Google

About Google




Welcome to Ken Matsuoka's Home Okinawa

You're the guest No.

Visitors:
(SiteStats)

since September 17, 1999


Map of Okinawa
Okinawa Weather Forecast on Yahoo
Okinawa Prefecture - Factbites



 Currency Converter by OANDA.com, The Currency Site 



HelpReserveDotCom since June 10, 2000


American Village Okinawa, Japan

YouTube CalendarClock

Ken's Home Okinawa is also accessible on this website as of September 2018.


What's new:

Okinawa to get new technology university:   All the classes will be in English and half the professors will be
from outside Japan at the top-flight school.

(The Asahi Shimbun  June 21, 2001)

Timeline in Excel

Ken's Home Radio    Get started on Nihon-go, or Japanese

 

Ken's Photo Diary, Sat. Jan. 6, 2001

The air is filled with new year's, well, new century's holiday atmosphere on the Okinawa main island, - at
the Summit 2000 site, resort hotels such as Busena Beach Terrace and Kanucha Bay, and American Village Mihama, Chatan
including the 3rd Floor (3F as shown on the sign board - photo), whose staff member, a very beautiful, slender young lady 
was handing out bills on the street and invited us to beer, priced at 100 yen per cup 
for a special new years day celebration in the restaurant.  

It  turned out to be a  relaxing dinner of Thai food - tomyamkun soup was impressive and beer was nice,
on the floor crowded with a group of  local American teen-age girls, who were chatting, drinking, smoking and dancing,
some on the counter, and waived and smiled to us - we were sitting at the table.  It looked as if they would drink and
dance all night through - I heard the restaurant is not closed until 4 o'clock AM,  but they all left for home
no sooner than it was 10:00 PM.  So did we.  It was really fun.  Thanks the 3rd Floor staff for 
nice food and beer, hospitality, and the girls for the performance and friendship.  We will be back soon.

 

     

     

     

     

 

 

Ken's News Clippings
- to be updated from time to time - 
now focusing on US/Japan Relations - both friendship and feud:

 

The Japan Times: July 7, 2001

Airman in rape case arrested

Okinawa prefectural police on Friday night arrested a U.S. airman suspected of rape after he was handed over by the U.S.

The arrest of U.S. Air Force Senior Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland, 24, came four days after police obtained a warrant and eight after the alleged rape took place.

It came after U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker notified Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka in Tokyo of Washington's decision to hand him over prior to indictment.

"In our discussion with the Japanese government, we have satisfied ourselves that our U.S. service member will receive fair and humane treatment throughout his custody," Baker said.

Baker also expressed regret over the incident, saying: "The United States has taken this case seriously and regrets any instances of misconducts by U.S. personnel in Japan. We have cooperated fully with Japanese authorities."

Tanaka, fighting back tears, told reporters after her 30-minute meeting with Baker that the transfer was granted because Washington and Baker trusted the Cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"Since last night, and before that, it has been a very difficult job for me," Tanaka said, referring to the ministry's marathon talks with U.S. officials and her own negotiations with Baker and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell the day before.

She added that Japan must prove to the U.S. and to the world that its police and judicial system are fair and humane to crime suspects.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Tanaka revealed that Powell told her during their telephone conversation that Washington wanted to provide Woodland with a U.S.-appointed interpreter to protect his rights.

"We know that the United States places importance on the rights of the suspect, but at the same time, protecting the rights of the victim is the most basic thing we need to respect," Tanaka said before receiving the official response on the transfer.

Apparently giving in to Japan's position that the suspect should not receive special treatment, Washington agreed to not appoint an interpreter, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Woodland -- who was expected to be arrested late Friday by Okinawa Prefectural Police -- will instead have an interpreter appointed by police and, if he is indicted, one appointed by prosecutors, in accordance with standard procedures in Japanese criminal cases.

According to the official, Baker told Tanaka that relations between the two countries are too important to be damaged by how the case is handled. He said Tanaka's leadership and Washington's efforts led to the resolution of the handover issue.

