2019年1月3日木曜日

Happy New Year from Henoko-Oura Bay

Hachi ukushi ceremony at Henoko
Happy New Year!

On New Year's Day 2019, some 360 people gathered at the Henoko beach to join the Hachi ukushi (first day of working or of rising) ceremony, celebrating the beginning of the year of the boar.

Traditionally, people in Okinawa hold the Hachi ukushi to pray for the safety and good health of farmers, fisherman, artisans, and community members and a good harvest, good catch, and good yielding in the year.  We hold this traditional Hachi ukushi on the send or third day of the first month of the year in the lunar calendar. 

The Hachi ukushi ceremony at Henoko is a little different from traditional ones, but it serves ultimately the same purposes.  We prayed to the Nirai kanai no kami (gods of the outer world beyond the sea) that the U.S. military base would not be built in Henoko-Oura Bay so that the natural environment that provides us with food and livelihood would remain intact. We prayed that peace would prevail in the world without war so that people all over the world would enjoy a truly safe and healthy living.





Dancing for a peaceful world
In an uplifting and refeshing atmosphere, people enjoyed the prayers, speeches (including a read message from Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki), martial art performance, traditional music/dance, the Henoko Blue's demonstration at sea, and lots of exchange of "Happy New Year" wishes.  Most speakers mentioned that the movement against the Henoko base construction is now gradually spreading out to the world and that demonstrations in Tokyo and the We the People to White House petition are all encouraging signs.




The Brave Henoko Blue team
However, nobody at the ceremony had any illusion that our prayers would be answered easily. We all knew that this year would be extremely challenging and we would have to unite and fight.

Indeed, the scenery of Henoko today is much different from those of a few years ago. Although a very small part of the entire construction, these ugly seawalls built have become an impactful presence in the calm water of Henoko.  Construction ships and the Japan Coast Guard's boats have replaced fishing boats and eco-tour boats.  

Still, we can see that these seawalls, ships, and boats are all surrounded by the biodiversity-rich waters of Henoko-Oura Bay with over 5,300 marine species including some 260 endangered species.  It is this contrasting scenery between the ongoing human-made destruction and the wonder and resilience of nature that compels us to keep fighting for the protection of Henoko-Oura Bay and a peaceful world.

Happy New Year!

H.Y.


The sun rising over the Pacific


2018年11月12日月曜日

We Stand with Governor Denny:辺野古の中止と普天間の撤去を!

新たに沖縄県知事に就任した玉城デニー氏が、現在、辺野古新基地建設の中止と普天間飛行場の撤去を訴えるために、ニューヨーク、ワシントンDCを訪れています。この機会に、Okinawa Environmental Justice Projectは、以下のWe Stand with Governor Dennyのメッセージを発表しました。よろしければ、メッセージの拡散をお願いします!(メッセージの原文(英語)はこちらから
We Stand with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in Fight against Henoko Base Construction and Fight for Withdrawl of Futenma Base

玉城デニー沖縄県知事と共に
普天間基地の撤去と辺野古新基地建設の中止を求めて!
(原文(英文)の和訳)

Okinawa Environmental Justice Project


米国政府が容認する中、日本政府は、沖縄本島北部の辺野古・大浦湾における新たな基地建設を無謀に押し進めている。両政府にとって、辺野古案こそが、人口の集中する宜野湾市の真ん中にある米海兵隊基地普天間飛行場を移転させる「唯一の選択肢」だとしている。

しかし、辺野古案は、20年に亘り民主主義のあらゆる方法をもって反対を示し続きてきた、沖縄の人々の民意に対する侮辱である。また、262種の絶滅危惧種を含む5,300種の海洋生物が生息する世界でも有数の価値をもつ環境の一つの破壊への後戻りできない道である[i]

この侮辱と破壊を行うために、日本政府は、日本と米国の法や規制をあからさまに曲げ、無視し、日米関係のあるべき姿に悪影響を与えている。そしてその過程で、米軍や米国政府も共犯者になっている。

