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21 October 2019

Dear US Congressmembers and Senator Re:Okinawa USMC issue

Rep. Don Bacon, Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Jack Bergman, Rep. Steve Womack, and Senator Marsha Blackburn, who met Mr. Denny Tamaki, governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan and discussed Okinawa USMC new base construction issue in third week of October 2019

 

My name is MASAGATA, a Japanese man living in Tokyo. I've been engaged in this issue as a citizen. 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 urge Congressmembers and Senator to include the item that US military review relocation of Marine Corp. in Okinawa to Guam in currently finalizing National Defense Authority Act in a joint committee of the US Congress. The Senate passed the legislation that included the item but Congress did not.

I am very sure that you are aware of this issue since you are one of members in a joint Armed Services committee handling this matter and met Mr. Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture in Japan.

Last year and five years ago, I wrote to US Ambassadors to Japan regarding the same issue. This is modified version of the letter with update information.

The below is main points I would like to describe in this letter.

1. What has been going on up until now

2. Locals strongly oppose the new base construction

3. Precious wildlife and ecosystem are threatened

4. Technically, physically infeasible project

5. This construction might deteriorate friendship between the two nations

6. Your Servicemen and women are living with hostility in Okinawa


1. What has been going on up until now

Okinawa is chain of islands and southernmost prefecture below mainland Japan. The climate is subtropical and blessed with abundance of nature surrounded by coral reef. It is 3 hour-flight from Tokyo and very famous for marine leisure tourism just like Hawaii for Americans. In fact Okinawa went through the same path as Hawaii did. Until the end of 19th century it was an independent kingdom but annexed by mainland force. In 1945 US forces occupied Okinawa and then 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.

In 1996 both the American and Japanese governments agreed to relocate US Marine Corp. Futenma base in Ginowan City 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. The relocation plan includes reclamation of the sea to build a new base that consists of two runways and ports expanding existing facility. Schwab is located in between Henoko coast (left) and Oura Bay (right) as you see in the photo. (Taken in January 2018)

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2. Locals strongly oppose the new base construction


Since the plan was announced, locals and activists from all over Japan have been protesting the new base construction by holding referendums, supporting candidates of mayoral and gubernatorial elections, and municipal assembly members, who oppose the construction, as well as sit-in demonstration at the gate of Camp Schwab and kayaking at the landfilling site as civil disobedience act. Until now, tens of protesters were arrested and injured by police at the gate or coast of Camp Schwab.

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Last year’s September, Okinawans elected Denny Tamaki as a Governor of Okinawa after sudden death of then governor Takeshi Onaga, who was opposed to the new base construction. Mr. Tamaki succeeded the will of Onaga and won the election. He was formerly a Diet, Japan’s National Assembly member. His father was a US Marine serviceman stationed in Okinawa and mother was Okinawan native. It was first time in Japan that a mixed race man was elected as governor of one Prefecture. He proved that Japan is no longer homogeneous population and the nation can tolerate diversity.

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(Photos were taken by me during gubernatorial election in September 2018)

This year’s February, Okinawa held referendum to ask whether locals approve or oppose the landfill work at Henoko Bay for the construction of a new United States Marine Corp base. The outcome was that 71% of voters oppose the new base construction.
In April and July of this year Diet member elections were held and in Okinawa constituency, candidates who announced opposition to the new base construction won in both times.
Therefore local opposition is very obvious and hasn’t changed for decades. 

3. Precious wildlife and ecosystem are threatened

Many environmental activists also oppose the plan because of the abundance of forms of wildlife that are unique to the area around Camp Schwab.

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This photo is of a dugong, an endangered marine mammal that eats grasses in the sea. It is just ridiculous that the nation that protests Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Sea – and even dolphin hunting in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture that former Ambassador Kennedy was eager to protest – is helping to threaten another marine mammals that live in Japan.

In Oura Bay, the world’s largest, oldest and northernmost blue coral lives and has continued to grow for 3000 years.

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Many new species are discovered in the bay recently. A lot more may be still undiscovered.

On Henoko coast, the sea is enclosed and being 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. As for blue coral, reclaimed space would change the sea current and might adversely affect life of the coral. Then what will happen is that your nation will be accused of helping to diminish such wonderful and rare creatures.


Actually, the Japanese Ministry of Defense carried out an environmental assessment in which it was claimed that there were 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.

Because of these facts, the petition to the White House to halt landfilling of the sea was launched last year.
https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-landfill-henoko-oura-bay-until-referendum-can-be-held-okinawa
(Stop the landfill of Henoko / Oura Bay until a referendum can be held in Okinawa Created by R.K. on December 08, 2018)

More than 200000 signatures were collected in two months.
The petition campaign was led by a famous fashion model and TV personality, Laura (Mixed race woman between Japanese and Bangladesh), who posted the petition campaign on her Instagram page. She was an environmental activist.

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4. Technically, physically infeasible project

There are technical issues revealing infeasibility of the construction project as follows.


