At the 31st annual Veterans for Peace meeting in California, the organization of military veterans unanimously passed a resolution to oppose the construction of helipads in Takae. The resolution also opposed construction of a new base in Henoko Bay, in Nago.
With 8,000 members across 120 branches, VFP is the largest organization of veterans. The resolution was proposed by Douglas Lummis, a chairman of the Ryukyu-Okinawa chapter. Applause filled the meeting halls in response to the resolution – with any luck, this will also awake public opinion in America.
In the resolution, VFP expresses their shame over America's complicity in Japan's open discrimination toward Okinawa. The group demands that the U.S. abandon its plans in Takae, and that it communicate this to the Japanese government.
Just as they did in the House of Councillors election, the Japanese government is once again ignoring the will of its people. The fact that riot police were forcibly removing protesters in order to continue construction is reprehensible.
The resolution also includes demands to withdraw all Marines of the 1st Marine Aircraft wing and all Ospreys from the Futenma air station.
In response to VFP's unanimous resolution across all branches, local governments are also calling for an adoption of the same resolutions, extending a ring of protection around Okinawa.
It was decided that 9,000 U.S. Marines would be relocated from Okinawa to Guam; the remaining 2,000 active soldiers are members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “Why does a base need to be built in Henoko in the first place?” The resolution was a natural result of this question.
There's one part of the resolution I'd like to focus on: VFP made a point of saying that America supports this “shameful, antidemocratic and discriminatory action.”
Okinawans have called for a visit to America to discuss the base issue, but the U.S. government's reply is always the same: “This is a domestic issue for Japan” – even though it is America who will be using the base.
Reassuringly, in September and December of 2015, the University of California, Berkeley and Cambridge both passed resolutions in opposition to the new base at Henoko.
In June, 10,000 San Francisco union members adopted a resolution opposing further base construction in Okinawa and the rest of Asia.
In a culmination of effort – from the people from Okinawa, and Americans with a long history of dealing with the base issue – the All-Okinawa council was able to visit Congress in November 2015.
Information on the Takae helipads is not being accurately reported within Japan. It was mutually agreed upon that most of Futenma would be repaired, but while the U.S. admitted to deploying Ospreys, the Japanese government decided to cover up this fact. Sleep is being disrupted by the drastic increase of noise at night, and the nearby forests of Yanbaru, which boast a rich biodiversity, are also being affected. Still, the Japanese government has not taken responsibility for either of these.
Okinawa established an office in Washington, D.C. in 2015. It needs to become the cornerstone between Okinawa and the American government, Congress, and NGOs. I hope we can take a look at our actions thus far – and more importantly, examine what we need to improve upon.