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Intellectuals call for end to Futenma replacement project

Date Posted: 2008-08-22

A group of 18 intellectuals on Okinawa is calling for an end to plans for expanding Camp Schwab as the replacement for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan City.

The group, which counts academicians, professors, writers and attorneys among its numbers, wants the Japanese and US governments to drop the Henoko project, which would involve building two V-shape runways into Oura Bay at Camp Schwab in order to relocate military aviation missions from Futenma to northern Okinawa. In a joint statement issued at a press conference at Okinawa Prefecture offices, the group said “Construction of a new military base would destroy mountains and kill the sea.”

Among the 18 group members are Masaaki Gabe, professor at the University of the Ryukyus, Kunitoshi Sakurai, President of Okinawa University, prize-winning novelist Tatsuhiro Oshiro, Moriteru Arasaki, professor emeritus at Okinawa University, and Seigen Miyazato. “Politics in Okinawa is in a state in which thinking has effectively stopped,” says Miyazato who adds “it’s a mistake to think that building a replacement facility in Henoko is a matter of course, and that the situation can be resolved by providing incentives and subsidies to the local communities.”

American presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama are to receive the group’s declaration, noting “Okinawa does not need such a facility” as the replacement airfield at Henoko. The group is telling the two American politicians Okinawa is being unfairly burdened with U.S. military installations, explaining there appears to be the attitude Okinawa’s population, which represents less than 1% of Japan’s 127 million citizens, is forced to support many military installations.

Miyazato says he believes the U.S. elections will mark “a turning point” in relations with Japan, and says “we want to correct the mistaken assumptions of the people in Okinawa by asking both the Japanese and American governments” to right the wrongs.

The statement has also been sent to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Motoo Hayashi, the Spcial Minister for Okinawa Affairs, and Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima. Miyazato also says the group’s statement will be sent to U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

The intellectuals say they’ll conduct a series of meetings, forums and symposiums in Okinawa about the U.S. military bases, but will also make their voices heard in other places,too.

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