私たちOkinawa Environmental Justice Projectのメンバーは、玉城デニー沖縄県知事と共に、米国市民と米政府に対して、辺野古案をきちんと再考すること、辺野古新基地建設の阻止と普天間飛行場の閉鎖を掲げる沖縄の決意と民意を尊重することを求める[ii]

埋立て承認の撤回
辺野古新基地建設の不当性は、建設のための埋立て承認をめぐる、沖縄県と日本政府間の争いにおいて、明確に示されている。承認は、201312月に、日本政府の圧力のもと、当時の仲井真弘多沖縄県知事が行った[iii]。そして承認は、3年に亘る沖縄防衛局の工事を可能にしてきた。    

2018831日、沖縄県は、これまでの基地建設工事とその環境への影響を慎重に検証した後、基地建設の状況は、公有水面埋立て法に反すると判断し、埋立て承認を撤回した。撤回は、辺野古基地建設を阻止し、沖縄の人々へ尊厳をもたらすため、その生涯の後半を捧げた、故翁長雄志沖縄県知事の固い意思とその努力が、具現化したものだ[iv]

沖縄県による承認撤回は、沖縄防衛局の環境影響調査が、建設地の脆弱な地盤や、基地周辺の建造物の高さを米軍の規制基準(UFC 3-260-01 Airfield and Heliport Planning and Design)に基づいて適切な調査を行っていないこと、さらには、調査の“環境への悪影響なし”の結論に反して、実際には影響が確認されており、保全措置が効果的ではないこと、などが根拠となっている[v]

しかし、県の撤回に対抗するように、1017日、沖縄防衛局は、行政不服審査法のもと、「私人」としての立場で、国交相の石井啓一氏に承認の執行停止を申立てた。防衛局の申立ては、同法は私人を守るものであり、防衛局は政府機関であり私人ではない、との批判に直ちに晒されることになった[vi]。しかし、国交相は、防衛局のこの不合理な法的議論やその他の議論を受け入れ、1031日に沖縄県の撤回の執行停止を行った[vii]。沖縄防衛局は現在、工事を再開している。

国交相の判断を検証する
沖縄県の撤回の執行停止を決断したことを説明する記者会見において、国交相は、沖縄防衛局が申立てにおいて示した以下の二つの議論を繰り返した。しかし、県と防衛局が論争する具体的かつ技術的問題については言及をしなかった、いや、言及を避けたのだ[viii]

国交省は、普天間飛行場の移設は辺野古案が「唯一の選択」であることを前提に、県の撤回は、普天間基地の危険性の除去を困難にすると主張した。

しかし私たちは訴えたい。普天間基地の危険な状況を70年以上も許してきたのは、沖縄県の撤回や沖縄の人々の辺野古案への反対ではなく、日本政府の無能さと、米政府の無関心さであるということを。日本政府は普天間の危険性や騒音について十分に対応したことはなく、その問題に対応する効果的措置をとったこともない。その結果として、普天間基地は、「世界で最も危険な基地」として、人口の集中する宜野湾市の真ん中に、米軍自らの安全基準や規制に違反しながら存在しているのである[ix]

日本政府が何度も復唱する「辺野古が唯一の選択肢」は、日本本土において実行可能な選択肢が多数存在することを認めようとしない態度を、単に表明したものにすぎない。

また国交省は、沖縄県による撤回は、外交において摩擦を引き起こし、日米同盟に悪影響を及ぼす可能性があると主張した。

しかし私たちは反論したい。外交において摩擦を起こし、日米同盟を傷つけているのは、県の撤回ではなく、日本政府におる辺野古新基地建設の無謀な押し付けであるということを。環境正義の視点から、この問題を明確に示す例がある。それは、辺野古・大浦湾に生息する、絶滅危惧種の海洋哺乳類であり、日本の天然記念物であるジュゴンの危機的状況をめぐり下された、相反する二つの判断である。この二つの判断は、沖縄防衛局の環境アセスや影響への緩和措置に関係している。

