Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo held a press conference in Naha in Okinawa Prefecture on February 24 and explained the JCP position on the U.S. base construction plan. Earlier in the day, he inspected the area chosen for the base construction.
He pointed out dangers arising from the plan to construct a new U.S. base offshore U.S. Camp Schwab in Okinawa as part of the realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan, emphasizing that the plan is significantly different from the old plan to build a new base on the sea which the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreed to in 1996.
The stated aim of the on-the-sea construction plan based on the SACO agreement was to reduce local burdens.
However, the Japan-U.S. agreement of October 2005 put forward the new base construction plan as part of the "Regional Realignment of U.S. Marine Forces for Flexible Crisis Response." It openly called for the reinforcement of the U.S. Marine Corps, referring the need to "strengthen its force structure in the Pacific" and "strengthen Marine Corps crisis response capabilities." The agreement deemed the construction plan as the key to achieving this objective.
Shii said, "From the outset the new base plan was devised in order to achieve the objective of reinforcing the Marines. As such, the plan poses a grave danger to the residents if it is implemented." He pointed out "three major problems" of the plan compared to the old on-the-sea plan.
The SACO agreement characterized the on-the-sea base as "removable" and Okinawa Governor Inamine Keiichi imposed a 15 year limit to base use.
The stated objective, however, has totally disappeared from the new base plan, and Shii pointed out that the plan makes the base permanent.
Enhancing Marine Corps' functions as strike force
Compared to the on-sea base plan, the shallow-waters plan will remarkably strengthen the attack functions of the Marine Corps.
-- The length of the runway will be increased to 1,800 meters from 1,500 meters in the on-sea base plan to prepare for the deployment of the MV22 Osprey, the Marine Corps' next generation primary aircraft, and to enable mid-air refueling planes and cargo planes to take off and land there.
-- The base will be an airfield equipped with piers. As Oura Bay is 40-50 meters deep, the base is accessible by assault landing ships carrying Marine troops, allowing the possibility of turning the base into a military port.
-- In the U.S. Department of Defense's operational concept, the on-sea base plan requires the separation of Marine Corps facilities on the sea from those along the coast. The shallow-waters plan allows all facilities to gather at the same site, making the base easier for the corps to use.
Shii said, "The people of Okinawa are enraged at Okinawa being used as a stronghold for the Marines that committed atrocities in the Iraq War. It is absolutely unacceptable to enlarge the stronghold as much as they like.
As the shallow-waters plan puts top priority to strengthening the Marine Corps base, no heed has been given to the safety of residents or the protection of the natural environment.
In the on-sea base plan, the distance from the runway to the center of Henoko residential district was 2.2 kilometers. In the shallow-waters plan, flight paths for aircraft with fixed wings is only 700 meters away from the residential center. Noise and possible accidents will incomparably increase.
Serious adverse effects on coral reefs, sea mammal dugongs, and mangroves will spread from the Henoko Coast to Oura Bay.
Stating that Okinawans do not support the shallow-waters plan, Shii pointed out that conditions have emerged in which united action on the single agreed point of opposing the shallow-waters plan is possible, including people who are either for or against the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO). Shii said, "It is important for all people on the islands of Okinawa to be united on the single point of opposing the shallow-waters plan, and the JCP is determined to take part in this struggle."
- Akahata, February 25, 2006