World Conference against A & H Bombs
Higa Mizuki, Member of Okinawa Prefectural Assembly
2015 World Conference against A & H Bombs
Member of Okinawa Prefectural Assembly
Prospects for All-Okinawan Struggle against a New U.S. Base
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to report at this International Meeting of the World Conference against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs about what is going on in Okinawa.
The year 2014 marked a historic turning point for the Okinawan people. In fact, residents of Okinawa Prefecture, by an all-Okinawan campaign organized across differences in political position between conservatives and progressives, won the election of Onaga Takeshi as Governor. Onaga had publicly promised in his campaign to close down and dismantle the U.S. Futenma airbase instead of relocating it elsewhere within the prefecture. He had told the voters: “We Okinawans were divided and had been hurting each other for many years over the issue of whether to accept or reject the U.S military presence, a presence that we had not asked for. Some people have been looking down upon our quarrel and smiling with satisfaction. I mean those in the U.S and Japanese governments that have imposed U.S. bases upon us. That is why we need to make the utmost effort to unite and defend the common position set out in the People’s Petition. The Petition categorically rejects the construction of any new U.S. base. Let us hand down an Okinawa that we can be proud of to our children and grandchildren.” Onaga’s words deeply touched the Okinawan people, who had endured a history of suffering upon suffering. Eventually he won a landslide victory with a large margin of more than 100 thousands votes over the incumbent Governor, who had betrayed them.
Despite this, ignoring the will of the Okinawan people, the Abe administration is trying to bulldoze through the construction plan for a new base in Henoko. Huge concrete blocks are being thrown into the beautiful sea that is our pride before the world, where endangered dugongs swim playfully. Precious corals are being crushed into pieces. State power repeatedly cracks down on non-violent protest sit-ins through unfair arrests and excessively severe policing.
In April, Prime Minister Abe delivered a speech before the U.S. Congress. He assured the Congress that he would get the security legislation (or war bills) through the Diet by this summer. When he announced this, the bills had not even been deliberated on by the Diet. To appeal his “loyalty” to the U.S., he dared to declare that building a new U.S. base in Henoko was the only solution and deliberately avoided mentioning the will of the people of Okinawa.
In May, an Okinawan delegation led by Governor Onaga went to the U.S. to explain to the U.S. public what the people of Okinawa actually wanted. As expected, the first response of U.S. federal lawmakers to our request was to remind us that “relocation of the base to Henoko has been agreed between the U.S. and Japanese governments”.
We then showed them the Okinawan newspaper with articles reporting about the large popular rally held just before our visit to the U.S in which 35,000 people participated. We told U.S. congressmen: “An all-Okinawa call, united across the vast political spectrum, has now spread all over Japan. Nationwide opinion polls have shown that those who are against the new Henoko base exceed those who are in favor. What we call into question is not only the planned construction of a new military base but also the democratic institutions in Japan and the U.S.” We told the congressmen that the will of Okinawans is unwavering and that “we will never allow the base construction, even though the governments of our two countries have decided that Henoko is the only solution”.
Some of the U.S. lawmakers who listened to our story made frank comments. One confessed: ”We have never heard anything like that from Tokyo. Your story allows us to have a more detail idea of the real situation in Okinawa.” Another said, “I personally have sympathy with the argument of the Okinawan people.” It should be remembered that Kurt Campbell, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under the Obama administration, said in an interview with Japanese media: “Any agreement has to be done with the support of the people of Okinawa and their government, and so the fact that there is this kind of opposition causes all of us to stop and reflect. …the governor’s visit to Washington was an opportunity for Americans to hear from him directly about his vision for Okinawa .
We Okinawans are not isolated in carrying on our struggle. The sit-in that Okinawan grandmas and grandpas started in Henoko has grown into an all Okinawan movement and their voices have now reached as far as Washington. It is not Prime Minister Abe who determines the way for our country. It is the voices of each sovereign Japanese person and of their movement that drive politics forward.
The only ground the Japanese and U.S. governments can invoke for forcibly building a new base in Henoko is the “approval for Henoko landfill project” signed by former Governor Nakaima in violation of his own campaign pledge. Governor Onaga is now seriously considering the cancellation or withdrawal of this approval. He must take the final decision by this summer. I sincerely ask all of you gathered here from all over Japan and the world to extend greater support and solidarity to our unyielding struggle led by Governor Onaga.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As I was born and grew up in Okinawa, I thought I knew Okinawa very well. Yet, the more I learned about the history of Okinawa, the more I wondered why older generations who lived under the U.S. occupation wanted Okinawa to be again part of Japan.
During the fierce ground battle that took place in Okinawa 70 years ago, a quarter of the population lost their lives. Why did our grandmothers and grandfathers, who were used as sacrificial stones to buy time to prepare for the decisive battle for the mainland, want the return of Okinawa to Japan? Even after the end of the war, Japan abandoned Okinawa by signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty. How could our mothers and fathers, who had had their basic human rights trampled under the U.S. occupation, want to become Japanese again? Even 43 years after the reversion of Okinawa, the U.S. bases remain there and the Japanese government continues to impose their presence on the Okinawan people. Why did the Okinawan people under the U.S. occupation struggle for the Reversion to Japan of their islands? I could not understand it.
One day, my father gave me a straight answer to my questioning. He said, “Okinawans wanted to be under the rule of the Japanese Constitution. They wanted to be governed by the Constitution which stipulates the sovereignty of the people. They wanted their basic human rights to be guaranteed under the Constitution. And they wanted to have a Constitution which renounces forever wars and armaments. This is why all the Okinawan islands united and worked hard.” My doubt disappeared like melting ice and I felt proud of being born and brought up in Okinawa.
The first atomic bombs used in war were those dropped 70 years ago on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Three million[PW1] Japanese lives were lost. Our Constitution was born out of such a tremendous human sacrifice. And now, we are seeing the Constitution placed in jeopardy and Japan turning into a country waging wars against other countries.
What Japan needs now is not a strengthened Japan-U.S. military alliance or construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko, not to mention the adoption of perilous war legislation. Instead, Japan should play a leading role in diplomatic efforts for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons so as to ensure a peaceful solution of international disputes, making full use of our pacifist Constitution which we can boast of before the world.
“Each individual has limited power but is not completely powerless.” This is what we have learned through the Okinawan struggle. Let us unite our strength and act together believing in the justice and faith of peace-loving peoples of the world. We as individuals are sovereign in our country and we are the ones who have the power to decide our future. Thank you for your attention.