About 30,000 people from around the country participated in a rally in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, to express their determination to stop the deployment of the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to the US Yokosuka Naval Base and to show opposition to the ongoing realignment and reinforcement of U.S. military bases in Japan.
The aircraft carrier was initially scheduled to arrive at Yokosuka on August 19, but due to a fire on board, U.S. forces delayed its arrival until September.
Speaking on behalf of the Organizing Committee for the July 13 Rally, National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) President Bannai Mitsuo denounced the planned deployment of the George Washington to Yokosuka as a flagrant defiance against Yokosuka citizens and the people of Japan, the only atomic-bombed country.
Bannai called for the ongoing realignment of U.S. bases in Japan to be foiled by a nationwide struggle.
After the rally, participants marched in demonstration and staged a protest in front of the gate of the U.S. Navy in Japan Command.
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo in his speech pointed out four dangers of allowing the George Washington to use Yokosuka as its homeport as follows:
First, the possibility of nuclear accidents
Two nuclear reactors, like those of nuclear power plants are used for the propulsion of the George Washington. They are constantly affected by sea waves and vibrations. They will be operating in Yokosuka, which is part of the Tokyo Metropolitan area with a population of 30 million. They are kept away from the public's eyes due to military secrecy. No nuclear reactors in the world have so many dangerous aspects as those on this aircraft carrier.
The recent fire, which reportedly damaged about 80 sections of the warship, was very serious. Even though the U.S. and Japanese governments tried to assure the public of the George Washington's safety, the myth of safety has been broken.
Second, GW's capabilities as strike force
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is the major component of a strike force with enormous capabilities. The aircraft carrier can be deployed for action to any place at any time without having to refuel. Compared to the conventional aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk that left Yokosuka recently, the George Washington can carry a larger number of aircraft and can carry about twice the amount of ammunition. The U.S. Navy boasts that it can exert twice the power of the conventional carrier.
What has this strike force been used for? The George Washington has been deployed six times to the Persian Gulf and its carrier-borne aircraft conducted 17,000 sorties (bombing missions) in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. FA/18 Hornets from the George Washington were used to carry out indiscriminate air strikes in the assault on Fallujah in Iraq and killed many innocent citizens. How can we allow such a bloodthirsty warship to be deployed to Yokosuka?
Third, perpetual use of Port of Yokosuka by U.S. carrier
In 1973, when a U.S. aircraft carrier was first deployed to the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base, the U.S. and Japanese governments promised that the duration of its deployment would not be more than three years, that no additional facilities would be constructed at the Yokosuka base, and that no touch-and-go drills would be held. By breaking all three promises, the United States has maintained U.S. aircraft carriers at Yokosuka as their homeport for 35 years.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington is a state-of-the-art carrier with a life cycle of about 50 years. Once it is allowed to be deployed to Yokosuka, it will mean that Japan will perpetually allow the U.S. to maintain its aircraft carrier's homeport in Japan, the only overseas homeport for U.S. aircraft carriers in the world.
Fourth, more crimes by U.S. military personnel likely to occur
In Yokosuka, murders and attempted murders have been committed for three consecutive years. In this city with a population of about 400,000, there are 3,532 U.S. personnel living outside of the U.S. military base, the largest number among all local governments hosting U.S. bases in Japan. The stationing of the George Washington will bring in an even larger number of personnel than the Kitty Hawk, and more serious crimes are likely in the city.
Of course, these dangers are not just a matter affecting Yokosuka. Once a nuclear accident occurs, more than 30 million people in the Tokyo Metropolitan area will be affected.
The plan to deploy this dangerous warship should be withdrawn immediately. Let's make this a nationwide demand with mass mobilization of concerned citizens so that the homeporting plan will be foiled." - Akahata, July 15, 2008