the population. Local residents regularly stage protests with thousands of people, often resulting in confrontation with police.

According to the relocation plan, the flight functions of the Futenma airfield will be transferred to Camp Schwab. Tokyo also plans to reclaim around 157 hectares of land in Henoko waters and build a V-shaped runway.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga is among those who stand firmly opposed to the US military presence on the archipelago, calling for the removal of the Futenma base.

Onaga says that the relocation would destroy the environment of the bay surrounding the new base site.

Around 100,000 US military personnel are currently stationed in Japan, according to the official website of US Forces, Japan. Home to about one percent of Japan’s population, Okinawa hosts almost half of the troops (47,000), according to media reports.

Read more:

Japan ignores protests, begins offshore construction work on moving US base in Okinawa

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Whither Japan’s democracy?

By Daniel Hurst | Asia Times | June 27, 2017

To some observers, protester Hiroji Yamashiro, 65, has become a symbol of modern Japan’s uneasy attitude towards dissent.

The retired civil servant, a long-standing campaigner against the US military presence in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, was detained for five months from October last year before he was released on bail in March.

Yamashiro admitted cutting a barbed wire fence, but pleaded not guilty to subsequent charges of injuring a defense official and obstructing relocation work by placing blocks in front of a gate.

According to his supporters, Yamashiro is a tireless peace advocate whose continued detention was disproportionate to his alleged behavior.

To the authorities who arrested him, his actions went beyond those of peaceful protest and transgressed criminal laws.

Hiroji Yamashiro, 65, a campaigner against the US military presence in Okinawa prefecture, addresses the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Photo: Daniel Hurst

Either way, his yet-to-be-finalized case has attracted so much international attention that he was invited to travel to Geneva earlier this month to address the UN Human Rights Council.

Now Yamashiro is seeking to shine a spotlight on Japan’s new anti-conspiracy law, which according to human rights groups and lawyers risks increased government surveillance and arbitrary arrest.

“The fact that a country like Japan has passed such a terrible law indicates the extent to which democracy is in retreat in this country,” the head of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center said during a press conference in Tokyo late last week.

“It’s something that I feel very sad about and very angry about and I would like the international community to focus upon it.”

Terror justification

Japan’s postwar constitution guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, assembly, association, speech, press “and all other forms of expression” – yet critics say they see a gradual erosion of those rights.

Such concerns grew when Japan’s ruling bloc pushed the anti-conspiracy bill through the upper house in mid-June.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government argued the legislation would help prevent terrorism ahead of large-scale events like the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The law targets two or more persons who, “as part of activities of terrorist groups or other organized criminal groups,” plan to carry out certain criminal acts.

The 277 crimes covered by the law also include planning to steal forestry products or to breach copyright. Jail terms of up to five years are possible depending on the crime.

When a UN special rapporteur warned Japan’s government in an open letter that the vague legislation could usher in “undue restrictions” on freedom of expression and privacy, the authorities reacted angrily.

The criticism was called “one-sided” and “obviously inappropriate,” with government officials saying they had not been given a chance to provide information before the letter was published.

Abe, whose popularity has slipped in recent opinion polls, moved to assure the country that “ordinary people” would not face investigation.

“Although we feel [the law] is essential for strengthening international coordination in dealing with terrorism, we’re aware that some members of the public remain uneasy and concerned about it,” the prime minister said at a press conference last week.

International backlash

The UN special rapporteur for privacy, Professor Joseph Cannataci, highlighted the vague definition of planning and preparatory actions and the “over-broad range of crimes” covered.

He told Asia Times he had felt compelled to write the open letter because of the extremely short legislative deadline that the government had set itself.

Cannataci, an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, described the official response as “disappointing but not surprising.” He said he was “the third UN special rapporteur in a row whom the Japanese government has decided to be confrontational with.”

“I stand by every single word, full-stop and comma in my letter of the 18th May,” Cannataci said in an email this week.

