Koizumi cabinet being cornered
On March 28, Prime Minister KOIZUMI Junichiro rejected request of Nago Mayor for "major modification" to the plan to build a new Nago Base on the coastal line of Henoko, Okinawa, insisting that the "fine adjustment" previously mentioned meant a change "in centimeters, not in meters." The Defense Agency top is threatening the Okinawa prefectural government and the Nago municipal administration that the resolution for the coastal scheme would be made integral with "the final agreement for the transformation and realignment of US forces in Japan" at Japan-US councilor-level talks scheduled from April 4 to 6. The central government is aiming to deprive the authority of granting permission to use public surface waters from local entities by enacting a special measures law, looking to ensure forcible commencement of construction.
This hard-handed stance is effectively depicting how the Koizumi cabinet is being cornered. In a frantic effort, the Defense Agency distributed copies of a leaflet at the end of March to the entire area including Nago City, Ginoza Village and Higashi Village, listing "advantages" with the coastal scheme. However, this act aimed to divide communities concerned over the head of the local administrations is inviting criticism rather than weakening the opposition.
The association of heads of thirteen coastal wards of Nago passed a resolution against the coastal scheme. On April 4, Ginoza residents who would have to endure a flight route over their community will have an all-community rally, "General Convention of Ginoza Village against the Relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko Coast." Local residents are standing up in this struggle as one for protecting local autonomy.
Confrontation - Base relocation or not
Nago Mayor SHIMABUKURO Yoshikazu has proposed a "variation of the Henoko offshore scheme." This proposal includes relocation of the runway by 400 meters off the shore from the location in the coastal scheme. This is actually a variation of the coastal scheme. Mayor Shimabukuro should comply with his own election pledge that he would oppose the coastal scheme. No one would tolerate to close the deal upon meters' adjustment.
The Henoko offshore scheme for an airport shared by the military and the civilian with 15-year use limitation was scrapped in the face of public oppositions at home and abroad. The true voice of Nago citizenry is represented by the 1997 referendum against construction of a military base at sea. Okinawa Governor INAMINE Keiichi has no choice but opposing the coastal scheme, proposing "relocation out of the prefecture if not the current scheme (offshore Henoko) because 70 - 80% of the prefectural population is opposed to relocation within the prefecture. Koizumi has no way out other than canceling the coastal scheme to abandon new base construction all together.
The reason why both the Japanese and US governments persist base construction in the sea area of Henoko, Nago, is this; Oura Bay is suited for a military port with ammunition chambers located at nearby US Camp Schwab. Their scheme would serve the purpose to quickly deploy troops to Iraq and other overseas areas.
Nationwide "No!" to base enhancement
Nationwide struggles of local residents against the planned realignment and enhancement of the US military deployed in Japan are cornering Koizumi. The "US-Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future (the interim report)" agreed upon at the end of October last year is shaking from the foundation. After publicly making commitment to a final agreement by the end of March 2006, the Japanese government is now deadly trying to persuade heads of respective local entities involved, re-adjusting the agenda for a final agreement by mid-April.
However, taking over the success of the 1997 Nago referendum, citizens of Iwakuni made it clear through the referendum that they were opposed to the planned base enhancement. Now their struggle has developed into a national one as a joint chairperson of the United Citizens for Iwakuni Referendum announces, "we will continue our movement in solidarity with residents in Atsugi and Okinawa." The central government has not succeeded in obtaining agreement from any local entity that is home to a candidate destination of relocation of US military functions.
Now we see the Non-Defended Localities movement spreading around the country. On March 28, Taketomi Town, Okinawa, started a direct petition campaign for a Non-Defended Peace Ordinance. It is a start of a struggle to build a local entity to protect lives and living resources of residents by acting for themselves.
We shall wage struggles for protecting the sea where dugongs live and for building pro-peace, resourceful communities in coalition with the Non-Defended Localities movement and campaigns for elimination of military bases, the withdrawal of Self-Defense Force (SDF) troops from Iraq and prohibition of overseas military deployment with the spirit of international solidarity. (March 31)