Protests continue vs. U.S. bases in Japan

On Oct. 14, Okinawa’s Ginowan City Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution protesting the U.S. Marine Corps’ resumption of CH53D helicopter flights — the same type of helicopter that crashed into a building at Okinawa State University on Aug. 13.

According to Japan Press Weekly, the resolution criticized the U.S. forces for resuming the flights on Oct. 13 without providing area residents with a convincing plan to protect the population from accidents in the future, and in disregard of the shock many residents experienced as a result of the August crash.

The city assembly called for an immediate halt to U.S. flights over residential areas and urged the early removal of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. It also strongly protested the central government’s approval of the renewed flights.

Also in mid-October, the Zama City Assembly unanimously protested the planned relocation of the U.S. Army 1st Corps Command which covers the whole Asian-Pacific region up to the east coast of Africa, to the U.S. Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture. The resolution pointed out that the relocation would violate the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty under which U.S. forces in Japan are supposed to cover the “Far East” areas. Welcoming the resolution, Nakazawa Kunio, chair of the Japanese Communist Party Assembly Member group, declared, “Mayors of both Zama and Sagamihara, cities which host the base, have expressed opposition to the plan. We will struggle until the plan is lifted, hand in hand with Zama’s mayor, assembly and citizens.”

Last month the Okinawa helicopter crash brought some 30,000 protesters into the streets in the island’s largest recent demonstration. Residents have long objected to the U.S. military presence on the island, and for the last seven years have effectively blocked plans to replace the Futenma facility with a new base offshore. In April, residents started a sit-in against the new base, which was joined by thousands of demonstrators including some from as far away as South Korea and the U.S.

Also on Oct. 13, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution protesting two other incidents involving U.S. aircraft – an Oct. 4 mid-air collision involving an F-15 fighter, and the parts from a FA-18 that fell on Chatan Town last June. The resolution demanded a thorough investigation of the incidents, suspension of F-15 and FA-18 flights until measures are in place to prevent accidents, and cuts and reorganization of U.S. bases and forces on Okinawa.