“If anything, the way the Japanese government has behaved in response to my letter has convinced me even further of the validity of its content and the appropriateness of its timing and form.”

He added: “There has been a deafening silence on the part of the Abe government on the privacy safeguards which I have alleged are missing in Japanese law and the Japanese government has failed to explain, in public or in private, how the new law provides new remedies for privacy protection in a situation where it creates the legal basis where more surveillance could be carried out.”

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said last month: “It is not at all the case that the legislation would be implemented arbitrarily so as to inappropriately restrict the right to privacy and freedom of speech.”

‘Chilling effect’

Cannataci’s concerns are shared by a number of non-government organizations.

Hiroka Shoji, an East Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said the definition of an organized crime group was not limited to terrorist cells.

“Civil society organizations working on areas around national security can be subjected to this category,” Shoji said in an email.

Kazuko Ito, secretary general of the advocacy group Human Rights Now, said in an email: “Even if the judiciary narrowly determine and exonerate the targeted people in the end of the day, they are already targeted for arbitrary surveillance, wiretapping, arrest or detention – these are enough to smash civil society activities and will cause a significant chilling effect.”

Justice minister, Katsutoshi Kaneda, denies that the legislation is vague, arguing it is “expressly limited to organized criminal groups, the applicable crimes are listed and clearly defined and it applies only once actual preparatory actions have taken place.”

Anti-base protester Yamashiro, who was charged under pre-existing laws, views the new legislation as “a great threat”.

“I was arrested for obstruction of a public official, but under the new legislation even if you don’t do what it is that is against the law – if you’re just planning it or discussing it with other people – that is enough basis for an arrest to be made,” he said.

Press freedom concerns

The concerns come against a backdrop of claims that press freedom is deteriorating in Japan. The country declined in the global press freedom rankings issued by Reporters Without Borders, from 11th in 2010 to 72nd in the most recent review.

However, the reliability of that ranking is questioned by some observers.

The academic and consultant Michael Thomas Cucek, for example, has previously pointed to the “astonishing” volatility in Japan’s ranking and raised the possibility of the surveyed experts exaggerating the extent of repression in their own country.

Methodology questions aside, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, has identified what he called “significant worrying signals” in Japan.

“The direct and indirect pressure of government officials over media, the limited space for debating some historical events and the increased restrictions on information access based on national security grounds require attention lest they undermine Japan’s democratic foundations,” Kaye wrote in a report published in May.

Kaye called for safeguards to be added to the state secrets law enacted in late 2013, which allows bureaucrats to be jailed for up to 10 years for revealing specially designated information.

Under Article 25 of the state secrets law, journalists could potentially face a prison term of up to five years under a provision targeting “a person who conspires with, induces or incites another person” to release such secrets.

However, the law offers protection to news reporting “as long as it has the sole aim of furthering the public interest and is not found to have been done in violation of laws or regulations or through the use of extremely unjustifiable means.”

The Japanese government has said it “does not intend to apply Article 25’s harsh penalties to journalists.” And in a broader rebuke to Kaye, it said most of his arguments were based on hearsay or assumptions.

“It is hard for the government of Japan to avoid expressing sincere regret concerning those biased recommendations,” the government said in a formal response.

It cited the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and added that “there is no such fact that government of Japan officials and members of the Japanese ruling party have put pressure on journalists illegally and wrongfully.”

Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan, said officials were unlikely to act on previous comments by some lawmakers about the possibility of suspending broadcasting licenses for bias.

“But just making noises about doing so sends a chilling message, a shot across the bow of an already cowering media that may constrain coverage,” Kingston wrote in the book Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan, published earlier this year.

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan wants US parachute drills grounded amid Okinawa anger

RT | May 30, 2017

Japan is opposed to a two-day parachuting drill that the US plans to conduct near the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Local residents have protested such drills in the past, and this would be the third in two months.

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said the US military failed to notify the Japanese authorities seven days ahead of the exercise, as they are supposed to. In fact, Japan learned of the Americans’ plans from a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) filed with the aviation authorities, which is meant to keep civilian aircraft out of airspace where US military planes are flying during the exercise, NHK reported.

