Speaker of the Okinawa Prefectural
to the VFP National Convention 2011
Although Okinawa Prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of the whole land area of Japan, approximately 74 percent of the U.S. military bases in Japan are concentratedly located on Okinawa, and about 18 percent land area of the Okinawa mainland is occupied by the U.S. military bases.
Since the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administration in 1972, namely for 39 years from 1972 to 2010, there have been 1,444 incidents and accidents and 5,705 criminal offenses related to the U.S. military bases. Such occurrences of the incidents, accidents and crimes have been another heavy burden for the people of Okinawa hosting a lot of U.S. military bases in the small island.
Both the United States and Japanese governments have continued to review the realignment of the U.S. forces Japan. But, disregarding the Okinawan people's voice against the relocation plan, both the governments still stick to the current plan to relocate Futenma Air Station on the coast of Henoko, Nago, northern Okinawa, recognized as a natural treasure of the nation, which could be destroyed when the relocation is carried out as planned. Therefore, on February 24, 2010, the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly, unanimously adopted the following written opinion addressed to the governments of the United States and Japan:
"Immediate Closure and Reversion of U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma and for Its Relocation out of Okinawa Prefecture and of Japan
U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is located in an urban area in the central region of Okinawa Islands, and it is surrounded by densely populated communities with homes, businesses and schools. If an accident were to occur, the damage caused to the residents and various facilities in the communities are projected to be enormous, and at present, these areas are considered to be extremely hazardous due to potential accidents.
Futenma Air Station has been referred to as "the most dangerous airfield in the world,"and has seen aircraft-related incidents in the past. In particular, a large CH-53D transport helicopter belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps crashed onto the grounds of Okinawa International University on August 13, 2004. This grave accident, which could have caused much more damage and devastation, is a testimony to the dangers posed by the Air Station.
For these and other reasons, the people of Okinawa have long demanded the return of Futenma Air Station from both the Japanese and U.S. governments. The Air Station was to be fully returned under the agreement reached in 1996 by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), as well as in the 2006 Japan-U.S. Roadmap for Realignment Implementation finalized by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee concerning realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan. It has been 13 years since the initial agreement, and yet, the return of the Air Station has not been realized and the dangers still remain.
The people of Okinawa have learned through the tragedies of the Battle of Okinawa and long for a peaceful and safe homeland without military bases. However, the SACO Agreement, which stipulates the return of Futenma Air Station on the condition of its relocation within Okinawa, simply leads to the construction of another new base. The will of the people of Okinawa has been clearly indicated through referendums, various polls and organized rallies. Environmentally, the coast of Henoko, Nago City, where the Air Station is to be relocated, is recognized as a natural treasure of the nation, and the area is home to a variety of endangered marine life including the dugong, which is an internationally protected mammal species. The ocean surrounding this area is truly one of the most beautiful sights in the world, there communities of coral have been recently discovered for the first time.
The residents of Ginowan City, where Futenma Air Station is located, as well as the rest of the citizens of Okinawa call for the full return of the Air Station at the earliest possible stage and for the resolution of land usage issues led by the national government.
Furthermore, the mayor of Nago City is opposed to the construction of a base facility both on land and the sea.
To that end, we, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, in our duty to protect the lives, property, and the living environment of the people of Okinawa, strongly demand both the Japanese and U.S. governments to promptly close U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, and at the same time, abandon the plan to relocate the Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture and instead, relocate out of the prefecture or out of Japan."
We, the people of Okinawa, are suffering from the excessive burden placed on Okinawa by the presence of U.S. military bases On April 25, 2010 we held a prefecture-wide rally
in which 90,000 local people participated, and declared our indomitable determination to demand the reduction of Okinawa's unfair burden of hosting the U.S. military bases
I would like to take this opportunity to ask for your continued cooperation in favorably understanding the above-mentioned situation of Okinawa and reducing the excessive burden placed on Okinawa by the presence of U.S. military bases.
I cordially wish your VFP National Convention success, and earnestly hope that the friendly relations between the United States of America and Japan will further deepened.
Okinawa Prefectural Assembly