Summary of Okinawa Base News, April 8-14, 2018

Here’s a summary of recent developments involving US bases in Okinawa. Please note that quotations come from the linked sources, but the comments are mine.

Remember the CH-53E helicopter that burned up after an “emergency landing” on grazing land in Takae last October? A report by local fire department officials “says the officials could not find out whether the fire started during the flight or upon landing, because their request for an on-site investigation was rejected.” Avoiding public knowledge of such information is precisely why the US military prevents local authorities from doing their jobs.

Governor Onaga will undergo surgery for a tumor on his pancreas. “The 67-year-old said he wants to return to official duties as soon as possible as he remains committed to strongly opposing the state’s controversial plan to relocate a key U.S. military base within the prefecture with his current four-year term set to end in December.”

A US Marine was sentenced to a four-year prison term for a drunk-driving incident last November in which his vehicle struck and killed a local man in Naha. Of course, such tragedies will continue as long as US bases are concentrated in Okinawa.

According to “sources”, the Japanese government plans to begin land reclamation for the Henoko base in July – meaning it will start depositing soil into the part of Oura Bay surrounded by the seawalls currently under construction. Governor Onaga had refused “to sign off on the Defense Ministry’s request to relocate an endangered species of coral at the site, but Tokyo now plans to preserve the coral as, the sources said.” That mystifying phrase was later clarified somewhat: “Concerning the plan to move embankment work forward without transplanting the colony of Stylaraea punctata, the ODB [Okinawa Defense Bureau] has mentioned the potential of decreasing the amount of rock put into the ocean per day, and increasing the number of silt barriers set up around the seawalls from two layers to four layers so as not to affect the surroundings.” Given how risky-sounding the original plan to transport the coral was, I’m ever more skeptical of plan B. As Ryukyu Shimpo notes, “the Japanese government appears to be trying to evade any authority that the governor can exercise.”

Remember the school near Futenma airbase where a window from a CH-53E helicopter fell last December? In the 39 days after the playground was reopened in February, “pupils had to evacuate the field and take shelter inside 242 times due to the approach of U.S. aircraft…. The U.S. military has not suspended flights in the vicinity of schools, so children’s right to receive education is being constantly infringed upon.” Would a grade school in Osaka have to endure this? Would a school in California? No, but Tokyo and Washington think nothing of inflicting it on Okinawa.

Journalist Jon Mitchell tweets: “Okinawa: Following recent revelations that new USMC base at Nago sits on tectonic faultline, now it also seems tall structures around area will pose collision risk to military aircraft.” In order to sell us on the Henoko base, the US and Japan tell us it would avoid the dangers posed by Futenma. Fortunately, we’re learning that’s bogus while there’s still time to stop it.

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One Response to “Summary of Okinawa Base News, April 8-14, 2018”

  1. Summary of Okinawa Base News, April 15-21, 2018 | Jon Reinsch's Blog Says:

    […] Shimpo provided additional details (in English) on an issue mentioned in last week’s summary – namely, that a number of structures in the vicinity of the Henoko base site are higher than […]

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