“We asked [the Americans] not to conduct the training and to delete the NOTAM. So far we have not received a response from the US site,” Inada told reporters on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting.

The parachuting exercises, which are planned for Wednesday and Thursday, would be conducted off the coast of the city of Uruma. Similar drills were conducted off the Kadena Airbase on the night of May 10 and on April 24.

The previous two drills sparked protest among Okinawans, who have not seen such exercises since 2011. After the second training, Deputy Okinawa Governor Moritake Tomikawa filed a protest with Japan’s Defense Ministry, expressing outrage and saying that such exercises cannot become routine.

Defense Minister Inada called the US move “regrettable,” saying the US should observe a 1996 bilateral agreement under which parachuting exercises should be conducted on the remote island of Iejima, off Okinawa’s main island, with the Kadena base used only as an exception.

“The United States did not offer sufficient explanation on why the exercise conducted (Wednesday) amounted to an exceptional case,” Inada said at a regular news conference. “It is extremely deplorable that it took place at Kadena Air Base without Japan and the United States able to share the same perception in advance,” she stressed.

The Kadena Airbase is one of several US military installations on Okinawa, a southern Japanese island that hosts some 70 percent of the US troops in Japan and is home to some 20,000 US service members, contractors, and their families.

During a parachuting drill in 1965, a trailer airdropped into a local village inadvertently landed on a schoolgirl, killing her.

The protest over the latest planned drill comes a day after Okinawa police arrested a US airman assigned to the Kadena base following a drunk hit-and-run. Staff Sergeant Miguel Angel Garza allegedly hit a car on Monday and fled the scene. The female driver of the second vehicle sustained minor injuries, Japanese authorities said.

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Proceeds With Controversial New US Air Base on Okinawa

Sputnik – 25.04.2017

After years of controversy, Japan has announced its intention to continue building a new air base to house elements of the US Air Force stationed on the island of Okinawa.

Tuesday’s initiation of the construction of seawalls around the new base, a replacement for the 1945-era US Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, continues the steps toward relocating the immensely unpopular foreign military facility.

Though these plans have met with resistance by officials and the public in the local prefecture, due in part to the ongoing environmental destruction required by the new base, Tokyo officials are going ahead with the build, including the dumping of landfill waste into sensitive marine habitats.

Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, citing local resistance to the move, has threatened to withdraw his support, which could hamper the completion of the project. A December 2016 ruling by the Japanese Supreme Court stated that Onaga’s offer to annul the construction of the air base was illegal, although legal grounds to back up the governor’s threat remain in place.

Local protesters have stepped up their actions at the construction site. The call to have the base closed down entirely, not simply relocated, has gained traction in recent years, particularly in light of several grisly crimes against locals, including sexual abuse, rape and murder, at the hands of US servicemembers stationed at the Futenma base.

Tokyo issued a statement in support of construction, as Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said, “I’m convinced that the start of the construction marks a steady first step toward realizing the complete return of the Futenma airfield.”

But the island base, regardless of its location, remains profoundly unpopular with residents.

As protesters held up signs saying “stop illegal construction work!” and “block the new base,” 64-year-old Yumiko Gibo from the village of Ogimi said, “They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [US] bases anymore,” according to the Japan Times.

Senior officials in Okinawa prefecture have slammed Tokyo for what they term the government’s “authoritarian” attitude toward the construction of the new facility, and have accused national officials of poor judgment after they “ignored the local will.”

A 71-year-old Naha resident, Yoshiko Uema, said, “We must not provide the place for war. We will unite and definitely stop the relocation,” according to the Japan Times.

Tokyo has remained unsympathetic to concerns on the island, insisting that the new air base in Henoko is “the only solution,” as the current Futenma site lies in a densely populated residential zone.

Some officials in Tokyo have privately acknowledged that the US Air Force presence in Okinawa is integral to maintaining the US-Japan military alliance.

