Please sign the petition: U.S. and Japan, Stop Military Colonization of Okinawa

To sign, fill out the form at the bottom please. By signing, you are agreeing that your name, title/organization/occupation, country/region, and comment can be made available to the public. We will NOT publish your email addresses. If you have questions, please email okinawastatement2024@gmail.comThank you!



U.S. and Japan, Stop Military Colonization of Okinawa: International Statement

January 2024

President Joe Biden and the citizens of the United States

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and the citizens of Japan 

One decade ago, 103 international scholars, journalists, artists and peace advocates, including linguist Noam Chomsky and former U.S. Army colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, issued a statement opposing the construction of yet another U.S. Marine Corps base on the Cape of Henoko in the northern part of Okinawa Island. Yet even now, the U.S. and Japanese governments persist with this costly landfill project in the face of opposition by the majority of Okinawans, recklessly damaging the irreplaceable ecosystem. Unfortunately, the Henoko side of the construction, which accounts for about one fourth of the total area to be reclaimed, is almost complete. Now they are about to launch reclamation on the north, the deep and preciously diverse Oura Bay. 

Plans to build the base at Henoko have been on the drawing board since the 1960s. They were revitalized in a 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement (SACO) as a “replacement facility” for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma situated dangerously in the middle of congested Ginowan City. More than a quarter of a century later, the two governments have not yet returned the land occupied by the Futenma base to the people to whom it belongs, and there have even been reports that the U.S. aims to maintain both bases after the new base is built. 

We, the signatories of this petition, who advocate for Okinawa’s right to self-determination, democracy, and autonomy, hereby renew our support for the Okinawan people who reject further militarization of Okinawa, a de facto military colony of the United States and Japan ever since the end of World War II. 

Okinawa, previously the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, was forcibly annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1879 after three centuries of domination by feudal Japan. The people of the Ryukyu chain of islands were forcefully assimilated into Japan, deprived of their languages, their names, their traditions, and their dignity as sovereign and autonomous peoples, much like many indigenous peoples around the world who were colonized by Western imperial powers. 

Toward the end of the Asia-Pacific War, Japan used Okinawa as a “sacrificial pawn,” keeping the battle there in an effort to protect the “emperor’s land,” and mobilized the entire population of the islands. The war between Japan and the United States killed over 120,000 Okinawan people, which was more than one-fourth of the population. The U.S. military then took control of the islands as a spoil of the war, and almost eight decades later it still occupies Okinawan land, air and sea, causing enormous human rights violations including rape and murder, deadly aircraft and vehicle accidents, and environmental degradations such as PFAS contamination of water. 

On 20 December 2023, the High Court of Fukuoka, Naha Branch ordered Okinawa Prefecture to approve the change in the government’s construction method in order to deal with the “mayonnaise-like” soft ocean bed that would require costly, protracted, and “impossible”(according to experts) ground reinforcement to enable reclamation of the Oura Bay part of the new base. Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who won the 2018 and 2022 gubernatorial elections on a platform of opposition to the Henoko base, rejected the court order on 25 December, and submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court on 27 December. 

On 28 December, the Japanese government approved the plan alteration on behalf of Okinawa Prefecture, in an extraordinary, FIRST EVER exercise of the “execution by proxy” (daishikkō) under the Local Autonomy Law that was revised in 1999. 

In a word, the court has effectively allowed the state to take the law into its own hands and trample on the right to autonomy of the local government. The Japanese government is expected to start reclamation work on Oura Bay on 12 January 2024. 

An Okinawa Times editorial on 28 December argued: 

Execution by proxy under the Local Autonomy Law is unprecedented anywhere in Japan. Under the pretext of “eliminating the danger of the Futenma Air Station as soon as possible,” the Japanese government has resorted to strong-arm tactics that infringe on local autonomy.

The Ryukyu Shimpo, another Okinawan newspaper, asked in its 27 December editorial:

Would people in other prefectures approve of such a situation befalling their own communities? … are they indifferent because they think that this unprecedented ruling against Okinawa [execution by proxy] couldn't possibly happen elsewhere?

It is colonial indifference. The rest of Japan does not care, and the vast majority of U.S. citizens are unaware of what their government is doing in Okinawa. 

President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida, and citizens of the United States and Japan, we must end the discrimination and military colonization of Okinawa. The first step is to cancel the construction of the new base in Henoko, on Oura Bay, which is expected to cost over 6.5 billion U.S. dollars and take more than 10 years to complete. 

It is high time that we do the right thing. 

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