まず一つは、201881日に、米国連邦地裁裁判所が下した、国家歴史保存法のもと行われてきた「ジュゴン訴訟」においての国防総省勝訴の判断である。裁判所は「国防総省はジュゴンへの影響を「考慮する」手続きを怠った」とする原告の主張を却下した。そして、1) 国防総省は、基地建設のジュゴンへの影響について、沖縄防衛局の環境アセスやその緩和措置への独自の評価を含む、可能な限りの調査を行った、2) 国防総省のジュゴンへの「影響なし」の結論/予測は妥当であったと、判断した[x]

そしてもう一つは、沖縄県による831日の埋立て承認撤回の判断である。撤回の理由の一部として、防衛局の環境アセスの環境への「影響なし」の結論に反して、ジュゴンの行動への影響が確認されていること、防衛局の緩和措置が効果的であることが示せていないと、沖縄県は判断している。

現在、ジュゴン訴訟は控訴審を迎えており、今後この相反する二つの判断が裁判でどのように評価されるのか、それがどのように日米関係へ影響を与えるのか注視される。


最後に私たちは、国交相が、県と防衛局が論争する具体的かつ技術的問題について言及していないのは(言及を避けたのは)、偶然ではないと主張したい。上記したように、私たちの視点から言えば、撤回についての具体的な議論は、沖縄防衛局が日本と米国の法や規制を犯していることを示すことになる。そして必然的に、米軍と米政府も共犯者であると示されるのだ。

最後に
私たちは、米国市民と米政府に、沖縄は日本全体の0.6%の面積に過ぎないにもかかわらず、日本における米軍の基地や訓練場の70%が沖縄に集中していることを再認識してもらいたい。このような状況において、日米政府の「辺野古が唯一の選択肢」という主張は馬鹿げており、それを構造的差別として認識する沖縄の人々が、その主張を容認できるわけはない。また、この状況においては、沖縄の人々の暮らしや環境に深刻な影響を与えずに、また日本と米国の法や規制に違反することなく、米軍が訓練を行うこと、米軍が存在すること自体、無理なのである。

この現状が、沖縄の人々が辺野古案に反対し、普天間飛行場の沖縄からの撤去を求める理由である。この現状が、沖縄の人々が、翁長雄志氏や玉城デニー氏のような人を知事として選び、社会正義と環境正義を求めて共に闘う理由である。

私たちは、米国市民と米政府に対して、辺野古案をきちんと再考すること、辺野古新基地建設の阻止と普天間飛行場の閉鎖を求める沖縄の決意を尊重することを求める。


連絡先:
吉川秀樹
代表
Okinawa Environmental Justice Project
yhidekiy@gmail.com





[i] 日本生態学会、その他による20141111日の「著しく高い生物多様性を擁する沖縄県大浦湾の環境保全を求める19学会合同要望書」は、以下のサイトに掲載されている. http://www.esj.ne.jp/esj/Activity/2014Ohura.pdf
[ii] 辺野古新基地建設に反対する沖縄を支援するための多くの決議が、米国に拠点を置く、あるいは米国と関係する組織やグループにより採択されてきた.
カルフォルニア州のバークレー市議会の2017年の決議は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
労働組合The Asian Pacific Labor Alliance 2017決議は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
The Veterans For Peace2018の決議は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
[iii] 米国連邦議会調査局の以下の報告書を参照. Emma Chanlett-Avery and Ian E. Rinehart, The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, US Congressional Research Service, August 14, 2014
[iv] 沖縄の基地問題と自治を訴えた翁長雄志知事の20159月の国連人権理事会でのスピーチ(英文) “Oral Statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Governor of Okinawa (Takeshi Onaga)”は以下のサイトで掲載されている. http://dc-office.org/post/574
[v] 沖縄県が沖縄防衛局に831日付けで提出した「国有水面埋立て承認取消通知書」は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
[vi] 毎日新聞(英字版)の2018117日の以下の記事を参照. “Gov’t acting like plaintiff, judge over reclamation lacks validity: experts,” The Mainichi, November 7, 2018.
[vii] 20181030日付けで国交相から沖縄防衛局に「執行申立てに対する決定について」の文書が送られた. 
[viii] The Japan Times20181030日の以下の記事を参照. “Minister suspends Okinawa’s move to Futenma base relocation,” The Japan Times, October 30, 2018.
[ix] 普天間基地の危険性と米軍の安全基準の問題については以下の論考を参照.  C. Douglas Lummis “Futenma: ‘The Most Dangerous Base in the World’,” The Diplomat, March 30, 2018.
[x] ジュゴン訴訟における201881日の連邦地裁の判決の内容については、Courthouse News Serviceの以下の記事を参照. Maria Dinzeo, “Judge OKs Okinawa Base, Despite Endangered Dugong,” Courthouse News Service, August 2, 2018.
[xi] 沖縄県が沖縄防衛局に831日付けで提出した「国有水面埋立て承認取消通知書」の中で撤回の理由は詳細に記されている. 通知者は以下のサイトに掲載されている.