A completion date for the new US air base, begun in 2015, has not been set.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Okinawans call for U.S. military to go home after further provocations

Xinhua | April 24, 2017

TOKYO – Local residents of Kadena on Okinawa’s main island said the United States military conducting parachute training drills over Okinawa’s mainland on Monday morning was completely unacceptable with the latest provocation coming amid rising anti-U.S. military sentiment on the island.

Local media reported that residents in the area still remember a tragic incident that occurred in 1965 involving an elementary schoolgirl being crushed to death by a trailer being parachuted down to a village during such a drill.

The area hasn’t seen parachute drills by the U.S. military since a drill at the base in 2011, that saw 30 personnel deploy from a MC-130 special mission aircraft, official accounts showed.

The aircraft used to deploy the airmen are designed for infiltration and exfiltration missions and can also be used for resupply of special operation forces.

The large transporter-looking planes can also be configured to be used for air refueling of primarily special operation helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft like the controversial Osprey, also hosted in Okinawa and mainland Japan, and the cause of great condemnation here for its checkered safety record.

The latest drill saw the local residents notified of the parachute exercise less than a day before it occurred, when notice was sent out on Sunday night by the Japanese Defense Ministry.

In 1996, Japan and the U.S. agreed that it would [only] be the Island near Okinawa’s main island that would be used for parachuting drills at a reserve airfield there, with the surprise drill over Kadena baffling and scaring residents in the area.

The town of Kadena plays host to the U.S. Kadena Air Base which itself is home to top multiple air squadrons and accommodates around 20,000 service-members, their families and employees living or working there.

Anti U.S. base sentiment in Japan’s southernmost prefecture continues to rise of late, with regular demonstrations comprising thousands of locals calling for the controversial U.S. Marines Corps Futenma base to be relocated off the island and not to the coastal Henoko region.

At the end of last month, the “prefectural people’s rally calling for immediate cancellation of unlawful land reclamation work and abandonment of the plan to build a new base in Henoko, organized by the All Okinawa Coalition to Prevent Construction of a New Base in Henoko, was held in front of the gate to the U.S. military’s Camp Schwab.

The demonstration saw the participation of around 3,500 people, the organizers said.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga attended the rally and stated that with all his strength he would absolutely revoke the approval to reclaim land off the shore of Henoko, which is needed build the new base.

Along with the unexpected parachute drill and constant anti-relocation rallies, residents have also been up in arms recently about stray bullets found at the Afuso Dam construction site in the Camp Hansen Marine Corps base on the island.

The base is located in the town of Kin, near the northern shore of Kin Bay, and is the second-northernmost major installation on Okinawa, with Camp Schwab to the north.

Damage from stray bullets was found in water tanks and the cars of dam workers, local media reported, with fears rife that if live rounds were fired and people were in the vicinity at the time, multiple lives could certainly have been lost.

“Stray bullet damage from Camp Hansen has occurred countless times since the end of WWII. It is obvious that this originates from the proximity of Okinawan residents and the base. The practice of live-fire exercises on the narrow island of Okinawa is a mistake,” a recent article from an Okinawa-based publication said on the matter.

“The Marines, who operate Camp Hansen and use it mainly for exercises, are inherently unnecessary in Okinawa. Considering the safety of Okinawan residents, the only option is for the Marines to return to the continental United States. If they truly need to conduct live-fire exercises, they would be better off conducting them on the expansive training grounds in the mainland United States,” the article said.

Officials from Onna, Okinawa, as well as the Okinawa Defense Bureau, both confirmed that water tanks at the construction site were found empty on April 6 and what appeared to be bullet holes were found inside the tanks.

On April 13, similar damage from bullets was found on the cars of workers who had parked at the construction site, much to the continued consternation of local residents.

The local Okinawan residents’ calls for an end to their “occupation” and for all U.S. military personnel to return to the continental U.S. are growing evermore vociferous.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment