Stop Henoko! Okinawans protest against US military base expansion, rape of island women, and ocean destruction

RT, April 29, 2015
Interview with Center for Biological Diversity’s Peter Galvin:

If the US military base in Okinawa is relocated to Henoko, the habitat of the endangered Okinawa dugong sea mammal, will be wiped off the map, said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological diversity. The species is already down to a few dozen, he added.

RT: What is so wrong about the re-location of the US base from an ecological prospective?

Peter Galvin: The organization I work for, The Center for Biological Diversity focuses on the wildlife environmental protection [of] endangered species. Our focus is to protect wildlife and animals and the environment where they are threatened. And in the case of Okinawa we have a situation where there is an endangered marine mammal, the Okinawa dugong – a very, very rare population of dugongs which is kind of like a sea cow, a little bit like a manatee that they have in the US. And these gentle giants of the ocean… there is between 12 and 15 dugongs remaining in Okinawa… They are a critically endangered population and the site of their habitat in Okinawa, the primary habitat is the site that US and Japanese governments want to fill in to expand a military base in Henoko.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t rape the sea!’ Hundreds protest US military base relocation plan in Japan

The base controversy has a strong environmental component to it, as well as folks in Okinawa that are concerned about peace issues, sovereignty issues, and military threat issues. Our focus is environmental issues. In this situation there is a convergence of a variety of issues including environmental issues, peace, Okinawa sovereignty issues – all playing together in one action. It is a very controversial proposal. The base plan would fill in a very rich area of coral reef in a place called Oura Bay which is on the eastern side of Okinawa, north east Okinawa. And it would be just an enormous landfill project into the ocean which has a huge number of people in Okinawa, in Japan, throughout the world up in arms that in this day and age the US and Japanese governments would pay so little heed to the local population, that they would basically just bulldoze over the local opposition and literally bulldoze over the coral reef and fill it in. So the dugong is a desperately endangered marine mammal that we’ve been working to protect for two decades. Our group along with several other groups launched a lawsuit in US Federal Court, a number of years ago to stop this base expansion project. Our case still continues through the court system. But unfortunately, the project is in the beginning phases now. And as you can see there’s a huge amount of controversy in Okinawa over it that is now manifesting.

RT: Could you give examples of how the re-location of the US base to Henoko is harming flora and fauna? We’ve heard about concrete blocks in the ocean. Any other examples?

PG: Literally, you used the word concrete. And yes, as a matter of fact one of the aspects of any kind of project like this is the contractors bore into the ocean at different places to see the strength of the material at the ocean floor. The sound of the drilling, the construction process, and all the ships out there dumping the concrete pilings into the ocean. … Dugongs are herbivores and they feed on sea grass, they graze like a cow… The huge amount of disturbance in the area is causing the dugongs to change their patterns and that’s a risk enough. But here is the real problem: after these boring surveys and the concrete blocks, if the project continues literally millions and millions of tons of soil are brought in and the ocean itself is filled and land is created from the ocean, the coral reef will be entirely decimated, the sea grass in that entire area will be gone. This is the prime feeding habitat for the endangered Okinawa dugong. These species is down to a few dozen individuals and this is its primary habitat. The impact from the base cannot be understated or overstated and will literally wipe this area of the habitat off the map.

‘Don’t rape the sea!’ Hundreds protest US military base relocation plan in Japan
RT, April 28, 2015

About 300 people protested against the planned relocation of a US military base in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture. The rally fell on the 63rd anniversary of the country’s regaining of sovereignty after its defeat in World War II.

The demonstrators gathered on Tuesday, at the gates of the US Marines’ Camp Schwab in the tourist seaside town of Nago, Kyodo news agency reported. The district has been proposed as a relocation site for the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The participants of the protest chanted slogans such as “we’re opposed to a new base” and “don’t destroy the beautiful sea.”

Alongside with “peace issues, sovereignty issues and military threat issues”, the base relocation controversy “has a strong environmental component,” Peter Galvin, founder of the US Center for Biological Diversity, told RT.

An “enormous landfill project to the ocean” in order to expand a military base in Henoko is being planned, according to Galvin.

Okinawa is meanwhile home to a population of an endangered species of marine mammals, called the dugong. There are only between 12 to 50 sea-cow like creatures left in the bay site, a fragile ecosystem of a coral reef.

Social Democratic Party chief Tadatomo Yoshida and Okinawa prefectural assembly members were among the protesters who chose to oppose the base relocation plan in boats at sea.

According to the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), four people ended up in the ocean waters, as one of the boats capsized. It was intercepted by a JCG vessel after a breach of a no-entry zone, and one person was hospitalized.

“I am a doctor, I should save life, save nature – that’s my duty. We have been suffering for nearly 70 years,” Toshiro Uehara, native Okinawan and anti-US base protester, told RT. “I believe in the Japanese constitution, article nine. It denies military.”

Susumu Inamine, Nago mayor, recalled the anger of Okinawa residents in 2013, when Tokyo celebrated the date. He also criticized the fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the White House on that very day to have talks with US President Barack Obama.

