Ginowan Delegation's Second Campaign in the U.S.


Sunday, July 10, 2005 - Thursday, July 21, 2005

Objectives: The immediate and complete closure of USMC Futenma Air Station and return of its land without conditions of relocating its functions within Okinawa.


*Gist of the US Tour


The original purpose of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreement to return total land of Futenma Air Station was to reduce the Okinawa’s burden of the excessively concentrated US bases on this island. This agreement was made by both US and Japanese governments in 1996 aiming at eliminating the severe noise pollution produced by military flights from the air station as well as circular training flights over the heavily congested neighborhood. Because of its dangerous location, very center of the populated Ginowan City, Futenma Air Station is allegedly called "the most dangerous military facility in the world."


The August 2005 US Marine Corps helicopter crash in the Okinawa International University proved the danger posed by the base. The danger had been long pointed out. One year after the crash, although the frequency of noise disturbances has slightly reduced, these circular training flights are now conducted every day and night over the surrounding communities. The citizens of Ginowan City are forced to live not only in tremendous noises but also in fear of an aircraft crash like the one happened last year.

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Ginowan City Delegation

 

Ginowan City places lives and property of the citizens as its top priority and continues petitioning the Japanese government for resolving problems arising from the air station. This summer, Ginowan Mayor decided to make the second US campaign trip in order to convey local voices to officials and related organizations in the US. The US and Japanese governments are discussing the realignment of the US military in Japan, which is reported to reach a conclusion by the end of this year. The city regards the ongoing bilateral talks as the best opportunity to bring up the Futnema problems and keeps demanding the relocation of functions of Futnema Air Station to overseas countries.


Since the Ginowan City Council disapproved this US tour and rejected its budget, Mayor Iha went to the US at his own expense. Based on the "Futenma Return Action Program", the Ginowan delegation comprised of four members including a student of Okinawa International University made the lobbying tour in Washington, D.C. and San Diego, California, from July 10 until July 21, 2005.


*Outline of Mayor's remarks in Washington, DC and San Diego


The danger posed by Futnema Air Station became a reality when the US military helicopter crashed in the Okinawa International University last year. Without considering the citizens' anxiety, a level of training flights has been returning to the flight level before the crash. The circular training flights are conducted regardless of time and place. As these trainings intensify, the possibility of an aircraft crash has increased.
The Overseas Basing Commission (OSBC) issued its interim report, recommending that functions of Futenma Air Station be moved to the nearby Kadena Air Base. We believe relocating the Futenma functions within Okinawa will never reduce the Okinawa's burden. Why does the US need an alternative facility of the Futenma within Okinawa? There have been many cases that the U.S. just shut down its CONUS bases without relocating them. I urge that the US government implement a DOD plan revealed by the interim report to reduce Marines on Okinawa by up to 8,000.

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Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha

 

The Okinawa's high expectations and strong demands for the reduction of the burden without any conditions have enhanced since US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged to ease the longtime burden carried by Okinawa.


The US military imposes a curfew on its personnel because a service member recently molested a Japanese girl. Stressful duties overseas may be one of reasons for committing such a crime. I believe that it is ideal to bring the US soldiers back to their home country.


Futenma Air Station has occupied the very center of the congested city, risking our citizens' lives for decades. On the other hand, however, there are immense lands in the United States in comparison with Okinawa and many people need military facilities as their economic resources, so I would like to ask for your cooperation to accept the base in your vast soil.

*Washington, D.C.

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*San Diego, California


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*Achievements of the trip and future approaches


In accordance with "Futenma Return Action Program", the Ginowan Delegation made the second trip to the US to petition for the unconditional closure of Futenma Air Station, cultivating the opportunity of the intensive bilateral talks about the reorganization of the US forces in Japan. It is important to ask directly the US governments to reduce the burden of Okinawa imposed by its military presence. In addition to that, the delegation sought the possibility to move functions and personnel of the Futenma to bases in California that were thought to be influenced by the BRAC process. Many host communities of US domestic bases were opposed to the closure of the bases because they might be economically damaged.
The delegation met one congressional member and thirteen congressional members' staff, most of them from California. It explained the Futenma problems to them and exchanged each view, through which we found the possibility to create a network of congressional members and staff who expressed interest in accepting the Futenma. This was a great outcome of this trip.


As one of achievements of the tour, Mr. Harrison, Director of Peace with Justice of The United Methodist Church, in response to our request, visited Okinawa in August and investigated US base problems. Everywhere he went, he was surprised by the situation, mentioning that this never happens in the US. Mr. Harrison also said that he would work hard to let American people be aware of the problems and would discuss them at a general meeting of the church.


While we continue to struggle for resolving the base problems of Okinawa, we should review the operations of US bases here from a United States perspective. The US forces are very considerate toward surrounding communities when they conduct military operations in the United States, avoiding impacts on the neighborhoods. Based on the facts learned from this trip, Ginowan City will address the Futenma problems and the reduction of the US military presence and make every effort to move the Futenma functions outside Okinawa.

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【組織名】 基地政策部 基地渉外課

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