We Stand with Denny: Respect Okinawa's Determination to Stop Henoko Construction and Close Futenma Base

From November 11 to 15, 2018, Okinawa's newly elected Governor Denny Tamaki visits New York and Washington D.C., taking the issues of Futenma Air Base closure and Henoko base construction directly to the people and the government of the U.S.  On this occasion, the Okinawa Environmental Justice Project has issued the following statement.  Please read it and help spread our message!  (日本語はこちらから



We Stand with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in Fight against Henoko Base Construction and Fight for Withdrawl of Futenma Base 

Okinawa Environmental Justice Project

With the U.S. government’s embrace, the Japanese government has been recklessly pushing a plan to build a new U.S. military base in Henoko-Oura Bay in northern Okinawa Island, Japan. For the governments, the Henoko plan is the “only option” to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station dangerously located in the middle of crowded Gionowan City on the island.

The Henoko plan is, however, an insult to the will of the people of Okinawa who have opposed it in all forms of democracy for the last twenty years. It is also an irreversible pathway to the destruction of one of the most precious environments of the world with more than 5,300 marine species including 262 endangered ones.[i]

To carry out the insult and destruction, the Japanese government bluntly bends and disregards laws and regulations of both Japan and the U.S., undermining the U.S.-Japan relationship. In this process, the U.S. military and government have become accomplices.

We at the Okinawa Environmental Justice Project stand with newly elected Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in urging the people and the government of the U.S. to take a critical look at the Henoko plan and respect Okinawa’s determination to stop it and to close the Futenma Air Station.[ii]

Revocation of Land Reclamation Permit
The injustice of the Henoko plan is evident in the recent contentions between the Okinawa prefectural government and the Japanese government over the land reclamation permit for the Henoko base construction. The permit was granted in December 2013 by former Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima under pressure from the Japanese government.[iii]  It enabled the Okinawa Defense Bureau to carry out construction work for the last three years.      

On August 31, 2018, after careful examination of the base construction so far and its effects on the environment, the Okinawa prefectural government concluded that the construction was in violation of the Act on Reclamation of Publicly-owned Water Surface, and it revoked the permit. The revocation was a manifestation of the determination and efforts of late Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, whose final phase of life was spent fighting against the Henoko plan and bringing dignity to the people of Okinawa.[iv]

The prefectural government revoked the permit, first of all, because the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s Environmental Impact Assessment Study did not include adequate assessments of the fragile sea bottom of the construction site and the heights of buildings surrounding the proposed air base in accordance with the U.S. military’s UFC 3-260-01 Airfield and Heliport Planning and Design, and also because, contrary to the Study’s “no negative environmental impacts” conclusion, adverse environmental impacts have been observed and many of the Bureau’s mitigation measures have proven to be ineffective.[v]

In response, on October 17, the Okinawa Defense Bureau appealed, “as a private individual,” to Keiichi Ishii, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism to suspend the revocation under the Administrative Appeals Act. The Bureau’s appeal was immediately met with the criticism that the appeal was illegitimate because the Bureau is a government agency, not a private individual and the law is designed to protect private individuals.[vi]  However, on October 30, accepting this absurd legal argument and other arguments by the Bureau, the Minister suspended the prefectural government’s revocation.[vii]  The Bureau is now resuming construction work at Henoko-Oura Bay.

