Japan News

John Manning writes: The customary (in Japan) blitz election campaign has been called for Nago City, Okinawa, planned site for the new U.S. air base.  Starting Jan.27 the campaign ends with the election on February 3. The Japanese Communist Party and other anti-base forces are opposing  re-election of Mayor Kishimogo Tateo, with the central issue being to stop construction of the war base. This is how JCP daily Akahata saw the matter in its editorial of January 23.

Nago mayoral election is the way to reject U.S. new base

An election for Okinawa's Nago City mayor will be held on February 3. Candidates will officially start their campaigns on January 27.

Miyagi Yasuhiro, whose campaign promise includes cancellation of the new U.S. base construction plan, is the candidate of the Association for Nago's Future, which includes the Japanese Communist Party. He believes that the municipal government must listen to citizens instead of doing anything ordered by the central government.

Miyagi is challenging Mayor Kishimoto Tateo, who is at the beck and call of the central government in allowing the new U.S. base to be constructed on the coral reef off the Henoko district of the city in complete disregard of citizens rejection as expressed in a referendum.

  This is an election to decide whether or not to give the green light to the new U.S. base construction as a permanent U.S. stepping stone for military action in Asia and elsewhere.

Permanent stronghold for war

The planned new base is a huge state-of-the-art base for use by the vertical take-off and landing Osprey aircraft, for fighters and large cargo aircraft of the U.S. forces.

President George W. Bush and other top U.S. officials have made clear that the United States will unilaterally expand its military attacks beyond Afghanistan, targeting those countries which it identifies as terrorist states or states harboring terrorists.

It is no doubt that the new base in Nago will be a permanent forward base serving the U.S. Marines Aircraft Group participating in wars around the world. This has a serious bearing not only on Nago citizens but Okinawans and the Japanese people.

Okinawa Governor Inamine Keiichi and Nago Mayor Kishimoto Tateo initially promised that a "15-year term limit" will be a condition for accepting the base, but this promise was broken by the Japanese and U.S. governments when they agreed to the permanent U.S. use of the new base.

Nago citizens as well as the rest of Okinawans continue to be forced to endure the heavy burden of U.S.military bases.

The number of U.S. soldiers' crimes such as murder, arson attacks, rape of women, and theft has increased in the last three years. In Nago City, a U.S. soldier killed a young woman. If the city has to have several thousand more U.S. marines, citizens fear will further increase.

The existence of U.S. bases in Okinawa is making the region's desperate economic situation increasingly serious with the unemployment rate higher than the rest of the country.

According to the Okinawa Times, 88 percent of major companies engaging in tourism experienced a decline in sales last year, and many say U.S. bases are to blame.

The planned huge U.S. base will destroy the coral reef (which has existed for a long period of time) as well as seaweed which are dugong's food.

The central government is trying to force Nago residents into accepting such a dangerous U.S. base, claiming that it is precisely what Okinawans' wish for.

The issue is the Nago city administration itself. Voters are asked to choose between two electing a mayor who embraces residents' opinions, works for better livelihoods of residents, and denounces the government's injustices on behalf of residents who are suffering from U.S. bases or for a mayor to use this or that pretext to force the residents into accepting the government opinion and act accordingly.

Candidate Miyagi Yasuhiro not only opposes the new U.S. base construction, but promises to promote tourism, agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries by making the most of the natural environment and make Nago City a vigorous town. Only by establishing an administration under Mayor Miyagi - and by rejecting economic development attached to the new U.S. base

construction - can the rich nature of Okinawa be protected and used for the economic development of Nago City.

On the 30th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion

This is the 30th year since Okinawa's administrative rights were reversed to Japan. We should make this year a new beginning toward the realization of Nago citizens' and Okinawan people's wishes for an Okinawa without U.S. bases. We must not allow this year to be remembered as the first year of the new U.S. base construction and reinforcement of the bases.

We must win the election and prevent the construction of a new U.S. base which is aimed at making Japan a foothold for U.S. wars.

John Manning is a retired building worker and labour organiser. He writes regularly for Spectre on Japanese politics and other issues, and presents our regular selection of features from the JCP’s press.