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We Implore Prime Minister Naoto Kan to Retract the
August 31 Bilateral Experts Study Group Report and May 28 Japan-US Joint Statement on Futenma Replacement Facility
Association to Protect the Northernmost Dugong
Representative: Masako Suzuki
September 4, 2010
On August 31st,the Kan administration released the “Futenma Replacement Facility Bilateral Experts Study Group Report” (ExSG Report). We, the Association to Protect the Northernmost Dugong, deplore most vehemently the release of this Report which should never have been written.
We strongly agree with the editorial carried by the Okinawa Times, Sept. 2, severely criticizing the government for releasing the Report which includes designs for the new US military facilities. The editorial points out that the ExSG Report was prepared without consulting the local people and conceals the flight zones.
During the campaign for the 2009 election which swept the Democrats to power, the former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, “at least, out of the Okinawa Prefecture”. He soon betrayed the nation, especially the Okinawans, and broke this promise on the grounds of the base’s military deterrent value. The May 28 US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) Joint Statement on Futenma Replacement Facility, issued shortly before Hatoyama’s resignation, blatantly ignored the expressed will of the Okinawan people. For the Okinawan people the SCC Joint Statement is nothing more than the restatement of the 1872~1879 military annexation of the Ryukyu Kingdom (i.e. Okinawa) by the Meiji government known as the ‘Ryukyu Shobun’ . The Okinawan people, therefore, strongly demand the retraction of the SCC Joint Statement. However, immediately after succeeding Hatoyama, Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised President Barrack Obama to faithfully carry out the articles of the SCC Joint Statement and the ExSG Report was prepared in accordance with it.
This illegitimate Report attempts to conceal plans to deploy the MV 22 Osprey VTOL aircraft at the Henoko facility which the US government has already admitted. It leaves out the details of the flight zones, in an attempt to hide the gravity of noise pollution and risk to life for residents nearby. It also fails to mention the Japanese government’s demand to the ExSG for a permanent base for its own Self Defense Forces within the planned Henoko base.
We, as a Nature Conservation Group having been working for a long time to protect the critically endangered northernmost dugong (Japan Red List IA) from extinction, cannot but shudder reading the Report which clearly states that the new base will be built by landfilling the waters off Henoko Cape.
The ExSG Report and the attached figures show that both the V- and I- shaped runway plans for the new base will occupy parts of Oura Bay, the Henoko shore and Henoko Cape between them. These waters are exactly the areas richest in seagrass, the dugong’s only food. Burying these areas would annihilate the northernmost dugong. Concerning the “V”-plan, the ExSG Report blithely states , “The existing beach on the east side of Camp Schwab would be lost due to reclamation, resulting in the loss of some animal and plant habitat.” We can never allow this “reclamation” which, by dumping an enormous amount of dirt into the sea, would destroy the delicate web of the marine ecosystem.
The landfill required by either plan would not only annihilate the marine life of the buried areas but would also cause wider scale destruction. Alteration of sea currents will change the natural process of buildup and erosion of the sand in the bays, affecting the vegetation, the corals and the ecosystem as a whole. As has long been noted out, collection and transporting the landfill material too would be gravely detrimental to the environment. Furthermore, if the new facility began to operate the effluent from the residential drainage and the detergent used to desalinate the aircraft would further pollute the waters.
Even now, new species are being discovered in this treasury of bio-diversity, Oura Bay, which would be forever lost with the building of the new base. A large area of coral off the Henoko beach would also be destroyed along with its inhabitants, depriving the local community of its livelifood: its fisheries and other marine resources.
Inside Camp Schwab a control facility and other buildings to be used by the new base are already under construction while sturdy boundary walls are planned to separate the Camp from outside. The well-loved scenery of Henoko Cape, the islands of Naga-shima and Hira-jima would be lost. The obstinate determination of the US and the Japanese governments to build, at all cost, the new base in Henoko is blindingly obvious.
Nevertheless, we shall continue our field study of dugong ecology and look for ways to keep the population from extinction. We shall be firm in our opposition to the new base in Henoko so that the Okinawan ecosystem would be conserved and the local community may continue to be blessed with riches of Nature.
We insist that the Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his government must abandon the ExSG Report and retract the May 28 SCC Joint Statement. The solution to the ‘Futenma Problem’ should not be made by merely relocating the ‘most dangerous runway in the world’ but by, as the citizens of the Ginowan request, an immediate closure and reversion of the Air Station to Okinawa.
