World Scholars, Artists, Activists Call for Demilitarization of Okinawa

APPEALS, 27 Aug 2018

Peace Philosophy Center – TRANSCEND Media Service

To Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo
To President of the United States, Donald Trump
To Acting Governor of Okinawa, Jahana Kiichiro
To Acting Governor of Okinawa, Tomikawa Moritake
To people of the world

X September 2018

In January 2014, more than one hundred scholars, peace activists and artists from around the world issued a statement condemning the Japanese and U.S. governments’ plans to close MCAS Futenma, which is located in the middle of a congested urban neighbourhood, and build a new base for the US Marine Corps offshore from the coastal village of Henoko in Northern Okinawa. While we applauded shutting the Futenma base, we strongly objected to the idea of relocating it inside Okinawa.

Okinawa has suffered at Japanese and American hands for more than a century. It was incorporated by force into both the pre-modern Japanese state in 1609 and into modern Japan in 1879. In 1945, it was the scene of the final major battle of World War Two, resulting in the deaths of between one-third and one-quarter of its population. It was then severed from the rest of Japan under direct US military rule for another 27 years during which the Pentagon constructed military bases, unfettered by Japanese residual sovereignty or Okinawan sentiment. Reversion to Japan took place in 1972, bases intact. In the continuing post-Cold War era, Okinawa has faced the pressure of state policies designed to reinforce that base system, not only by construction of the Henoko facility but also by the building of “helicopter pads” for the Marine Corps in the Yambaru forest of northern Okinawa and by the accelerating fortification of the chain of “Southwest” (Nansei) islands that stretch from Kagoshima to Taiwan (including Amami, Miyako, Ishigaki, and Yonaguni).

Signatories of our 2014 statement included linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, filmmakers Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and John Junkerman, Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, Prof. Johan Galtung, historians Norma Field, John Dower, Alexis Dudden and Herbert Bix, former US Army Colonel Ann Wright, authors Naomi Klein and Joy Kogawa, former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine Richard Falk, and former Defense and State Department official Daniel Ellsberg. The present statement follows on from that of four years ago and from subsequent statements such as those in January and August 2015. It includes many of the original signatories.

We raise our voices again because our concerns were never remedied and are heightened today. In military and strategic terms, Japanese and American experts agree that there is no reason why functions of the projected new base (if indeed there is need for them, which many doubt) had to be in Okinawa. The government insists on Okinawa largely because it thinks it is “politically impossible” to build such a new base elsewhere in Japan.

TO SIGNERS: Please email your name and your brief title/affiliation

In 2017-18, the government of Japan built seawalls around Cape Henoko (mobilizing a large force of riot police and the Japan Coast Guard to crush the non-violent opposition). In June 2018, it served notice of intent to commence dropping sand and soil into Oura Bay as part of the plan to fill in and reclaim a 160 hectare site for construction of a major new facility for the US Marine Corps. It would construct a concrete platform rising ten meters above sea level with two 1,800-meter runways and a 272-meter long wharf.

In environmental terms, Oura Bay is one of Japan’s most bio-diverse and fertile marine zones, in the highest category for protection (in the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s conservation guideline), home to over 5,300 marine species, 262 of them endangered, including coral, sea cucumber, seaweed, shrimp, snails, fish, tortoises, snakes and mammals, and to the specially protected marine mammal, the dugong. The bay is also connected to the ecosystem of the Yambaru forest in northern Okinawa Island, which the Japanese Ministry of the Environment nominated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 2017, along with three other islands of Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures. That nomination was withdrawn in June 2018 as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the advisory organization on natural heritage issues to UNESCO, recommended that the nomination be “deferred,” seeking clarification on how to match the Yambaru forest as a World Heritage site with the presence of the US military’s Northern Training Area within it.

