Okinawans set to vote on US military base relocation

54
292
Okinawans set to vote on US military base relocation

Okinawans will vote in a local referendum on Sunday over the landfill construction of a US Marine Corps base in Henoko, a plan that has been at the centre of controversy since its announcement in 1996.

The prefecture of Okinawa, comprising Japan‘s southernmost islands that make up just 0.6 percent of Japanese territory, is currently host to more than 74 percent of US military bases in the country.

The new base’s construction comes as part of the government’s promise to relocate the US military airbase in Futenma, a densely populated residential area, to the less-populated village of Henoko.

But the government’s relocation plan has faced long-standing opposition from Okinawan residents, who say the landfill construction will devastate the marine life in the coral-rich bay of Henoko.

Moreover, the residents argue that the plan runs counter to the government’s purported aim of “alleviating the burden” of US military bases on Okinawa, including noise pollution from military aircraft and the series of accidents and sexual assault of local residents by US military personnel.

“We’re being forced to choose between Futenma and Henoko, without the option to say we simply don’t want military bases,” says Yukiko Chinen, whose six-year-old daughter attends Midorigaoka Nursery school near Futenma air station, where an object fell onto the school’s roof from a US helicopter last year.

US military aircraft have reportedly continued to fly over the school premises since the accident.

“For me, the referendum is a fight for that option, to get beyond the idea that we have to somehow give up one or the other,” she added.

While the referendum is non-binding, its proponents believe that the prefectural vote could add to the mounting pressure on the Japanese government to halt the multibillion-dollar project, which has continued despite the overwhelming victory of Okinawan Governor Denny Tamaki, who ran on an anti-base platform last fall.

In a recent poll conducted by Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times, nearly 70 percent of the voters said they are planning to vote against the construction of the base in the referendum, which gives them three choices: for, against or neither.

‘Right to choose’

The call for a referendum in Okinawa began in the fall of 2017, when a 27-year-old graduate student, Jinshiro Motoyama, started organising public meetings to discuss the possibility of an island-wide referendum with local residents.

“There was a certain sense of resignation among people around me, that there was nothing we could do about the bases,” says Motoyama, who grew up in Ginowan city near Futenma air station.

“I thought a referendum in Okinawa could give people a chance to talk to one another and share their experiences about the realities we are facing,” he added. 

After establishing the Henoko Okinawa referendum committee, the group headed by Motoyama and supporters of the referendum collected more than 100,000 signatures on petitions, quickly surpassing the 23,000 needed to put the relocation plan to a prefectural vote.

Okinawans stage anti-base demonstrations in front of Camp Schwab in Henoko in February 2018 [Lisa Torio/Al Jazeera] 

The move, however, also met some pushback, not only from supporters of the base project, but even from those opposed to the construction, who feared a negative outcome could be a setback for anti-base efforts.

“Those were difficult conversations for sure,” says Motoyama. “But I think it’s important for Okinawans to keep having these conversations, to listen to each other and bridge the divide.”

For Motoyama, the referendum is ultimately as much about the process as it is about its outcome.

“It’s not just about political impact,” he tells Al Jazeera. “What’s important is getting people to realise that we have a voice in the matter. We have a right to choose.”

‘Break the cycle’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear that his administration would push forward with the construction project regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

In Henoko, the government continues to deploy hundreds of riot police from across the country to suppress the peaceful protests held daily at the construction site.

The Japanese government’s disregard for Okinawan public opinion and the disproportionate US presence on the islands has its roots in the islands’ history.

Originally belonging to an independent kingdom, the Ryukyu islands were invaded by Japanese forces in 1609 and annexed in 1879.

During the second world war, the islands became the site of one of the bloodiest ground battles between Japan and the US, in which one in four Okinawans lost their lives.

The island came under US control after Japan’s defeat in the war. Even after Okinawa was “reverted back” to Japanese rule in 1972, US military bases continue to take up 18 percent of the land on Okinawa’s main island.

