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Okinawan Delegation Visits DC for Base Closure


Contact: John Feffer, Institute for Policy Studies

Washington, DC - A delegation of politicians, lawyers, activists and students from Okinawa, Japan, will travel to Washington, DC, from January 21 to January 27 to advocate for the closure of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma.  The delegation of 24 Japanese leaders will hold a series of Congressionalmeetings and community events to raise awareness of the Futenma crisis.

Okinawa is home to approximately 65% of U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ), including the controversial Futenma base in Ginowan City.  The relocation of Futenma base has been in negotiation since 1996 and continues to cause significant political strain on U.S. Japan relations. Given the current political climate in Washington, the group hopes that foreign base closures may comprise a portion of proposed cuts to military spending.

Tactically, the activists from Okinawa share much in common with Occupy protesters. They have been “occupying” proposed base construction sites through vigils, sit-ins and demonstrations for over seven years. The delegation plans to host a teach-in in coordination with Occupy DC and Occupy Washington DC (see Event 2 below for more information and contact John Feffer above for forthcoming details).

Former Ginowan City Mayor Yoichi Iha is a major organizing force behind the delegation. Members will include National Diet (Japanese parliament) members from Okinawa, prefectural assembly members, lawsuit plaintiffs and lawyers, woman’s rights activists, environmental activists, sit-in protesters from Henoko and Takae, and students.

“The U.S. can bolster their presence in Asia at the same time they reduce their outdated footprint on Okinawa,” says Suzuyo Takasato, an organizer of the delegation. “The people of Okinawa are solidified in their opposition to the base.  It is pointless to keep a military base open that does nothing but create animosity towards the United States.”

As the U.S. shifts its foreign policy focus to Asia, the delegation hopes this will mean a leaner military presence in Okinawa. “In this case, less is more,” says John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. “Less Marines in Okinawa translates to more resources for combating 21st century threats like cyber attacks, and a drawdown could improve strategic mobility.”

Press is invited to attend the following events planned by the delegation:

Event 1

WHO:Partial delegation

*Speakers*

Ms. Keiko Itokazu, Member of Japanese National Diet

Mr. Osamu Makishi, Citizens’ Network for Okinawan Biodiversity

Mr. Toshio Ikemiyagi, Leading attorney of the lawsuit for the Kadena Air

Base’s noise pollution

*Moderator*

Mr. John feffer, Institute for Policy Studies

Prefectural legislators, peace and environmental activists, and students from Okinawa, Japan

WHAT:Panel discussion on environmental and civic rights impacts of US military bases in             Okinawa

WHEN:  January, 23 2011, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

WHERE: Langston Room, Busboys and Poets, 14th & Vst.  N.W. Washington D.C.

WHY: U.S. military bases in Okinawa have been the source of dramatic controversy in Japan
and the US for decades. Many in Okinawa have criticized US bases for the dangers they pose, including military accidents, environmental and health damage, and crimes committed by US military personnel--most infamously, the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl.

PHOTO: Japanese members of parliament, prefectural assembly members, activists

 

Event 2

WHO:Partial delegation

WHAT:Occupy DC Tour, Information Exchange, Teach-In

WHEN:  Wednesday, January 25, 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm (time tentative, contact Benjamin King

at 202-286-8856 on the day of the event for details)

WHERE: McPherson Square

WHY: In Okinawa, protesters have been conducting vigils and sit-ins at proposed base relocation sites for over 7 years. Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC have pursued similar tactics. Members of the delegation will present background information about their struggle to close U.S. military bases. This is an opportunity for dialogue and information exchange between the Okinawan delegation and Occupy protesters. Great photo opportunities.

PHOTO: delegation members, Japanese activists, Occupy DC and Occupy Washington DC protesters

Event 3

WHO:Full delegation

Mr. Tokushin Yamauchi, Member of Japanese Parliament

Ms. Ms. Keiko Itokazu, Member of Japanese Parliament

Lawyers, prefectural legislators, peace and environmental activists, and students from Okinawa, Japan

WHAT:Press Conference

WHEN: January, 26 2011, 5:30 pm

WHERE: National Press Club (room # 1093)

529 14th Street Northwest  Washington D.C., DC 20045

WHY: Members of the delegation will issue a statement to the press re: their visit to DC.

PHOTO: Japanese members of parliament, prefectural assembly members, activists

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