An independent environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required by law for such large-scale reclamation and public works, but the Japanese government simply commissioned the Ministry of Defense, the party seeking to reclaim, to conduct its own EIA. Governor Nakaima Hirokazu found that it would be “impossible, by the environmental protection measures spelled out in the EIA, to maintain the preservation of people’s livelihood and the natural environment.” Despite that, and despite the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee in 2012 listing 150 cases of insufficient findings and understated adverse effects on the environment, and despite Nakaima’s having been elected in 2010 on a pledge to demand relocation of Futenma outside of Okinawa, he reversed himself under heavy state pressure while ensconced in a Tokyo hospital in December 2013, granting the permit to proceed with construction despite overwhelming opposition in Okinawa. His unexplained shift angered many Okinawans and, in November 2014, he suffered massive (by more than 100,000 votes) defeat by Onaga Takeshi, whose core pledge was to do “everything in my power” to stop the Henoko project.

Onaga appointed a “Third Party” Commission of experts to advise him on this matter and its report in July 2015 was equally clear that the necessary environmental conditions for construction had not been met. Documents later released by the US Department of Defense (DOD) in a US federal court case showed the DOD’s expert opinion concurred that the EIA was “extremely poorly done” and “does not withstand scientific scrutiny.” In August 2015, we urged him to act decisively, and in October, he did “cancel” the reclamation license.

However, after prolonged litigation, the Supreme Court, late in 2016, upheld the national government’s claim that the cancellation was illegal. Onaga submitted to that ruling, thus reviving the reclamation permit, and the state resumed site work in April 2017. As those works at Oura Bay gradually gathered momentum, Onaga even appeared at times to be cooperating with the state’s construction design. In late 2017, he gave permission for use of Northern Okinawan ports for transport of construction materials to the Henoko-Oura Bay site and in July 2018 he approved the application by the Okinawa Defense Bureau for permission to remove and transplant endangered coral from the construction site despite strong evidence that transplanting, especially in spawning season, offered little prospect of success.

He retained, however, the option of issuing a “rescission” or “revocation” (tekkai) order, something he repeatedly promised to do when the time was ripe. Eventually, on 27 July 2018, Onaga gave formal notice of his intent to revoke and ordered preliminary steps accordingly. Two weeks later, however, on August 8, he suddenly died. Pending the election of a successor, to take place on 30 September, two Deputy Governors, Jahana  Kiichiro and Tominaga Moritake  took over the functions of Governor. The planned revocation would proceed, said Jahana, though the timing is uncertain.

Base construction flies in the face of constitutional principles such as popular sovereignty and the right to regional self-government. Okinawan opposition to the construction of a new base has been constant, reaching at times over 80 per cent in public opinion surveys, and has been repeatedly affirmed in elections (not least that of Onaga himself in 2014). No Okinawan candidate for office has ever been elected on an explicitly pro-base construction platform. The Okinawan parliament has twice, in May 2016 and November 2017, called for withdrawal of the Marine Corps altogether from Okinawa.

It is time to rethink the “fortress” role assigned to Okinawa by successive Japanese governments and U.S. military and strategic planners and to begin to articulate a role for Okinawa, including its “frontier” islands, as the centre of a de-militarized community to be built around the East Sea/Sea of Japan. Cancellation of the Henoko project and an end to the militarization of the Frontier Islands would, more than anything, signal a commitment to the construction of such a new order.

We, the undersigned, support the people of Okinawa in their struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of their environment, and we call on the people of Japan to recognize and support the justice of that struggle.

We declare our support for Okinawa prefecture’s revocation of the reclamation license for Oura Bay of which former Governor Onaga served formal notice on 27 July and which Acting Governor Jahana has pledged to carry out.

We call on Prime Minister Abe to cancel forthwith the planned base construction for the US Marine Corps at Henoko and to open negotiations with the government of the United States towards drastically reducing, and eventually eliminating, the US military base presence on Okinawa.

We call on Prime Minister Abe to order a halt to the construction or expansion of Japanese military facilities on Amami, Miyako, Ishigaki and Yonaguni Islands and to initiate debate on ways to transform Okinawa Island and the Frontier Islands into a regional centre for peace and cooperation.