Tanaka also told the morning news conference that a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement may be necessary if an improvement to the agreement's implementation made six years ago is insufficient.

Under the SOFA, the U.S. does not have to hand over military personnel suspected of crimes until they are charged.

But after the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Okinawa by three U.S. servicemen in 1995, the U.S. agreed to give "sympathetic consideration" to handing over suspects of serious crimes.

The latest incident falls into this category, but since a decision was not forthcoming for nearly a week after police obtained an arrest warrant, pressure has been mounting from Okinawa and opposition political parties for SOFA to be revised.

"I understand that voice, and we have no choice but to consider the revision if the improvement proves insufficient," Tanaka said.

With the U.S. agreement on the handover, however, Tanaka did not raise the bilateral agreement in her talks with Baker, the official said.

"The improvement to the SOFA implementation was done with the handover," the official said, but added that the ministry will consider raising further improvements to make swift handovers possible.

On Friday evening, the U.S. finalized the transfer procedure with a written reply at a Japan-U.S. Joint Committee meeting.

Woodland's transfer before indictment is the second time the U.S. has agreed to do so and the first in Okinawa. The other case involved a 20-year-old U.S. serviceman who was handed over in July 1996 for the attempted murder of a woman in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

 

U.S. delay under fire
Opposition parties criticized the United States for delaying its decision to transfer to Japanese custody a U.S. airman suspected of raping an Okinawan woman and called for a review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

Naoto Kan, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters that Japan needs to revise SOFA to allow Japan to become truly independent.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine stressed the need for a revision of the Japan-U.S. agreement.

"A drastic, drastic, drastic revision of SOFA" is necessary, Inamine said, clenching his fist. "(We realize now there are) limitations to simply revising implementation" of SOFA.

In Okinawa Prefecture on Friday, the Nago and Okinawa municipal assemblies adopted resolutions demanding SOFA be revised as unrest continued over the pace of bilateral talks on the transfer.

Nago Municipal Assembly members believe the pact on the operations and management of U.S. military forces in Japan favors suspects within the U.S. forces. They demanded an apology be made to the woman who was allegedly raped a week ago by Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland.

"A series of misdeeds committed by U.S. soldiers has been attributed to too many bases concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture," the Nago resolution says. The city has been nominated as the relocation site for the heliport functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station, also in the Prefecture.

The resolution also demands Tokyo take full countermeasures to assure the safety of Okinawan people.

Meanwhile, the Okinawa Municipal Assembly adopted a similar resolution.

'It's a matter of course . . . that incidents occurring outside bases should be handled under Japanese law," Peace activist Takashi Kishimoto said, criticizing the decision-making process. "How can the U.S. military be so arrogant?"

A 43-year-old Chatan man who requested anonymity noted, "It's very strange to see there are so many complicated procedures" involved in a decision regarding the treatment of U.S. suspects.

Under the agreement, the U.S. military is not required to hand over suspects in criminal cases to Japanese police before they are indicted.

The Japan Times: July 7, 2001
(C) All rights reserved

 

 


Fri 1:28 am EDT Jul 6 2001 -
Report: Japan to Get US Serviceman

OKINAWA CITY, Japan (AP) -- Japanese and U.S. negotiators agreed on Friday to hand a U.S. serviceman accused of rape in Okinawa over to Japanese authorities later in the day, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Japanese and U.S. officials would not immediately confirm that an agreement had been reached, but the Japanese Foreign Ministry said a statement on the case would be made soon.

U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker was also scheduled to go to the Foreign Ministry later in the afternoon to discuss the case, U.S. Embassy spokesman Patrick Linehan said without providing details.

Timothy Woodland, a 24-year-old staff sergeant stationed at Okinawa's Kadena Air Base, is suspected in the rape of a local woman in her 20s last week in a popular tourist area on the southern island.