Australian citizen, who has been living in Okinawa for many years, Catherine Jane Fisher from WARriors Japan (Women Against Rape) shared her story with RT. She said she was raped by a US military serviceman, who was later found guilty, but managed to flee from Japan to the US.

“Don’t rape us!” and “Don’t rape the sea!” were the slogans, that united the protesters, according to Fisher.

“Many of the women who have been protesting the last twenty years, who have been sitting outside camps of the military base, have been raped,” Fisher told RT. “I will continue to fight for the Okinawan people against zero tolerance policy, which the United States has so blatantly set for the last 20 years – with continued rapes and murders.”

Okinawa prefecture remained under US control until 1972, when it was returned to Japan. Yet, it was on April 28, 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty ended the postwar occupation of the country, known as a “day of insult” in the southern prefecture.

OWAAMV Issues Statement to US Consulate

Protest Statement against Sexual Assault by US Sailors and
Demand for Withdrawal of US Military from Okinawa

We, people of Okinawa, particularly women, have suffered as a result of the long-term stationing of US military and their bases in Okinawa. We are deeply shocked and outraged at the alleged gang-rape and injury committed by US sailors on October 16th. It has been reported that the victim was attacked as she was walking home alone from work and that she had a mark of possible strangulation on her neck. We strongly deplore such a crime that targeted a woman, violating her freedom and safety. We remember another recent sexual assault case by a US soldier in Naha in August this year, and hundreds of others over many years.
The perpetrators, two US sailors, had arrived at Kadena Air Base from the US mainland on transport duty, staying over in Okinawa for only two nights. The crime was reported to have been committed within a few hours before they were to depart Okinawa for Guam, the next stop on their return to the US. We are appalled by the fact that they committed this sexual crime during their brief tour of duty. This clearly reveals the violence structured into the institution of the military. If the victim had not reported the crime to the local police quickly enough, the perpetrators would have left Okinawa without being apprehended. Then the crime would never have been disclosed.
Moreover, the unsafe Marine Corps aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, has been forcibly deployed in Okinawa recently, ignoring the very strong protest of Okinawan citizens. These planes are now flying over residential areas, posing a deep threat from the air to people of Okinawa. On the ground, the numerous cases of sexual assault accidents and other crimes continue to pose another threat to Okinawan people. We recently learned from the Department of Defense Annual Report of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program that in Fiscal Year 2011, the rate of sexual assaults against female soldiers on the bases in Okinawa was twice as high as that of other bases. This statistic does not even include sexual assaults against Okinawan women.

Since June 2006, the US military in Okinawa has issued a midnight curfew on soldiers for an indefinite period in order to cope with frequent occurrences of crimes committed by US soldiers, including hit & runs or taxi robberies. The perpetrators of this particular sexual assault were not subject to this curfew as they are not stationed in Okinawa. We question whether any disciplinary measures are taken regarding those military personnel who stay in Okinawa temporarily.
The physical and psychological pain and the fear that the victim has to endure must be enormous. The care and treatment for the victim needs to be the first priority, and the perpetrators must be strictly punished. Repeated cases of violence against women by US soldiers and a long-standing pattern of human rights violations against Okinawan people by US soldiers demonstrate the insecurity and threat caused by the long-term stationing of the US military to the lives and dignity of Okinawan people. We also need to be mindful of a number of other victims of sexual assault by US soldiers who could not come forward.

Standing on our analysis that the military is an institution in which violence is intrinsic and that the military does not provide genuine security in local communities or among nations, we demand the following:

  • Respect for the privacy of the woman victim, and physical and psychological care for her.
  • Apology to be issued to the woman victim by US military authorities; and the perpetrators to be strictly punished.
  • Banning of all off-base activities for all US military personnel, in order to secure safe living environments for women and children.
  • Withdrawal of all US military bases from Okinawa.



Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence
3-29-41-402 Kumoji, Naha
Okianawa, 900-0015 Japan
Ph. Fax: +81-98-864-1539

Statement was addressed to:

Hirokazu Nakaima, Govenor of Okinawa Prefecture
Yoshihiko Noda, Prime Minister
Koichiro Genba, Foreign Minister                                                                                                                                                                      Satoshi Morimoto, Defense Minister
Barack Obama, President of the United States
John V. Roos, U.S. Ambassador to Japan
Kenneth Glueck, Okinawa Area Coordinator and Commanding General of III Marine Expeditionary Force
Alfred Magleby, U.S. Consul General of Naha, Okinawa

One thought on “Stop Henoko! Okinawans protest against US military base expansion, rape of island women, and ocean destruction

  1. This makes me think of two things. First, about the recent report of the Colombian government which alleged that U.S. military members and American defense contractors had raped 50+ underage girls in Colombia over the past few years. Secondly, about a recent Marine experiment involving the launching of an explosives-laden drone from (I believe) an Osprey aircraft. To call these two developments troubling would be an understatement. Thank you for your articles and political engagement. –Paul

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