The Minister’s Decision Up-Close
At a press conference, explaining his decision to suspend the Okinawa prefectural government’s revocation, the Minister regurgitated the following two reasons put forth by the Okinawa Defense Bureau in its appeal while failing to address – that is, avoiding - the specific technical issues contested by the prefectural government and the Bureau.[viii]

The Minister insisted, given that the Henoko plan is the “only option” to replace the Futenma Air Station, the prefectural government’s revocation would make it difficult to eliminate the dangers posed by the Futenma base at its current location.

We argue however it is the incompetence of the Japanese government and the indifference of the U.S. government, not the prefectural government’s revocation or the Okinawan people’s opposition to the Henoko plan, that have allowed the dangerous situation of the Futenma base to continue for the last 70 years. The Japanese government has never adequately addressed the dangers and noise pollution at the Futenma base. Nor has it implemented effective measures to mitigate them. As a result, the Futenma Air Station remains in the middle of crowded Ginowan City as “the most dangerous base in the world,” violating the U.S. military’s safety standards and regulations.[ix]   

Moreover, the Government’s endlessly repeated “only option” is merely an expression of its refusal to admit that there are plenty of other viable options in mainland Japan.

The Minister also claimed that the revocation would cause diplomatic friction and have negative effects on the U.S.-Japan alliance.

We argue however it is the Japanese government’s reckless pushing of the Henoko project, not the prefectural government’s revocation,  that is causing diplomatic friction and undermining the U.S.-Japan alliance. From the point of view of environmental justice, a case in point is the two conflicting decisions made over the plight of the Okinawa dugong, an endangered marine mammal and Japan’s natural monument inhabiting the Henoko-Oura Bay area, in relation to the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s EIA and impact mitigation measures.

On the one hand, we have the U.S. federal court decision delivered on August 1, 2018, favoring the U.S. Department of Defense in the 15-year long “dugong case” Under the National Historic Preservation Act. The claim by the plaintiffs from Okinawa and the U.S. that the DoD had failed to “take into account” the impact of the base construction on the dugong was dismissed.  And it was ruled that the DoD did all it could do to study the impacts of the base on the dugong including evaluation of the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s EIA and mitigation measure and that the DoD’s “no impact” conclusion/prediction was reasonable.[x]  On the other hand, we have the Okinawa prefectural government’s decision to revoke the land reclamation permit delivered on August 31. As part of the reasons for its revocation, despite the Bureau’s no impact conclusion in its EIA, the Okinawa prefectural government determined that impacts have been observed in the behavior of the dugong and the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s mitigation measures have not proven to be effective.[xi] 

With the dugong case now in the appellate court, it will be interesting to see how these conflicting decisions will be judged and whether and how this judgment affects the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Finally, we argue it is no coincidence the Minister failed to provide (avoided) detailed discussion on the specific technical reasons contested by the prefectural government and the Okinawa Defense Bureau. As discussed above, in our view, any discussion on specifics of the revocation would reveal that the Okinawa Defense Bureau is violating laws and regulations of Japan and the U.S. government, inevitably making the U.S. military and government its accomplices. 

Concluding Remarks
We want to remind the people and the government of the U.S. that while Okinawa accounts for only 0.6 percent of the entire landmass of Japan, 70 percent of U.S. military bases and training areas in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. In this situation, the Japanese and U.S. governments’ insistence “Henoko is the only option” does not make sense and is not acceptable to the people of Okinawa, who view it as a form of structural discrimination. In this situation, the U.S. military could not exercise or even exist without severely impacting the lives of the people and the environment of Okinawa and violating laws and regulations of both Japan and the U.S.

