US Ambassador ``Dooms`` Japanese Dugong: Greenpeace

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tokyo - (PanOrient News) The U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Ms. Caroline Kennedy, has rejected local opposition of construction of a new U.S military base at Henoko in Okinawa which, according to Greenpeace, threatens extinction of the critically endangered Japanese dugong.

“Not only does this announcement seal the fate of the remaining Japanese dugong, it also flies in the face of communities who have long demanded that their local environment be protected from further destruction,” said Yuki Sekimoto, Head of Media and Communications at Greenpeace Japan.

On Friday (June 19), Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga met U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and expressed opposition to plans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district in Nago, both in the southern Japan prefecture.

During the talks, Kennedy reiterated that the planned relocation is "the only solution" to avoid the continued use of the current Futenma base, according to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Tokyo. But Governor Onaga said that Kennedy did not respond to his request to allow the prefectural government to conduct environmental research in U.S. military-controlled waters off Henoko.

"Ms. Kennedy said the construction is the only solution to replace the current base at Futemma, which is in a crowded residential area. This is despite reports that the US Ambassador is said to be committed to reducing the burden of US bases on the local Okinawan people and supposedly interested in the protection of Japan’s natural environment," Greenpeace statement said.

Greenpeace Japan said it has delivered over 53,326 signatures to the US embassy in Tokyo as a sign of global support for the Okinawan’s struggle to save the last remaining Japanese dugong. They, along with the Okinawan prefectural government, local community groups and other NGOs have raised concerns about the irreversible environmental impact of the base installation in Oura Bay, Henoko.

“We are very disappointed that the US ambassador has not listened to the growing opposition in Okinawa, across Japan and around the world. We will monitor the situation closely in Henoko and continue to work with communities and civil society groups around Japan to protect our natural environment,” said Yuki Sekimoto,

Dugongs are listed by IUCN and the Japanese Environment Ministry as highly at risk of extinction, with some estimates putting their number to as few as 12.

Photo: archive photo of a demonstration held in Tokyo to save the Dugongs.

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