Woodland has denied the allegations, and the U.S. government has refused to hand him over to Japanese custody until it receives assurances that his rights would be protected, straining Japanese-U.S. relations and stirring long-standing Okinawan resentment against the U.S military. The U.S. demands reportedly concern Woodland's legal defense and his translator.

NHK said that Baker would meet with Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka to inform her of the U.S. decision to hand over Woodland.

Woodland was brought into a police station on Okinawa on Friday morning for questioning, but police sent him back to Kadena Air Base after a couple of hours for a lunch break.

A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said late Thursday that the U.S. government had agreed on a handover for arrest by Japanese authorities. But U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker said Friday morning that the deal had not yet been clinched.

''We are still working on the final details,'' Baker said in a brief statement that included no details on the U.S. demands. ''We are hopeful that we can resolve the issue yet today.''

Under an agreement governing the U.S. military presence in Japan, local officials generally need U.S. approval to take custody of military suspects. Police on Okinawa say they wanted Woodland turned over to them in order to wrap up their investigation as soon as possible.

Japanese officials also said an accord was near. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said that Japan was waiting for a U.S. response to its request for the handover.

''I think we can get an answer today,'' Fukuda told reporters.

It was unclear what had held up the handover on Friday. Kyodo News service reported that U.S. officials had requested that an interpreter be at Woodland's side for the first 48 hours of his arrest.

The Asahi newspaper, citing unidentified Japanese government officials, also reported that the U.S. side wanted to appoint the translator, and had demanded that questioning not exceed 10 hours a day.

As is customary in Japan, no defense attorney had been present during the pre-arrest questioning of Woodland, Okinawa police say. Japanese prosecutors -- not the defense -- assign translators when non-Japanese speakers are being questioned. An interpreter has been provided at Woodland's interrogation sessions.

The Japanese side appeared to be losing patience with American demands that they change their procedures.

''Crimes committed in Japan should be tried according to Japanese law,'' said Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani. ''Privileges should not be applied in this case just because the suspect is a U.S. serviceman.''

Fukuda also told reporters that Woodland would be ''investigated in Japan in the Japanese way.'' Koji Omi, minister in charge of Okinawan issues, suggested that further delay could damage U.S.-Japan relations.

''It could have a tremendously bad effect on local people's feelings (toward the U.S. military), and that may lead to instability in the Japan-U.S. security alliance,'' Omi said.

Washington's hesitation to give approval for Woodland's handover had generated anger on Okinawa, and renewed criticism of the special legal status granted to the 26,000 troops stationed here.

If his arrest goes ahead, Woodland would become only the second American serviceman turned over to Japanese authorities prior to the filing of actual charges, and the first on Okinawa. He had been held in U.S. military custody following the June 29 attack, and police here have had an arrest warrant for him since Monday.

The first such handover was made in 1996, when an American was suspected of attempted murder near Nagasaki. He was later convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Huge protests on Okinawa following the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 prompted Washington to agree to consider handing over suspects before charges are filed.

If charges are filed, Woodland will likely be tried in a Japanese court and face several years in a Japanese prison if convicted. Japan's conviction rate for cases that go to trial is more than 95 percent.

In a resolution, the Okinawa prefectural assembly noted that this small island on Japan's southern fringe bears most of the burden of hosting the nearly 50,000 U.S. troops in this country.

The assembly in the northern Okinawan city of Nago also adopted a protest resolution on Friday.

''A crime like this is an insult to all Okinawan people, and we will make a determined protest,'' the resolution said.

AP-NY-07-06-01 0128EDT< 

 

 

Thu 4:18 pm EDT Jul 5 2001 - Japan Demands Handover of Sergeant


OKINAWA CITY, Japan (AP) -- A tug-of-war between Japan and the United States over an American airman accused of rape intensified Thursday, as Tokyo stepped up demands for the suspect's handover and Okinawans accused Washington of protecting him.

Anger was growing on this small southern island -- where the bulk of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan are based -- over Washington's indecision on whether to release Air Force sergeant Timothy Woodland to local authorities.

The Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a review of the Status of Forces Agreement, under which active-duty military suspects generally remain under U.S. jurisdiction until they are formally charged.

''Even with a heinous crime such as this, the Americans use the pact as a shield to continue denying our requests for the suspect to be handed over,'' the resolution said.

Many Okinawans expressed disgust at Washington's insistence that the serviceman's rights must be respected since he continues to deny the charges. They said the rights of the 20-year-old Japanese victim should take precedence.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said the United States is getting close to deciding whether to grant Japan's request to turn over the suspect before the indictment. ''We're getting closer all the time, but I don't have any specifics to announce at this point,'' he said.

Quigley indicated the United States is seeking assurances with regard to the suspect's legal rights in Japanese custody.

''We very clearly understand the desire of the Japanese government to transfer custody,'' he said. ''We just need to have a very clear understanding of the conditions under which we would agree to something like that.''

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi led calls from several top government officials for the U.S. to turn Woodland over. The suspect, stationed at Kadena Air Base, is accused of raping an Okinawan woman June 29 in a parking lot outside a row of trendy bars in Chatan town.

''I hope the United States, understanding emotions here, will make an appropriate decision quickly,'' Koizumi told reporters after returning from the United States and Europe.

Defense chief Gen Nakatani warned of ''an escalation of emotions'' on Okinawa unless the United States acts soon. And Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka called U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday to request a swift handover.

Powell said he is in close consultation with U.S. defense officials over the case. President Bush has expressed regret for the incident.

Woodland has been questioned by police in Okinawa every day since the alleged crime, but he remains under military custody on Kadena. Police say Woodland's handover would enable them speed up their investigation.

As is customary in Japan, no defense attorney has been present during Woodland's questioning, according to Okinawa police spokesman Akira Namihira. However, he was provided with an interpreter.

If turned over to Okinawan authorities, Woodland, whose hometown has not been released, would likely be tried in a Japanese court.

He faces several years in a Japanese prison if convicted. Japan's conviction rate for cases that go to trial is more than 95 percent.

The alleged rape has underscored long-simmering frustrations on Okinawa over the huge U.S. military presence in Japan and the status of the 26,000 American military personnel stationed on the island.

U.S. troops based in Japan and South Korea play a crucial role in providing security for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Despite U.S. promises to tighten discipline among its troops in Japan, U.S. servicemen have in recent years been accused of a string of sexual attacks on Okinawa, including an incident last year in which a soldier crept into bed with a young girl and molested her.

Huge protests following the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 prompted Washington to agree to consider handing over suspects before charges are filed.

Only once before has the U.S. military transferred a serviceman to Japanese custody prior to the filing of charges -- in 1996, when an American was arrested and later convicted of attempted murder near Nagasaki on the mainland. He was later convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

AP-NY-07-05-01 1618EDT< 

 

 


Wed 6:28 pm Jul 4 2001 - Japan Presses U.S. on Sergeant

Japan Presses U.S. on Sergeant
by ERIC TALMADGE
Associated Press Writer



TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese officials grew impatient Wednesday, pressing the
United States to hand over an American serviceman suspected of rape, fearing
delays could enflame already strong emotions among residents of Okinawa.

Okinawan police were forced to wait for a second day Wednesday as Washington
continued to mull whether Timothy Woodland, a 24-year-old Air Force sergeant
based on the island's Kadena Air Base, should be released to their custody.

Police obtained an arrest warrant on Monday for Woodland, whom they accuse
of raping an Okinawan woman in a parking lot at a popular tourist area last
week.

But they have not been able to arrest him because of an agreement under
which active-duty military suspects generally remain under U.S. jurisdiction
until they are formally charged. In Japan, formal charges are often filed
after the arrest has been made.

The Pentagon said it had no comment Wednesday about its internal
deliberations about Woodland. On Tuesday, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a
Pentagon spokesman, said military officials were still working closely with
the Japanese authorities.

