Yoichi Iha Attacks US Bases in Okinawa

Monday, October 25, 2010

Iha Hitotsubo

Tokyo -- Yoichi Iha, who recently stepped down as mayor of Ginowan City, Okinawa, held a political gathering on Friday to demand the closing and withdrawal of US base at Futenma in the face of the upcoming election for Okinawa governor on November 28th.

Iha, a leading candidate for governor, raised questions about the manner in which Japan-based US military bases have been maintained since the US-Japan security arrangement in 1960. He manifested his will to "stubbornly oppose further base construction in Okinawa."

Iha criticized the Japanese and US governments for promoting additional base construction in his prefecture and asserted that "their attitudes completely ignore the Okinawan people and I oppose them as an ordinary citizen."

"Though Japan still thinks that the existence of US military bases protects the interests of Japan, this is nothing but a hangover from the way of thinking during the Cold War era," he added.

Iha also notes that "most of the US bases in Japan have remained basically unchanged from fifty years ago" and that they consistently fail to maintain the international environmental and legal standards that have developed in the meantime.

"Japan must review how the camps were installed in the midst of Cold War from the perspective of environmental contamination and the security of the bases' neighbors," he declared.

Iha also trained his fire on the Japanese central government, which he accuses of failing to protect the lives and interests of its own citizens in Okinawa.

He specifically rebuked the government for how it handles economic development funds in the southernmost prefecture. He argued that the development budget is "full of gimmicks" which amount to payoffs to those who support the maintenance of US bases.

"These development funds are distributed for the sake of the US bases and not for the sake of the people of Okinawa," he contended.

Iha closed his speech by saying, "Japanese have acted as if our nation would be secure if only the US guard dog was chained out in front of the house. This way of thinking is passé and as governor of Okinawa I would oppose the construction of new US bases."

Ryoichi Hattori, an SDP lawmaker of the House of Representatives, attended the opening of the event and declared his support for Iha's election.

He declared, "We will burn the issue of Henoko into history!"

Zenko Nakamura, an Assembly Member of Nago City, said, "In the name of so-called deterrence, the Hatoyama and Kan cabinets have supported the relocation of US bases inside Japan in spite of the fact that the DPJ had promised to create an equal relationship with the United States. I want them to confront the United States to its face and consider the people of Okinawa seriously."

Yasumi Iwakami, a journalist who listened to Iha's speech, said, "Iha is a very logical man. He studied harder than anyone else about the issue of Okinawa bases. Since his speech is based on hard data, it is very convincing."

Over four hundred people gathered and cheered Iha on to win the Okinawa gubernatorial election. The event was organized by an Okinawa anti-base group and a dozen NGOs. It is quite unusual for a local election in Japan to generate national attention.

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