This is why the people of Okinawa continue to oppose the Henoko plan and demand the removal of the Futenma Air Station from Okinawa. This is why the people of Okinawa elect people like Onaga Takeshi and Denny Tamaki as Governors and join them to fight for social and environmental justice.

We invite the people and the government of the U.S. to take a critical look at the Henoko plan and respect Okinawa’s determination to stop it and to close the Futenma Air Station. 

Contact
Hideki Yoshikawa
Director
Okinawa Environmental Justice Project
yhidekiy@gmail.com





[i] See the statement “ichijirushiku takai seibutsu tayosei wo yosuru Okinawa ken henoko ourawan no kankyo hozen wo motomeru jyuku gakkai godo yobosho [collective statement of 19 Japanese academic organizations requesting environmental conservation of the highly extensive biodiversity of Oura Bay in Okinawa prefecture],” The Ecological Society of Japan et al., 2014.
[ii] Many resolutions have been adopted by U.S. based and U.S. related organizations and groups to support Okinawa’s movement to fight the Henoko plan. See for example the resolution by the City Council of Berkeley, California here: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/SearchMain.aspx?cx=017385055954264103894:kn5xiwd8ubm&cof=FORID:9&ie=UTF-8&q=resolution%20Henoko
See the resolution adopted by the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance in 2017 here:
See the resolution adopted by the Veterans For Peace in 2018 here:
[iii] See Emma Chanlett-Avery and Ian E. Rinehart, The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, US Congressional Research Service, August 14, 2014
[iv] See “Oral Statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Governor of Okinawa (Takeshi Onaga),” September 21, 2015.
[v] See the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s official document “koyusuimen umetate shonin torikeshi tsuchisho [notice of revocation of permit for land reclamation of publicly owned water surface]” sent to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, August 31, 2018.
[vi] See “Gov’t acting like plaintiff, judge over reclamation lacks validity: experts,” The Mainichi, November 7, 2018.
[vii] See the official letter “shikko moshitate ni taisuru kettei ni tsuite (notice of decision regarding appeal to suspend executive action” sent by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, October 30, 2018. 
[viii] See “Minister suspends Okinawa’s move to Futenma base relocation,” The Japan Times, October 30, 2018.
[ix] See C. Douglas Lummis “Futenma: ‘The Most Dangerous Base in the World’,” The Diplomat, March 30, 2018.
[x] Maria Dinzeo, “Judge OKs Okinawa Base, Despite Endangered Dugong,” Courthouse News Service, August 2, 2018.
[xi] See the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s official document “koyusuimen umetate shonin torikeshi tsuchisho [notice of revocation of permit for land reclamation of publicly owned water surface]” sent to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, August 31, 2018.




2017年10月22日日曜日

The U.S Military Resumes CH-53 Flight Operations and Issues (Damage Control) Media Release

While the residents of the Takae district, Higashi village and the people of Okinawa are still shaken and infuriated by the October 11 crash of a U.S military CH-53 helicopter in the district, and although the cause of the crash has not been determined, the U.S. military resumed the flight operations of the aircraft on October 18. See Kyodo News

Following a 96-hour suspension of flight operations, the U.S. military’s CH-53 helicopters are back in the Okinawa sky, flying over our houses, schools, hospitals, forests and sea as if nothing has happened. 


©KYODO

The Japanese government, Okinawa prefectural government and local municipalities have demanded that the operations of the CH-53 aircraft be suspended indefinitely until the cause of the crash is determined, but to no avail. See The Japan Times

The lopsided power relationships among the U.S. military, Japan and Okinawa have prevailed again. Our lives and environment are in danger. Many of us feel we are under colonial and military occupation.



U.S. Military’s Media Release
Before resuming the operation of CH-53 helicopters, the U.S. military issued a media release, providing explanations for its actions. See the Media Release.

In our opinion, the media release reads like a damage control PR statement, directed to (the rest of) the  U.S. military and U.S. government and probably to the U.S. public, but not to the people of Okinawa (It is written in English and we have not seen a Japanese translation of it yet).

