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Okinawa's Revolt: Decades of Rape, Environmental Harm by U.S. Military Spur Residents to Rise Up

Okinawa's residents continue to resist human rights abuses and call for accountability.
 
 
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Nearly 70 years ago the United States took over the Japanese island of Okinawa after one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. More than 200,000 people died, mostly Japanese civilians. Today the United States operates 34 bases on the island and is planning to build a new state-of-the-art Marine base, despite mass protests. A multi-decade movement of Okinawa residents has pushed for ousting U.S. forces off the island, citing environmental concerns and sexual assaults by U.S. soldiers on local residents. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by two guests: Kozue Akibayashi, a professor and activist in Japan with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Women’s International Network Against Militarism; and John Junkerman, a documentary filmmaker currently working on a film about U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Amy Goodman : We are on the road in Japan, broadcasting from Tokyo for the second of three special broadcasts. Our visit to Japan comes less than a month after thousands of people rallied on the Japanese island of Okinawa to protest plans to build a new U.S. military base. Demonstrators surrounded a government building and staged a sit-in inside. The protests came after local officials agreed to a deal in mid-December that will relocate one of the existing U.S. bases from a densely populated urban area to a more remote location. But a decades-long movement of Okinawa residents has opposed the base altogether and pushed for ousting U.S. forces off the island, citing environmental concerns and sexual assaults by U.S. soldiers on local residents. One protester explained how the presence of the Okinawa base caused a major tragedy in his family.

Hirotoshi Iha : [translated] I’ve never been able to accept any soldiers to be stationed here. One of the reasons goes back to 1954 or ’55, when I was in eighth or ninth grade. I had a five-year-old relative named Yumiko Nagayama. An American soldier kidnapped her in a jeep in broad daylight. He took her to a field in Kadena and stripped her naked, then raped her, murdered her and discarded her body.

AG: The United States has been using Okinawa as a key military site since the bloody Battle of Okinawa in 1945, when more than 200,000 people were killed, most Japanese civilians. The U.S. now maintains 34 bases and 18,000 troops on Okinawa.

For more, we’re joined in our Toyko studio by two guests. We’re joined by Kozue Akibayashi, a professor and activist in Japan with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the International Women’s Network Against Militarism.

John Junkerman is a documentary filmmaker living in Tokyo, currently working on a film about the U.S. military bases in Okinawa. His past films include "Japan’s Peace Constitution," also "Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima," which was nominated for an Academy Award, and "Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times."

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with you, Kozue. Explain the latest developments in the Okinawa U.S. military base.

Kozue Akibayashi : As you introduced, there was a — there has been a plan to relocate Futenma air station of the Marine Corps to a remote area of Henoko in Nago city, and people have protested for longer than 15 years by now. The latest development for us, to our surprise, is that the governor of Okinawa approved the reclamation of the area, the planned area of Henoko in the sea area, to build the new facility, like you said, a state-of-the-art Marine Corps facilities in this beautiful sea of Henoko.