• Active faults are found down below planned construction site of runways. If that is the case in California, the project wouldn’t be permitted.


• Around planned construction site of runways there are buildings higher than US military aviation standard, flying helicopters or ospreys there might cause collision with these buildings, similar situation to Futenma Air Base in Ginowan city.

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The buildings include school and its dormitory at which young students attend classes or reside. The school officials were not informed of this matter until recently. No plan of relocation is announced although a power transmission tower next to the building was already planned to relocate from that site.

IMG_20180428_122112.jpg


• Geological survey conducted in the sea to landfill indicates sea ground is too soft to pile soil on like mayonnaise, which consumes more budget and time to landfill so the construction period should be much longer than expected like 20 years from now.


It is possible that the project is cancelled halfway for some reason but irreversible damages would be left together with grudge from locals. Some portion of the budget for relocation of Marine Corp. to Guam is spared by US Government. That means this project wastes not only Japanese tax payers’ money but Americans as well.
It has been done for the interests of the few. The few, you might know, are certain businesses and government people who want some gains from the project. One of major contractors of the project is Taisei Kensetsu Corporation, where son of current Cabinet Secretary, Mr Suga, works.

5. This construction might deteriorate friendship between the two nations

You might say this issue 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 and up until now involved in designing of new runways and annexed facilities. 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 for sexual slavery for soldiers during the war period in the early 20th century, it was what outsourced local brothels did.” The US Congress disavowed such argument and made a resolution to demand that the Japanese government apologize for former comfort women in 2007.

Doubts about US military committment to Japan's defense

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.

Mr. Trump imposed sanction on China for trade issue recently but Japan is a prime target as well since Japan has run surplus on trade with US like Canada and Europe. Mr. Trump’s sanction tells how important and influential China has been for US economy.
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 located in between sea border of Japan and China. 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 as already did recently. China also played a big role in negotiating with North Korea. China is vital for US politics as well as economy.

Military experts and even former US military officials 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 at 30 facilities in Okinawa prefecture that accounts for 1 % of total of Japan’s territory and population.

During Vietnam War, it was a transit point to transport soldiers, military weapons and equipment. Now there is no strategic importance. How many of US congressmen and senators knows Okinawa? Is this place worth keeping bases in?


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 “Rupo Hinkontaikoku America” (Report, 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.

6. Your Servicemen and women are living with hostility


Just recently, US Marines faced apparent resistance from locals and activists. On September 17, 2019 citizens blocked civilian port entry of US Marine vehicles carrying a boat for training at Motobu Pier in Motobu town, 30 minutes drive from Camp Schwab.

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Young military servicemen and women had to hear yelling from protesters and waited inside the vehicle for hours without air conditioner.

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The Marine vehicle was trying to enter the port to unload the boat on its trailer for training on the sea.

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Even port workers were standing at the entrance as human shield. The workers oppose military use of the port because they want to allow only civilian use. After 10 hours of sit-in protest from 7 AM, Marine vehicles had to leave the port with the boat on a trailer to get back to Camp Schwab.  

I was there joining the sit-ins and talked with servicemen and woman. They seemed very unhappy doing their jobs. They should feel like being deployed on enemy line, not in an allied nation.

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When I said "Traitor" to one of workers of Japan's Defense Department who corporated with Marines and then a servicewoman said "No, he is not" to me.  

At the Camp Schwab gate, every day they have to see the protesters civil disobedience act and in many times being yelled at and called names. They never feel welcome. I do not think they feel being honored to serve Marine Corp. as long as they are stationed in Okinawa.

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military, Okinawa, military, Okinawa,

Do you think this situation creates healthier relationship among US, Japan and Okinawa? Proceeding of such unnecessary and infeasible construction are just making things worse. It should be halted immediately for the friendship or for the time being, construction must be temporarily stopped for the review. 

As for practical solutions, I recommend your organization to review a proposal by a private think tank, The New Diplomacy Initiatives (http://www.nd-initiative.org/en/), which suggests removal of US Marine bases from Okinawa but instead, establishing joint Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) Corp. with Japan’s Self-Defense Force equipped with high speed transport vessels, which rotates around East Asia. It is cost-effective and able to contribute to security of the region more realistically.


Sincerely,   

P.S.

Permit me for writing some awkward or grammatically incorrect phrases since I am not a native speaker of English.

31 July 2019

German TV drama “Deutchland 1983”, More interested in Germany than USA now

I just found a TV drama series “Deutchland 1983” on internet. That was a story in the Cold War Era in Germany, when the nation was divided into two separate states, East Germany, called DDR and West Germany. The protagonist was a young man assigned to spy West Germany military activity disguising a subordinate to the general. In order to get classified information he had to use every element of his life including sex. That was quite thrilling. The story also featured 1980’s culture and social matters such as Walkman, AIDS and Ronald Reagan and described how severe life in East Germany was.