“It’s been almost 50 years since the ‘reversion’ of Okinawa and the government is still trying to build a new military base,” says Masaya Kinjo, 54, who has been participating in the daily sit-ins in Henoko since 2016.

“With this referendum, I want the world to know that what’s happening in Okinawa has been going on for generations.”

This weekend, supporters of the referendum have organised a 70km march across Okinawa as a way to encourage voters to head to the ballot box.

For Chinen, who plans to participate in the march with her little daughter, the referendum is part of a larger movement.

“When my daughter grows up, I want her world to be different from the one I grew up with,” she tells Al Jazeera. “We’re fighting to break the cycle.”

54 COMMENTS

  1. I simply want to say I am just all new to blogging and certainly savored this blog site. Most likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You certainly come with exceptional well written articles. Appreciate it for sharing your website.

  2. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

  3. I’m still learning from you, as I’m trying to achieve my goals. I certainly liked reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the posts coming. I loved it!

  4. you’re actually a just right webmaster. The site loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you’re doing any unique trick. Also, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a great activity on this subject!

  5. Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely excellent. I actually like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it sensible. I can’t wait to read far more from you. This is actually a tremendous site.

  6. hello there and thank you in your information – I have definitely picked up anything new from proper here. I did however experience a few technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the web site a lot of instances prior to I could get it to load correctly. I have been pondering if your web host is OK? No longer that I am complaining, but slow loading cases instances will very frequently have an effect on your placement in google and can damage your high quality rating if advertising and ***********|advertising|advertising|advertising and *********** with Adwords. Well I’m including this RSS to my e-mail and can glance out for much more of your respective exciting content. Make sure you update this once more very soon..

  7. I???к?иve browse via various of the critiques inside your internet site now. I truely enjoy the way you blog. I included it to one of my bookmarks and will also be coming back soon. Take a take a look at my personal internet website too and tell me what you feel about it.

  8. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such magnificent information being shared freely out there.

  9. I have not checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  10. hi!,I like your writing so much! share we communicate more about your article on AOL? I require an expert on this area to solve my problem. May be that’s you! Looking forward to see you.

  11. I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your website?

  12. Its like you learn my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the guide in it or something. I think that you could do with a few p.c. to pressure the message home a bit, however other than that, that is great blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  13. I picture this may well be various upon the written content material? in spite of this I nonetheless consider that it usually is appropriate for just about any form of topic subject matter, as a result of it could continuously be pleasurable to resolve a heat and pleasant face or possibly listen a voice whilst initial landing.

  14. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Fantastic work!

  15. Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your web site is very cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this web site. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched all over the place and just could not come across. What a perfect web site.

  16. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.

  17. Thanks for these guidelines. One thing I should also believe is credit cards presenting a 0% interest often entice consumers in with zero rate of interest, instant approval and easy online balance transfers, however beware of the number one factor that will probably void the 0% easy streets annual percentage rate plus throw one out into the poor house rapidly.

  18. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  19. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s truly informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  20. I’ve been browsing on-line greater than 3 hours as of late, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty value enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the internet can be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  21. I would love to hear everything you know regarding this subject matter. You only have scraped the top of your respective awareness about this and that’s clear from the way you blog. Have you considered dedicating a complete web page to ensure that others won’t overlook what you have got to say?

  22. Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa? My site goes over a lot of the same subjects as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Superb blog by the way!

  23. Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your site. You have some really good posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Regards!

  24. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love learning extra on this topic. If attainable, as you achieve experience, would you thoughts updating your blog with additional data? It is extremely useful for me.

  25. I have noticed that online diploma is getting favorite because attaining your degree online has become a popular alternative for many people. Many people have certainly not had an opportunity to attend a regular college or university nevertheless seek the raised earning possibilities and a better job that a Bachelors Degree gives you. Still other people might have a degree in one training but want to pursue a thing they now have an interest in.

  26. Thanks , I have recently been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve discovered till now. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here