Appeal to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (April 30, 2010)
To Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
More than 90,000 people from Okinawa and other parts of Japan attended the rally, at Yomitanson, Okinawa, on April 25, to oppose the relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air-station to any place inside the Okinawa Prefecture. The rally was a clear expression of the consensus of the Okinawan people. Mr. Prime Minister, you said that the opinion expressed by the rally was a “part of the people’s will”. Are you going to take this “part of the people’s will” seriously? Your cabinet action seems to be trampling upon the consensus of the Okinawan people.
On April 26, the day after the rally, the working-level talks on Foreign and Defense affairs, which had been adjourned, were resumed in Washington DC. Mr. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State commented that he was encouraged by the new Japanese proposal concerning the Futenma problem. He made clear that his government is resolute on solving the problem based upon the 2006 bilateral agreement pressing the relocation site on Henoko. Mr. Campbell was ‘encouraged’ since you are now trying to relieve yourself from the no-win situation by abandoning an attempt to find a relocation site outside Okinawa Prefecture and aligning with his side.
We, the Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong, have been active for over ten years since 1999 to preserve the ecosystem so that the Okinawan dugongs, a critically endangered population, can continue to survive. We are deeply concerned over your decision to return to a modified version of the 2006 bilateral agreement containing a plan to landfill an area off Henoko and a part of Oura Bay, a plan destructive to the dugong’s habitat.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have kept your ideas on solving the Futenma problem secret until recently when you told Mr. Torao Tokuda, a former member of the House of Representatives and influential in Tokunoshima politics, that you are considering relocating a part of the Marines in Futenma to the Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture and use the island to host some of their exercises. You are still refusing to reveal the details of the modified version of the 2006 agreement while planning to visit Okinawa on May 4. It is evident that your visit is an attempt to persuade Okinawa Governor Nakaima to accept your idea of relocating the Futenma base inside the Okinawa Prefecture.
It is reported that you are modifying the current plan of choosing a part of the Camp Schwab and the coast nearby as the Futenma relocation site in order to obtain the approval of the US government. The modified plan, we hear, consists of moving the runway further offshore than the location stated by the current bilateral agreement; the runway would be either a pier-type airstrip supported by piles or a ‘mega-float’ construction. We are certain that the both plans, just as the current plan of landfilling the area off Henoko, would destroy the ecosystem of the area. Driving thousands of piles into the seabed will destroy the coral reef. The pier-type runway will block the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis. The ‘mega-float’ structure consists of a large number of giant steel pontoons upon which a runway will be constructed. It too blocks the sunlight. In order to secure the runway, giant seawalls and a mooring system must be constructed. This would destroy the seabed ecosystem. The seawalls would alter the seacurrent. We have seen how the bridge connecting Katsuren Peninsula and Henzajima Island in Kin Bay altered the seacurrents and seriously disturbed the reef ecosystem.
Either one of the plans would put a giant lid on the sea. Both plans kill the ocean ecosystem just as finally as the current landfill plan. They are, as you called the landfill plan, “blasphemy against nature”. If you think, as reported by the media, that any method other than landfill will reduce the environmental impact you are seriously mistaken.
Destruction of the coral reef by driving thousands of piles into the seabed, vibration and noise caused by pier-type structure or ‘mega-float’ would drive off the remaining dugongs. The only food for dugong is a kind of sea-grass growing in shallow water near the shore. Dugong must remain close to the shore. Sea-grass grows by photosynthesis and so needs sunlight. Putting a giant lid on the sea would destroy the remaining feeding place for dugong in Okinawa.
We are strongly opposed to your ‘modified’ plan of pressing the Futenma relocation on the site off Henoko. The citizens of Ginowan, who have long shouldered the burden of ‘The Most Dangerous Air-station in the World’, the Futenma Air-station, simply want to have the Futenma Air-station closed and the land returned immediately. The citizens of Ginowan and the Okinawan people hope to have the Island free from the military bases. They do not want to see the base moved from one location to another within the prefecture. Mr. Prime Minster, your party, the Democratic Party Japan, came into power to realize sovereignty for local communities. Doesn’t ignoring the will of the Okinawan people directly contradict your own party platform?
Mr. Prime Minister, your duty is not to look for a relocation site for the Futenma Air-station; your duty is to stand firmly and demand an immediate closure and return of the Air-station; only then may the first step for establishing an ‘equal relationship with the US’ be realized. It is a crime to destroy the natural environment of Okinawa by forcing a new military base upon the people and deny their way of life which so depends on products from sea and land.
For six years we have continued sitting-in on Henoko beach with the local people to oppose the base construction project. Our non-violent action has prevented the destruction of the sea where dugong lives. We remain resolute against any attempt to build a new base off Henoko.
