Source: Ryuyu Shimpo, 5/18/2019
ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION IN HENOKO
Concrete blocks and metal bars have been dropped into the ocean on top of the coral to outline where the base will be constructed. Rows and rows of 400 trucks regularly carry large rocks out to the ocean. Red dirt is scraped from our mountaintops and put into our own water each day.
In the Henoko region on the island of Okinawa, a new U.S. Marine Corps base is being built on top of coral and an irreplaceable habitat – home to one of the most biodiverse ocean areas on the planet. Here, over 5300 species live in Oura Bay, with 262 endangered species, including the manatee-like dugong and sea turtles. It is also home to the largest blue coral colony in the world.
Back in December 2018, the Ryukyu Shimpo reported that two of the closely monitored dugong had gone missing due to the noise level of the base construction hurting their ability to graze on seaweed beds. Then, just this past March, the mother dugong was found dead to the grief expressed among many Uchinanchu people who cherish the dugong for its ancient heritage and culture significance.
Today, the Japanese government in partnership with the U.S. military continues to build a new base in the ocean, which is planned to total 205 hectares – the size of 383 football fields. Our beautiful, tropical ecosystem with all of its internationally recognized and protected biodiversity is being crushed, destroying coral and marine life forever.
Although the media has reported very little outside of Okinawa, the fight for Henoko has been ongoing.
OKINAWAN PEOPLES' FIGHT FOR HENOKO
Governor Takeshi Onaga, who had succeeded in halting the base construction, passed away from cancer in August 2018 and the Okinawan people elected a new governor, Denny Tamaki, by an overwhelming majority — based on his promise that he would stop the Henoko destruction. More than 75,000 Okinawans showed up in an island-wide protest during typhoon weather to show the world how strongly we oppose this base construction.
Yet, the Japanese central government resumed the landfill with sand and concrete on December 14th, 2018. Authorities argued that building a new Henoko base is necessary in order to maintain the U.S.-Japan security alliance; and U.S. government leaders argue that the base’s location is for regional security.
Since then, the Okinawan people returned to the polls in an islands-wide referendum that took place on February 24th, 2019. Even after an overwhelming majority opposed the construction of the new base in this democratic process, the Japanese government refused to comply and continues in its urgency to build this U.S. Marine Corps base today.
HISTORY OF MILITARY OCCUPATION IN OKINAWA
This Henoko base construction is framed by the history of colonization and discrimination against Okinawans, as well as by our ongoing resistance as we attempt to end the long era of U.S. occupation. Okinawa was once an independent kingdom; it was colonized by Japan in the 17th century and during World War II became the victim of the bloodiest battle in the history of the Pacific, where more than a third of our people were killed within three months, including members of my family. Ninety-two percent of Okinawans were left homeless.
The United States put Okinawan people into 16 concentration camps and took the land from them during the same time, creating military bases, and imposing a new constitution on Japan that took away Japan’s right to have an offensive military. Henceforth, the U.S. military would “protect” Japan with bases throughout Japanese territory. However, three-quarters of all U.S. bases on Japanese territory are on Okinawa, even though Okinawa makes up only 0.6 percent of the total landmass that Japan controls.
Okinawa’s main island alone is only 70 miles long, and an average of 7 miles wide. It is here that 73 years of U.S. base occupation has created environmental destruction, air pollution and noise pollution, and exposed survivors and families to the sights and sounds of war. Frequent violent crimes against women and children by U.S. military personnel regularly bring out hundreds of thousands of protesters to demand justice and humanity and the complete removal of U.S. bases.
And the occupation continues. Now, the Japanese central government enforces the construction of yet another base — this time in the ocean of Oura Bay in the Henoko region of Okinawa. This new chapter in the ongoing invasion of Okinawa disregards the sovereignty, self-determination and human rights guaranteed by United Nations resolutions. The Okinawan people have voted overwhelmingly to oppose the base construction — for more than 20 years, since the base was first proposed.
As the Japanese government in partnership with the United States continues in the destruction of our ocean, we call on you to rise with us. Help us protect the ocean of Henoko.
Created by Moe Yonamine, content originally published in Common Dreams