-Please listen to the voices of Okinawa- To Mr. Barack Obama, President of Unit
Kunitoshi Sakurai President Okinawa University
Ishow my sincere respect to Your Excellency as the democratically elected president of a democratic country, U.S.A., and as the distinguished world leader advocating nuclear disarmament. In the last election of the House of Representatives, Okinawan people elected democratically, in all constituencies, candidates who are against the relocation of the U.S. Marine Futenma Air Station to Henoko. I am convinced that Your Excellency will respect the will of Okinawan people shown in this election.
Okinawa, which is only 0.6% of Japan’s area, contains 75% of U.S. bases in Japan. It is already beyond the capacity. Futenma Air Station is so dangerous that Donald Rumsfeld, when Secretary of Defense, visited this area and had no other choice but to recognize the imminent danger. It should be closed immediately. On the other hand, the sea of Henoko, which has been proposed as the candidate site for relocation, is extremely rich in biodiversity with many endangered species including dugongs. Okinawa is often referred to as the “Galapagos of the East”. Henko is outstanding in Okinawa in terms of biodiversity.
In the 21st century, which is called as the century of environment, U.S.A. and Japan are strongly requested to take leadership in the protection of biodiversity. The handling of biodiversity rich sea of Henoko by two governments is the center of world attention. New base construction which damages biodiversity will not win the support of the U.S. public.
There has been a lawsuit in the U.S. Federal Court of San Francisco about the protection of the dugong in Okinawa, arising out of the fear that they might become extinct as a result of construction of a new base at Henoko. The court ordered the Pentagon to evaluate how the construction and use of the new base in the Henoko area would affect the endangered dugong in Okinawa, and take the result of the evaluation into account as they actually execute the construction plan and operate the base. The Pentagon responded by saying that Japanese Government’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures would do this task for them. However, the EIA conducted by Japanese Government is far from being satisfactory. It is so ill-made that there is an ongoing lawsuit demanding Japanese Government to redo EIA from the beginning.
If the poor quality of Henoko EIA becomes open to the U.S. public, their confidence in Japanese and U.S. Governments will hit bottom because of their special feeling of affinity to manatees, the relatives of dugongs.
I hope wholeheartedly that Your Excellency would listen to the voices of Okinawan people and dugongs.