ACTION ALERT: US Air Base in Okinawa

October 12th, 2005 - by admin

Kelly Dietz / Futenma-Henoko Action Network. – 2005-10-12 07:58:18


Your voice is needed today. (See below for contact numbers of government officials, links for more information and more ways that you can get involved.)

Negotiations over a controversial plan to build a massive offshore US military air base atop a coral reef in Okinawa’s Henoko Bay have reached a critical stage.

US and Japanese media reported this week that US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld abruptly canceled his visit to Tokyo, scheduled for later this month, apparently to send a message to Japanese officials that the US is disappointed with Japan’s inability to force yet another US military base on Okinawa.

If built, the air base at Henoko will be the US military’s THIRTY-EIGHTH installation in the small island territory (in addition to the 20 air spaces and 29 sea zones under US military control).

Rumsfeld’s snub seems to have had the expected effect — to send negotiations into overdrive. News reports dated October 8 suggest that Japan is poised to bow to US pressures. A final decision is expected on the project in the next few weeks, as both sides are hoping for a resolution before President Bush travels to Japan in November.

Your voice is needed now more than ever.

The Henoko air base project is actually hailed by the US and Japanese governments as a step toward “lessening the burden of the US military on the Okinawan people” because it would assume the military functions of the US Marine Corps‚ Futenma Air Station, which is dangerously located in the very middle of Okinawa’s urban Ginowan City.

But construction and operation of the proposed offshore air base will cause irreversible destruction to the marine eco-system and important fishing resources in and well beyond Henoko Bay, profoundly impacting the coastal community‚s social, economic and cultural relationship with the sea.

The current plan involves a massive land reclamation project in order to construct the two and a half kilometer (1.5 mile) long runway in Henoko‚s pristine waters. Once built, the base will further subject the area‚s population to the dangers of contamination and accidents.

The bay is globally recognized as the primary habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong (sea manatee) and several other endangered species protected under US and Japanese law. With tacit US consent, the Japanese government, which is in charge of building the base for the US military, has excluded the drilling and all other initial surveys from its environmental impact assessment of the offshore air base.

US-Japan Bargaining Exclude Okinawan Voices
The US rejected a recent alternative proposal by the Japanese government to relocate Futenma’s functions to Camp Schwab, a Marine base that already exists on the shores of Henoko Bay.

Media reports this week suggest that the Japanese government is poised to accept the US’s counter-proposal, which revives an earlier plan to build a “smaller” base, with a 1.5 km-long runway. Marine biologists and coral reef experts insist that the relatively smaller scale military base will have the same disastrous effects on the ecology of the bay and beyond.

Large or small, the majority of Okinawans reject the construction of yet another base in Okinawa. Residents voted down the original “smaller” base plan in a 1997 citizens‚ referendum, but the US and Japanese governments ignored the referendum results then and continue to ignore the broad opposition to the project today.

Polls consistently show that 80-90% of Okinawans want unconditional and immediate closure of Futenma, and are opposed to Futenma‚s relocation anywhere within Okinawa.

Many of you know that a passionately non-violent campaign has, every day for 18 months, successfully stopped any significant work from being done in Henoko Bay. Countless other groups and individuals throughout Okinawa and beyond also continue to work through a range of legal and political channels to halt the air base plan. But the intensity of the nearly decade-long campaign has taken a great toll on those who have dedicated themselves to this effort.

Adding to the urgency is that US and Japanese leaders linked the completion of the new air base to the closure of Futenma Air Station. The two governments agreed to close Futenma by 2003, but citing “operational readiness,” the US refuses to do so until a new air base is completed within Okinawa. Completion of the new base is estimated at 13-16 years, and even a smaller base will take 8 years. The August 2004 crash of a 13,000-ton transport helicopter from Futenma air base into a nearby campus and neighborhood was a frightening reminder of what is at stake.

Another alternative reportedly under consideration is to move Futenma‚s military functions to Kadena Air Base, located just 8 kilometers north. Given that aircraft noise and other problems related to Kadena‚s operations are already the focus of promised (though unfulfilled) reforms, merely shifting Futenma’s operations and daily training exercises (involving over 70 aircraft) to Kadena is not a resolution of the Futenma problem. Indeed, it is in part due to widespread opposition to this option years ago that Henoko Bay was chosen.

Incredibly, the US maintains that it has no relationship to the construction of the air base at Henoko. Because the Japanese government will pay for and construct the new base, the US government insists it has no official relationship to — and therefore no official responsibility for — the impact of the construction on the bay or surrounding community.

Not only did the US military create the original plan and submit subsequent design and operational requirements to the Japanese government, it has also given Japan‚s Defense Agency “permission” to construct the base in what are officially US-controlled waters. Not to mention that the US will assume full control over the facility and pay the annual $80 million maintenance fee once it is completed.

If you are a US citizen, let the US government know that you DO take responsibility for US government actions carried out in your name.

PLEASE take just a minute and contact US and Japanese embassy officials (see numbers below). Let them know that you stand with the majority of Okinawans and oppose construction of the new air base in Henoko Bay — or relocation of Futenma‚s functions anywhere else within Okinawa. Insist that the US make good on its 1996 promise and close Futenma base immediately. And demand that they recognize the right of Okinawans to decide for themselves Okinawa’s future.

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is a matter of justice and human rights. Fully 75% of US military installations in Japan are located in Okinawa, a mere 0.6% of Japanese territory. Rather than the long-promised reduction of US forces in Okinawa, the US military is not only maintaining but in fact strengthening its presence here. The Henoko issue and other problems in Okinawa reveal that the US military presence there rests fundamentally on the systematic discrimination of the Okinawan people by the Japanese government.

Your support has been critical so far, but it is still needed — now more than ever.

• You can call the Capital switchboard toll-free:1-800-839-5276. Ask to be connected to your member of Congress.
• When you call, be certain to mention that you are a registered voter. President George W. Bush, Tel: 202-456-1111, Fax: 202-456-2461

• US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Tel: 703-545-6700, Fax: (703) 697 -9080

• US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Tel: (202) 647-6575, Fax: (202) 261-8577

• Embassy of Japan in Wash, DC: Ambassador Japan Ryozo Kato: Tel: 202-238-6700 fax: 202-328-2187

• Governor of Okinawa Keiichi Inamine, e-mail:

• Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, online comment page:

organized by a transpacific coalition of Okinawans living in the US, Japan and Okinawa:

Express your support for those putting their lives on the line to block construction in Henoko Bay: ( for translation).

LEARN MORE! –For information about the Henoko issue and to become an Okinawan PeaceFighter or supporter: –For current updates on Okinawa and to order (for the price of a VHS tape or DVD and shipping) the TVE documentary about Henoko (shown recently on the BBC‚s Earth Report): –Information about a current US federal court lawsuit to stop the Henoko project, aptly called Dugong v. Rumsfeld:

SPREAD THE WORD! Make sure other individuals and organizations know about US military policy on Okinawa and encourage them to take action.

This update was compiled by Kelly Dietz for the Futenma-Henoko Action Network. Questions, comments and suggestions can be sent to