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16 February 2014

Dear Madame Ambassador Kennedy, Re: Okinawa Issue

Surprising thing happened in Okinawa. US Ambassador to Japan met with mayor of Nago city and visited the controversial construction site for new US Marine base.

Maybe because she responded to the below editorials of local newspapers.

EDITORIAL [Dear Madame Ambassador Kennedy] Please Meet with Mayor Inamine

[Editorial]Dear US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy: We want the US government to change its Futenma replacement policy and cancel Henoko landfill

However, I wrote the letter to her. That might have worked as well, I guess.

The below is what I wrote to her early this month and is a progressed version of a letter I wrote to her last November.

okinawa, military, dugong


February 3, 2014


My name is Masagata, a Japanese man living in Tokyo. I used to study at San Francisco State University, where I majored in International Relations. I am now working as a translator using the English knowledge I acquired in the US.


I am writing this letter to tell you about a matter that is very important to both of our nations. I am sure that you are well aware of many issues between the two nations. I would like to mention the most important of these: a matter that might result in long-term deterioration of the current healthy relationship between the two nations. I urge your government to rethink its ways of dealing with this issue.


The matter in question is the relocation of the US Marine Base from Futenma in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan’s southernmost tropical islands, which are a little like Hawaii. In 1996 both the American and Japanese governments agreed to relocate Futenma base to Camp Schwab to get away from the densely populated area around Futenma. Camp Schwab is on the coastline of the island, in an area called Henoko.


okinawa, military, dugong



There has been a local resistance movement since the relocation plan was announced. Locals near Camp Schwab are concerned about the deterioration of their living environment. Many environmental activists also oppose the plan because of the abundance of forms of wildlife that are unique to the area around Camp Schwab.



okinawa, military, dugong 


I took the photo of one of the above when scuba diving in the nearby sea. It shows clown fish swimming above the coral reef like in the film “Finding Nemo”. The other photo is of a dugong, an endangered marine mammal that eats grasses in the sea. I enclosed purple paper craft of dugong made by locals.

okinawa, military, dugong

It is just ridiculous that the nation that protests Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Sea – and even dolphin hunting in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture – is helping to threaten another marine mammals that live in Japan.


On November 22nd, 2013, in Nago City (to which Camp Schwab is attached), the city council made a resolution demanding the Okinawa Governor not to permit landfilling of the sea. However, the governor permitted the landfill in December even though a majority of Okinawans disapproved his decision.


The following month, in January, Okinawa Prefectural Council made a resolution demanding the Governor’s resignation. Okinawan protest activists announced legal action against the prefectural government in order to cancel the permit. Later, on January 19th, the mayor of Nago City, INAMINE Susumi, was re-elected because of public support for his policy of the city’s refusing corporation with central and US governments regarding construction of the new base project.


If the project is implemented as planned, the sea will be reclaimed and dugongs and other creatures’ lives would be threatened. Dugongs’ sea grass is found in the reclaiming area. They will lose their feeding place. Then what will happen is that your nation will be accused of helping to diminish such wonderful and rare creatures for the interests of the few. The few, you might know, are certain businesses and government people who want some gains from the project. Actually, the Japanese Ministry of Defense carried out an environmental assessment in which it was claimed that there are no dugongs in the sea. But the environmental organizations such as WWF and The Nature Conservation Society of Japan claim that the MoD’s assessment was wrong and the organizations’ own research found clear traces confirming the existence of dugongs. Recently, Okinawa’s local newspaper revealed the news that the MoD was aware of the finding but had covered it up.


You might say this is something to be handled by the Japanese government, and that it is not the responsibility of the US military. But that sounds very hypocritical. The US military is the one that uses the facility. The US government can cancel that project and find another relocation site outside Okinawa. If the US continues to attribute this to the Japanese government, it is just like what Japanese conservative politicians say when it comes to the “Comfort Women” issue: “The Japanese Imperial Army was not responsible for kidnapping women in Asia during the war period in the early 20th century, it was what outsourced local brothels did.” 