Mr. Noboru Houjuyama, a former Director of Naha Defense Facility Agency, once voiced his hope to ‘live in harmony with the US bases’. We prefer to live in harmony with nature. Together we shall continue our effort. Let us also be clear that we are firmly opposed to use the beautiful Tokunoshima Island or any other place in the Ryukyu Archipelago as a Futenma relocation site or as a place to move a part of the military exercises presently carried out in Futenma.
April 30, 2010
Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong
Representative: Masako Suzuki
Appeal to President Barack Obama (December 10, 2009)
The US President Barack Obama
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos
Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong
Masako Suzuki, Chairman
Miyasato 4-12-8,Nago, Okinawa, Japan
December 10 ,2009
We sincerely request your understanding of Okinawa and Japanese people’s desire for a peaceful world and preservation of the dugongs in Okinawa, the northernmost of the species being threatened for extinction. For that purpose, we request you to abandon the plan to construct a US military base at Henoko, Okinawa.
The Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong is a NGO dedicated to preserving the internationally protected dugong, a marine mammal of the same Sirenia order as the manatee. The most northerly habitat of the dugong is the area around the islands of Okinawa, in southern Japan, where a small number (estimated at a few dozen) still survive.
While rejoicing at your country’s new administration we are nevertheless extremely disturbed that your government is pressing ahead with plans to landfill the magnificent, world-renowned seas of Okinawa which are home to the dugong, in order to build a new military base off Henoko. Though even Donald Rumsfeld, your previous Secretary of Defense, was visibly moved by this beauty when he visited Okinawa, the plan is being forced ahead.
To protect the dugong, the people of Okinawa joined forces with US environmental groups and filed a case against Mr Rumsfeld and the United States Department of Defense. The case has come to be known as “Dugong v. Rumsfeld” and is still under way after the inauguration of the new president.
Imagine for a moment that there were a project within the United States which would destroy the habitat of the internationally protected manatee. How would American citizens and environmental groups react?
When you spoke of a nuclear-free world and peace through diplomacy, and promoted policies appropriate for this new environmental age, you gave us concerned citizens great hope.
However, since the end of WW2, when Okinawa was known as the Keystone of the Pacific, right up until the present, US bases have been concentrated in this small island. For that reason we suffer frequently from a variety of problems; your forces’ bombers, fighter planes and armed helicopters have crashed, your military exercises have spread onto private land, your noise pollution affects our daily lives and your servicemen have committed criminal offenses outside their bases.
At the moment a major point of friction between our countries is your Marines’ Futenma Base in the middle of Ginowan City in central Okinawa. This airfield is extremely dangerous for the residents of the surrounding city, who have been campaigning for its closure and return to Japanese control for many years. Under the Mutual Security Treaty, Okinawa has long suffered the burden of the bases and this load has already become unbearable. We fervently wish that you, who have proudly taken responsibility for world peace, would try to understand the suffering of Okinawa as if it were your own.
The rich and beautiful seas where the dugongs live are the pride and strength of the Okinawan people and the nation. The northern part of the main island, where the planned base to replace Futenma is to be built, is the forest known as Yambaru, which feeds the waters of the dugong’s habitat, and is home to numerous highly-valued, endemic species. To fill in the bay, destroy the forest and expel the residents to build, against our wishes, an airfield or helipad for your forces, is to rob of Okinawa of its future.
In addition, the IUCN (World Conservationist Union) has recommended that the valuable biological environment of Okinawa, including the dugong habitat at Henoko, should be preserved. Maintaining the rich ecosystem of Okinawa is our obligation to the people of the world and of the future.
In Japan, the dugong is listed as a Natural National Monument and consequently must be protected. If the last remaining habitat of this rare creature were to be destroyed to build a military base, the northernmost dugong would be driven to extinction. Undoubtedly, the people who wish to share this world with the dugong, not only from Okinawa, Japan and America, but from around the world, would criticize you severely. We sincerely hope you will take this to heart.
We ask that the new administrations of Japan and the United States respond to the will of the Okinawan people to promptly close and return to Japanese control the airfield at Futenma, and cancel the project to build a new base in the dugong habitat around Camp Schwab.
Mutual trust between the people of America and Japan will not arise from our subordinate military relationship. We are sure that this is obvious to you too. We hope you will review the ill-considered course of our previous administrations, take every effort for the future of the global environment and address the target of a new US-Japan relationship from the standpoint of conservation of the natural environment. We express out heartfelt hope that by respecting the culture and ecosystem of Okinawa the northernmost dugong can be saved.
Association to Protect Northernmost Dugong
 Disposal of the Ryukyus: the term ‘shobun’ has the nuance of a penalty or sentence.