The G-8 Summit in Okinawa
The following is a press release developed by the Okinawa Peace Network of Los Angeles stating our position on the G-8 Summit and its implications for the push to remove the U.S. military presence from Okinawa.
Date: July 22, 2000
LOS ANGELES, CA., July 22, 2000 - The Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles issued a statement today urging President Clinton to uphold his commitment to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region by revising the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to include a specified timeline for the removal of U.S. military bases from Okinawa, Japan, combined with a commitment to freeze development of a new military heliport off the coast of Henoko, a city in Okinawa. The Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles additionally urged Clinton to develop a plan for the removal and clean up of military toxics from these bases, and draft safeguards to keep the U.S. military from committing human rights abuses on Okinawans.
Following the recent protests by Okinawans against the U.S. military for the recent molestation of an Okinawan schoolgirl by military personnel on July 3rd and a recent hit and run accident involving military personnel and Okinawan citizens on July 9th, the Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles issued a statement supporting the more than 7,000 Okinawans who demonstrated in Ginowan City, Okinawa outside of Futenma Marine Corp Air Station, and the 30,000 people who linked arms to form a human chain around Kadena Air Force base to continue their protests on this issue.
"The Okinawans have lived under the shadow of U.S. military bases for 55 years and we as U.S. citizens have to support them in saying enough is enough," stated Martha Matsuoka, spokesperson for the Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles. "The Okinawan people's protests show that they have had enough of security strategies that have resulted in violence against women and children, contamination of the environment, and that have retarded the development of a potentially viable local economy."
The Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles further noted that there are 39 U.S. military bases and 26,000 troops in Okinawa, and stressed that the Okinawan people's demands for an alternative framework of security come from more than half a century of dealing with U.S. military crimes and the presence of military toxics in Okinawa. Since 1972, more than 4,700 crimes have been committed by U.S. troops in Okinawa and military toxics have been linked to increasing numbers of low-birth weight babies and higher incidences of cancer and leukemia in Okinawan adults and children.
The Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles is a Southern California area network of U.S. citizens dedicated to the removal of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Formed in 1995, following the rape of a 12-year old Okinawan school girl by U.S. military personnel, the Okinawa Peace Network - Los Angeles works in conjunction with chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hawaii, and Boston, Massachusetts.
While the article below gives too much airplay to Clinton's empty statements regarding the intents of the U.S. at the G-8 Summit meetings and is not very critical of the very role of the G-8 members, the policies that they implement, and the political maneuvering that brought the G-8 Summit to Okinawa in the first place, the following article does talk about the demonstrations that were held in Okinawa at the time of the G-8 Summit to protest the ongoing military presence there.
Thursday, July 20,
OKINAWA CITY, Japan -- Thousands of protesters formed a human chain around the gates of a US air base Thursday as leaders of the world's industrial powers and Russia assembled on this World War II battleground island to discuss narrowing the gap between rich and poor countries. En route to the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin picked up North Korea and China as allies in his campaign to derail American plans to build an anti-missile nuclear shield. President Clinton set aside his Mideast peacemaking efforts at Camp David, Md., to take part in his farewell summit of the Group of Eight.
"The Okinawa summit will create a framework to fight infectious disease, increase access to basic education and expand opportunity through information technology," Clinton said on the way to the meeting. "Despite a stronger global economy, too many people around the world live every day without essential health care, basic literacy or the opportunity to share in the benefits of modern technology."
His first event was a speech to the people of Okinawa at the island's Peace Park, where a monument's black walls bear the names of 237,318 soldiers -Japanese, American and British -and civilians who perished in the island's ferocious 82 -day World War II battle. So fierce was the fighting that it convinced President Harry S. Truman that he had no alternative to using the atom bomb against Japan.
The heavy American military presence on Okinawa today - 30,000 servicemen and women are stationed here - was the target of one of the island's largest protests in years. Organizers claimed more than 25,000 people had mobilized in a human chain stretching 11 miles around Kadena Air Base. Some 22,000 police, most flown in from other parts of Japan, were deployed, but no violence was reported. Protesters - many of them accompanied by their children - wore headbands with anti-base slogans, and organizers yelled into loudspeakers, "Clinton, take your troops home," and "We don't want your troops."
"As teachers, we have vowed never to send our students to war again," said Isao Kaneshiro, head of a local teachers' union. "I want President Clinton to know that we don't want his troops here."
Okinawa - located near the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, China and southeast Asia - is considered by US officials to be of crucial strategic importance. But many Okinawans feel the US presence is too heavy, and want it reduced or eliminated.
Military-related crime is a frequent source of tension. The recent arrest of a 19 -year-old Marine for allegedly breaking into a home and climbing into bed with a sleeping schoolgirl reignited anger.
"Most Okinawans welcome the summit," said an editorial in the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper. "But there are concerns as well. We are concerned that the bases, which cause such damage to us, will be praised by the summit leaders."
The G8 - the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, Canada, Germany, France and now Russia -has held summits each year for the past 25 years. This is the fourth summit Japan has hosted, and the first it has held outside of Tokyo.
While Clinton was en route, Putin wrapped up the first visit by a Russian leader to North Korea. He was joined by the North's ruler, Kim Jong Il, in urging Washington to scrap the proposed missile shield. The two said North Korea's missile program, one reason the United States wants to build the shield, is meant for peaceful purposes, not attacks on other nations.
On Tuesday, Putin and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin signed a statement denouncing the US missile shield plan. France and Germany share Russia's concerns that it could be destabilizing. Russia said it will push at the summit for a write-off of Soviet-era debts, despite a bill passed Wednesday by the US House of Representatives barring debt forgiveness until Russia shuts its intelligence listening post in Lourdes, Cuba.
The meetings are being held at a subtropical, seaside resort in the city of Nago. Officials are hoping it will put Okinawa on the international tourism map. The Foreign Ministry says the summit is expected to cost $750 million, including security, construction and road repairs.