It states:

“Aviation experts have conducted a thorough review of the maintenance records and found no issues with the standard maintenance practices, actions, technical directives, periodic inspections and no operational matters to warrant concern.”

“The Commanding General, Marine Corps Forces Japan, Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, is satisfied that the CH-53E aircraft is prepared to return to safe flight operations.”

“This decision is not taken lightly, and was only decided upon following consultation with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing aviation professionals, and subject matter experts from the U.S. Naval Safety Center who arrived on Okinawa from the continental United States to assist in the overall investigation.”

Apparently, conducting “a thorough review of the maintenance records” (underline added) and fining "no issues" in the review were enough to resume CH-53 flight operations.

Since we are no aviation experts, we are not in a position to make a judgment about the U.S. military’s review process or decisions per se. Still, we can point out that we have not seen any report or written document from the military's “aviation experts” substantiating what the U.S. military claims in the media release.


"Working Closely" with Who?
What concerns us the most is the misleading nature of the media release. 

It states that “Working closely with Government of Japan and local officials, we are conducting salvage and recovery operations of the aircraft quickly and safely to return the land as soon as possible.”

However, the Okinawa prefectural government and the Okinawa prefectural police force (and possibly the Japanese government)  were all denied by the U.S. military access to the crash site to conduct investigation, apparently in accordance with the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, when the crash took place. See The Japan Times

It was only more than a week later the crash or after the U.S. military had salvaged the burned CH-53 and its debries and had removed away the surface soil of the crash site (without the land owner’s consent and despite the Okinawa police force’s request not to do so) that the Japanese and Okinawa governments were given access to conduct investigation. See The Okinawa Times (in Japanese).  Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and his prefectural government are infuriated with the way the U.S. military has been handling the case.


©The Okinawa Times

Thus, it is hard to be convinced by the U.S. military claim that it is “working closely with Government of Japan and local officials” unless the words “working closely” now mean “forcing one's action upon someone else."

And, how much information could the Okinawa prefectural governments and the prefectural police force get from their site investigation now?


"Sharing Information"?
It is no doubt that the U.S. military is better equipped to conduct investigation on military accidents such as this case than the Japanese government, the Okinawa prefectural government and the prefectural police force are. In this regard, we hope that the U.S. military is conducting a thorough and transparent investigation on the case and will be forthcoming with the results.

We are alarmed however when the U.S. military’s media release states that “We will continue to share information with the government of Japan as details become available and in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement.”

In Okinawa, the Japanese government has been known to withhold from the public information relating to U.S. military bases and facilities even when the U.S. military provides it.

For example, the Japanese government withheld information on the deployment of MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa and information on the flight routes of aircrafts expected to operate at a proposed military base and on the construction plan of a 214-meter wharf at  in Henoko-Oura Bay, as long as it could to get what it wanted. See The Japan Times.

In the past, in fact, the extent to which the Japanese government tried to withhold information was so alarming that the U.S. military claimed in a memorandum that “the JDA [Japan Defense Agency] appeared adamant that they did not want to depict flight paths over land” and that “ the US feels the need to be open with the local Okinawans because their acceptance of the plan is tied to the operational requirement of building the airfield.”  See this Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus article.

Thus, the U.S. military’s assertion that it “will continue to share information with the government of Japan as details become available” does not give assurance or comfort to the people of Okinawa. Instead, it just alarms us more.


Access to information, Public Participation and Access to Justice
As the Aarhus Convention affirms (See this site), the protection of the environment requires the so-called three pillars: “access to information,” “public participation in decision-making,” and “access to justice in environmental matters.”


In Okinawa, as illustrated above, these three pillars remain as illusive as ever when U.S. military is involved. (Besides, the Japanese government has not ratified the Aarhus Convetion for whaever reason.)

Still, we have to keep fighting to gain and secure the rights to “access to information,” “public participatin in decision-making,” and “access to justice in environmetal matters.”

We need and welcome your support for our fight!