Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo held talks with Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio on December 14 and urged the government to start negotiations with the U.S. government for the closure of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa instead of seeking to resolve the issue by ‘relocating’ the base within Okinawa.
Shii first spoke about his visit to Okinawa and meetings that he had with municipality heads in Okinawa on December 4-5.
He said that Mayor Iha of Ginowan City, which hosts the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, is demanding that the dangers posed by the base be eliminated without delay in order to ensure the safety of 18 public facilities, including child care centers and hospitals as well as the safety of 3,600 residents in what would be designated as a “Clear Zone,” an area that should be cleared of civilians in the United States.
Shii said that Mayor Miyagi Tokujitsu of Kadena Town, which hosts the U.S. Kadena Air Force Base, had told him that contrary to the 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan to reduce Kadena residents’ burdens, the rate of noise pollution and other accidents was increasing. Shii also said that Miyagi had stressed that the idea of moving Futenma operations to Kadena is unacceptable.
Shii also referred to the Okinawa Rally on November 18, in which participants demanded an immediate closure and removal of the U.S. Futenma base, the most dangerous base in the world in regard to safety of nearby residents, and rejected the plan to construct a new air base in the Henoko district of Nago City, also in Okinawa. “These are demands representing the general will of the majority of Okinawans. I am sure that you share the same view, don’t you, Mr. Prime Minister?”
Hatoyama said, “I understand it. At the same time, I cannot ignore the agreement with the United States, even though it was concluded under the previous government. I know that Okinawans have endured hardships. I will not say which is more important. I am having a hard time trying to find a solution that can satisfy both positions. I would be glad if the JCP could provide us with a good idea.”
Reminding Hatoyama that he publicly pledged during the House of Representatives general election to move the Futenma base out of Okinawa or even out of Japan, Shii made the following points:
“You should give up on the call for the ‘relocation’ of the Futenma base as the prerequisite for the resolution of the issue. To begin with, Okinawans have long demanded that this extremely dangerous Futenma base be dismantled without condition.
“However, ever since the 1996 decision of the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), the government has insisted that the removal of the Futenma base can only be implemented on condition that it will be relocated to somewhere in Okinawa. The outcome was that during the past 13 years, not an inch of the base was removed.
“This fact requires the government to firmly demand an unconditional withdrawal of the base and negotiate from this position with the U.S. government. You are called upon to fully accept Okinawans’ urgent call for the unconditional return of the Futenma base site. There is no other choice if the government is to seek an overall resolution of this issue but to earnestly represent Okinawans’ demand in negotiations with the U.S. Isn’t it high time to take a stance?”
Commenting on Hatoyama’s remarks on his recognition that the Japan-U.S. agreement on Futenma ‘relocation’ is important, Shii said, “It may be the case that a 10-year agreement may not be terminated after a change in government before the expiration, but the new Japanese government has the right to review the agreement and start again from scratch on the issue.”
Shii went on to say, “What the U.S. Marines Corps from Okinawa has done in Iraq suggests that it (the U.S. military presence in Okinawa) is by no means a deterrent necessary for peace; they are forces available for intervention in foreign countries. Therefore, their presence, be it in Okinawa or elsewhere in Japan, is not welcome. Pursuing the unconditional removal of the Futenma base is the only and quickest way to settle the Futenma base issue.”
Prime Minister Hatoyama said, “I certainly understand how JCP position on the issue is.”
- Akahata, December 15, 2009