Japan’s Okinawa to hold referendum on US base move

Noise, accidents and crimes committed by military personnel and civilian base employees have long irritated local Okinawa residents. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2018
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Japan’s Okinawa to hold referendum on US base move

  • While the referendum has no legal standing, a vote against the move is likely to pile fresh pressure on the central government
  • Noise, accidents and crimes committed by military personnel and civilian base employees have long irritated local residents

TOKYO: Japan’s Okinawa region voted Friday to hold a non-binding referendum on a deeply unpopular plan to relocate a US military base, in the latest twist to a long-running saga.
The decision, by local politicians, comes a month after residents elected a new governor who opposes plans to move the US Marines’ Futenma Air Station from an urban area to a sparsely populated part of the island.
While the referendum has no legal standing, a vote against the move is likely to pile fresh pressure on the central government, which backs the move as the best way to deal with anger in Okinawa about the base.
Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area, but hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.
Noise, accidents and crimes committed by military personnel and civilian base employees have long irritated local residents, as has the perceived refusal of other parts of the country to share Okinawa’s burden.
The plan backed by the government would move the base from its current densely populated location to a remote area, partly created by land reclamation.
Opponents do not want the base to remain where it is, but have nevertheless campaigned against the move because they believe it would entrench the US presence on the islands.
They say it should be put elsewhere in Japan, or even shuttered completely.
The construction of the new base “means pursuing national security at the expense of residents’ rights to regional autonomy,” assembly member Ichiro Miyagi said Friday.
Construction work at the new site has been suspended since August, after the Okinawa government retracted its approval for land reclamation.
New governor Denny Tamaki, who has vowed to continue fighting the new air base, will set a date for the referendum, with local media saying it would likely be held before next spring.
Okinawa was the site of a major World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year US occupation of the island.
The archipelago’s location means it is of huge strategic importance for US forward positioning in Asia.


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 24 April 2019
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Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time

TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.