Okinawa and Guam:
In the Shadow of U.S. and Japanese “Global Defense Posture”
Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost prefecture lying between mainland Japan and Taiwan off China’s east coast. The main island measures twice the size of Guam and has a population roughly seven times greater, or one-third the size of New York’s Long Island with 50,000 more people. On its slender, irregularly shaped island, which constitutes a mere 0.3 per cent of the country、Okinawa hosts 75 per cent in size of all U.S. only military bases in Japan, exclusive of sea and air space. U.S. bases include the Marine Corps jungle training, aviation, bombing and shooting ranges, landing training grounds and an ammunition depot, the largest Air Force base in the region with its own ammunition site, a naval station often visited by nuclear submarines and Army facilities, adding in sum to roughly one-fifth of the densely populated island. It is home to an estimated 24,600 U.S. service personnel, out of a total of 36,000 in all of Japan, many of them living with their dependents in fenced-in “American towns” with schools, gyms, golf courses, shopping centers and churches. Nearly 90 per cent (about 15,000 in number) of the Japan-based Marines are concentrated in Okinawa.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in the middle of a residential area of the city of Ginowan (population 91,000) north of the capital Naha, reportedly stations 2000 to 4000 personnel of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing of the III Marine Expeditionary Force. Helicopters and fixed/wing aircraft are constantly flying low in circles over the residences, schools and hospitals for embarkation and touch-and-go exercises, creating roaring noise and the danger of crashes. People are so concerned that they have long been demanding its closure and return, with particular urgency since 2004 when one of Futenma’s heavy helicopters spiraled into the wall of the administration building of a university right across the fence and splattered its broken pieces all over during the summer break. In 2006, the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed to relocate many Okinawa-based Marines to Guam by 2014 to lessen the Okinawan people’s burdens or to accommodate “the pressing need to reduce friction on Okinawa.” MCAS Futenma would be returned, but only after being replaced by a new facility that Japan would construct within Okinawa.* MORE READING