There may be casualties and incidents resulting in bloodshed during protest activity against construction. Such news will be broadcast all over Japan. The construction will take several years to complete. Resentment will continue to build. Your military and diplomats will have to deal with such problems for a very long time.


In fact, the US military presence in Okinawa and even nationwide is becoming nothing but troublesome. More of us know that the US military presence no longer functions as defense or deterrence like in the Cold War era. China is said to be a new threat but we know that US-China relations have become more vital for your nation since China owns more US treasury bonds and buys more US goods than Japan does. China has become a larger economy than Japan these days. President Obama spends more time having dialogues with Chinese leaders than with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Plus, US needs China for negotiation with North Korea in terms of nuclear missile issue.


Recent incidents indicate US reluctance to defend Japan from China. In 2010 a Chinese fishing ship collided with Japan’s coast guard ship in the sea near the Senkaku Islands, a disputed territory between Japan and China. The captain of the ship was arrested by the coast guard. The US Secretary of State said it would have no involvement in this matter and the captain was later released. Last year China announced expansion of its Air Defense Identification Zone to the Okinawa area. Japan objected to it and demanded China to cancel the expansion, but the US did not follow what Japan did to China but requested US private airliners to submit flight plans in that zone to the Chinese authorities, precisely opposite to the Japanese stance.


We can easily predict that the US would not help Japan even if China and Japan became involved in a dispute for some reason such as the territorial right to the Senkaku islands. The US cannot send troops to assist Japan fighting against the Chinese military because such action might cause great losses for your national interests. China has many ways to sanction your nation.  


Military experts say that the biggest reason that the US military forces stay in Japan is to cut cost of their own because Japan provides host nation support fund, which we call “Sympathy Budget” that accounts for more than 70% of total expense for the US bases in Japan. There are more than 130 facilities of US military in Japan. Most of the troops are stationed in Okinawa prefecture that accounts for less than 1 % of total of Japan’s territory. Okinawa has been occupied until 1972, which is 20 years after mainland Japan regained sovereignty and was the only place that experienced ground battles within Japan, causing 200,000 civilian casualties during WW II.


Deploying your military so much in our country, especially Okinawa is just causing growing distrust against your country. I believe the Okinawa issue presents the perfect timing for your nation to rethink its military deployment in Japan in order to improve the relationship between the two nations. Constructing a base on reclaimed land in the Henoko sea is the worst possible idea.


US military presence functions to apply American influence on our nation. Yes, it did work that way but you really have to know this may be working negatively. The image of your country itself is no longer positive like in the past. In other words, the US is no longer a powerful land of dreams, nor is it any longer a role model for us. One example of this can be seen in a recent best-selling book on your country’s poverty issue. The title of the book is “Hinkontaikoku America” (Poverty Superpower, America). It was written by a Japanese journalist, TSUTSUMI Mika. The book describes how Americans are struggling with poverty in a plutonomy society and explains how Japan should not follow suit.


We know that a lot of young Marine troops stationed there come from poor families that cannot afford college education and have problems like domestic violence. They join the Marines by system, so called, Poverty Draft. That is why they cause troubles with Okinawa locals.


The interesting thing to note is that Japan was democratized and the wealth of the nation was redistributed from pre-war plutonomy by the US occupying forces. Thanks to them, Japan has become the most egalitarian society among industrialized nations. We do appreciate that. We are always good friends to you as long as you are what you should be. So please keep being a good friend to Japan.


Below is a photo of me, taken in Washington 20 years ago when I was attending university. I remember some of my classmates told me that I looked like JFK when I made a presentation on his foreign policy. I have many wonderful memories from the time I spent over there. People were very friendly and kind to me. I do not want to feel betrayed any longer.

okinawa, military, dugong






I hope that she saw the scenery like that over there.

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