We call on the candidates for election to the Governorship of Okinawa to make clear their intent to carry out the manifest will of the Okinawan people to close Futenma, stop Henoko and rethink the Frontier Islands, shifting overall Okinawa policy priority from militarization to peace, the environment, and regional cooperation.

We call upon the people and governments of the world to support the struggle of the people of Okinawa to demilitarize the Okinawan islands and to live in peace.


Joseph Gerson, President, Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security
Erin Jones, Independent researcher, Gilbert AZ
Petr Kuznick, Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University.
Gavan McCormack, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University.
Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, and Veteran, US Army, Okinawa.
– Antonio C. S. Rosa, Editor, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS.

TO SIGNERS: Please email your name and your brief title/affiliation

Thank you.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Aug 2018.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: World Scholars, Artists, Activists Call for Demilitarization of Okinawa, is included. Thank you.

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One Response to “World Scholars, Artists, Activists Call for Demilitarization of Okinawa”

  1. Satoshi Ashikaga says:

    “Many challenges remain to implementation of the Futenma relocation plan. Most Okinawans oppose the construction of a new U.S. base for a mix of political, environmental, and quality-of- life reasons. Okinawan anti-base civic groups may take extreme measures to prevent construction of the facility at Henoko. Any heavy-handed actions by Tokyo or Washington could lead to broader sympathy and support for the anti-base protesters from the public in Okinawa and mainland Japan. Meanwhile, the Futenma base remains in operation, raising fears that an accident might further inflame Okinawan opposition.”  (“The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy”:


    United States military installations in Okinawa:

    (1) United States Marine Corps
    – Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler
    – Camp Foster
    – Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
    – Camp Kinser
    – Camp Courtney
    – Camp McTureous
    – Camp Hansen
    – Camp Schwab
    – Camp Gonsalves (Jungle Warfare Training Center)

    (2) United States Air Force
    – Kadena Air Base

    (3) United States Navy
    – Camp Lester (Camp Kuwae)[99]
    – Camp Shields
    – Naval Facility White Beach

    (4) United States Army
    – Torii Station
    – Fort Buckner
    – Naha Military Port



    See “Why the U.S. Has So Many Bases on Okinawa” (


    Origin (or One of the Main Origins) of the Presence of the US Military in Okinawa:

    “Attitude towards Okinawa in Japan, 1945-1947”: “On September 20, 1947, Hirohito conveyed to MacArthur’s political adviser, William J. Sebald, his position on the future of Okinawa. Acting through Terasaki, his interpreter and frequent liaison with high GHQ officials, the emperor requested that, in view of the worsening confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, the American military occupation of Okinawa and other islands in the Ryukyu chain continue for ninety-nine years.” (

    “Enclosure to Dispatch No. 1293 dated September 22, 1947, from the United States Political Adviser for Japan, Tokyo, on the subject ‘Emperor of Japan’s Opinion Concerning the Future of the Ryukyu Islands'” (


    Also see “US Military Bases in Japan” (


    Another Aspect: Economy:

    “The 34 US military installations on Okinawa are financially supported by the U.S. and Japan. The bases provide jobs for Okinawans, both directly and indirectly; In 2011, the U.S. military employed over 9,800 Japanese workers in Okinawa. As of 2012 the bases accounted for 4 or 5 percent of the economy. However, Koji Taira argued in 1997 that because the U.S. bases occupy around 20 percent of Okinawa’s land, they impose a deadweight loss of 15 percent on the Okinawan economy. The Tokyo government also pays the prefectural government around ¥10 billion per year in compensation for the American presence, including, for instance, rent paid by the Japanese government to the Okinawans on whose land American bases are situated. A 2005 report by the U.S. Forces Japan Okinawa Area Field Office estimated that in 2003 the combined U.S. and Japanese base-related spending contributed $1.9 billion to the local economy. On January 13, 2015, In response to the citizens electing governor Takeshi Onaga, the national government announced that Okinawa’s funding will be cut, due to the governor’s stance on removing the US military bases from Okinawa, which the national government doesn’t want happening.” (