It is scary that there was a spy who shared the same language, culture and ancestry but ideology and tried to knock you down inside your own country. It is just like current North and South Korea.

Germany has thrilling history such as Nazis and the division of the nation. It has more interesting topics than any other nations. My interest in foreign nation is shifted from USA to Germany recently. America isn’t a very attractive nation any more since Trump is elected as President. Just recently Trump said to his rivaling congresswomen to go back home although they are naturalized citizens. US President cannot tolerant different opinions of theirs. He does not represent a nation that respects freedom. US is becoming like Nazi-Germany and degrading their national image while German chanceller Merkel said she sided with the congresswomen.

I am learning so much about its language, culture, politics, society, history and etc. I think I have to study more. I will watch more German dramas and movies and am excited to do that.

Ich interessiere mich fur Deutchland. 

19 August 2018

Documentary “A Bold Peace”, why Costa Rica abolished its national army

Japanese pacifists sing praises for Costa Rica’s disarmament. 

According to the documentary “A Bold Peace,” the nation abolished national army in 1948, the same period Japan announced current constitution which states disarmament.

Japan was actually forced to do so by US occupational force. But Costa Rica did that internally.

This was a way to counter US imperialism in the region. US used military forces of Central American nations to remove anti-America regimes by provoking coups. 

In that sense having military is a huge risk for the small nation. 

Even if the nation tries to counter US by arming itself as much as possible, it can never compete with America ‘s gigantic military force. 

That was a strategy for them. Thing in common with Japan.

Because Japan officially does not have a military force, Japan has actually never sent combat forces to overseas since the end of Second World War, only supply or monitoring staff. 

If we had one like South Korea, we might have gotten involved in Vietnam war and massacred civilians. 

The common issue is how we deal with the US. 

Conclusion of the film describes how US undermines peace, environment, social welfare and prosperity of the world although they often claim themselves to be the leader of free world.

Let’s think about how we deal with the US!

 

16 August 2017

Trump is the very American President

The world is shocked by white supremacists' march and subsequent terror attack to its counterprotestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Trump's response to the incident.

To me, it was the same day I participated in a peace march protected by the police force and met with nationalist counterprotestors on the sidewalk. Prior to the march, the police blockaded the roads so no nationalist would not enter the march route. The peace activists protest the Yasukuni Shrine ideology (justifying Japan's invasion of Asian neighbors) and its enshrinement of the war dead in WW II. Just like General Lee Statue of the Confederate Army.

racism, history, okinawa, Trump,

racism, history, okinawa, Trump,What happened in Charlottesville is reverse. The marchers were nationalists.

 

Donald Trump has been criticized for his not naming white supremacists or Neo-Nazis as offenders, instead he blamed "many sides" or "both sides" for the incident.

He claimed that if they wanted to remove General Lee statue because of slavery related history, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should be removed as well because they were slave owners.

Yes, he made points. America is founded on slavery, and massacre of Native Americans.

Liberals and mainstream media have harshly criticized Trump's statements, which seemed to condone white supremacists' action. More and more people join counterprotest to the rise of white nationalist movement. But it is the fact that some portion, not very small portion of the population supports white nationalist views. That is why he was elected.

America is in fact, European immigrants nation. Majority should be white. In coming decades, white will not be majority but fall into minority, less than half. Currently still more than 60%. Silent white majority now feels threatened because true American identity may be lost. Trump exposed true nature of America.

America, as melting pot, salad ball, mosaic is in fact, illusion. The reality is white dominated Christian base society. If other people want to join, they have to compromise to be second-class citizen. That is the same everywhere in the world. It is very, very difficult to change the society. Tradition and core demography cannot be changed easily whether it is good or evil. Obama, as Black president was exceptional. That is why such whitelash is happening.

To me as Japanese, if America is not white majority nation, it is not America I know. Most of Hollywood film actors are white. So it is the time we, Japanese and other people in the world to change the view of America.

America is no longer or has not traditionally, free and democratic and friendly nation that respects diversity and dignity of other people than whites. They were really good at advertising good images but the truth is not how they portrayed themselves to the world.

Good example is Guam in US Pacific territory and Okinawa, Japan.

Guam people have no rights to elect US President. Guam is small islands but one-third of the areas is occupied by US military bases. Locals have no rights to change the situation just like a colony.

In Okinawa, there has been anti-US military base movement led by Okinawa prefectural governor, Onaga. Majority of prefectural residents want US military, especially Marines out of their land. But the U.S. persists in stationing there in the name of defense of Japan, which in fact, they do not so.

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Good thing about Trump is he insists on removal of US forces from Japan because US no longer wants to defend foreign nations but prioritise domestic issues. Other US Presidents look politer but still want to keep hegemony of the world. Trump is destroying his nation's reputation so that US cannot lead the world any longer. More and more people stop treating America as the world leader or a role model of the democracy.

Trump looks crazy but may try to normalise his nation and the world. 

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