''There are many issues involved here,'' Quigley said. ''We've got to weigh
them carefully and no final decision has been made.''

The U.S.-Japan agreement, which outlines the status of the nearly 50,000
U.S. troops in Japan, has often been a source of friction in the past.

On Wednesday, a few dozen students protested peacefully outside the air
base, forcing officials to close the base's busiest gate for an hour. It was
the second protest outside the gate in as many days.

Okinawa's governor, who has called for revision of the pact on criminal
suspects, met with officials in Tokyo and said he wanted Woodland turned
over immediately.

''We are very disappointed that we have not been able to have the suspect
transferred to our jurisdiction,'' Gov. Keiichi Inamine said in a statement.
''We strongly request that the suspect be turned over as soon as possible.''

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet spokesman Yasuo Fukuda also expressed concern.

''If it takes much longer, we may have to ask for an explanation,'' he said.

America's new ambassador to Japan, former Sen. Howard Baker, stressed in an
arrival speech Tuesday that Washington was committed to cooperating with
Japanese authorities. Baker met with Japanese officials Wednesday, and said
he is doing all he can to see that a decision will be reached ''as soon as
possible,'' according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

But U.S. Embassy official Richard Christianson late Wednesday told Ichiro
Fujisaki, chief of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's North American division,
that the United States did not wish to rush its investigation because the
suspect has maintained that he is innocent, according to national
broadcaster NHK television.

Christianson said a handover before indictment may violate Woodland's
rights, the report said. U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached early
Thursday for comment.

Woodland, who has denied raping the woman, has been questioned by Okinawan
police daily but has then been allowed to return to his on-base residence.
Only once before has the U.S. military transferred a serviceman to Japanese
custody prior to the filing of charges -- in 1996, when an American was
arrested and later convicted of attempted murder near Nagasaki on the
mainland.

Some 26,000 U.S. troops are stationed on the southern island of Okinawa, and
residents have long expressed concerns over crowding and the danger of
military-related accidents.

But the brutal rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three American servicemen
in 1995 brought long-simmering anger over crime to a boil, setting off the
largest anti-base protests in Japan in decades. The protests led to the
decision to allow military suspects in major crimes to be turned over prior
to the filing of charges, if Washington deemed such a handover appropriate.


Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said U.S. officials have been in contact with
her frequently, but added that they wanted to be sure Woodland's rights
would not be violated.

''Concern over human rights is very serious in the United States,'' she
said. But she added: ''We cannot let this drag on.''

Newspapers in Tokyo on Wednesday also began to take a more critical view of
Washington's handling of the case. One called for a review of the pact
governing the troops here, the Status of Forces Agreement.

''It is time to change this agreement,'' said an editorial in the national
Mainichi newspaper.

AP-NY-07-04-01 1828EDT<
Wed 6:28 pm Jul 4 2001 - Japan Presses U.S. on Sergeant

 

 

The Japan Times: July 4, 2001
OKINAWA REQUESTS CUSTODY
Air force rape suspect faces handover before indictment

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States said Monday it is reviewing Japan's request that a U.S. Air Force sergeant suspected of raping an Okinawa woman be handed over to local police, while the top U.S. military commander in the prefecture apologized for the incident.

The U.S. is expected to eventually accept the request, given Washington's previous agreement to pay particular consideration to the handling of U.S. military personnel suspected of committing serious crimes. Also, growing anger in Okinawa over Friday's incident has made it difficult to reject the request.

"At this point, we have received a Japanese request to turn over the suspect prior to indictment, and we are reviewing that request," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a news briefing. "We don't have a response on it.

"We're very concerned about incidents like these, and I think we try to act with local authorities in a very responsible manner to make sure that justice is pursued," Boucher said.

A Defense Department official also said Monday that the U.S. will cooperate closely with Japan in its investigations into the case, adding that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been receiving reports on developments over the incident.

The top U.S. military commander in Okinawa, Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston, apologized Tuesday over the incident and said he wants to express his regret to the victim and her family, prefectural officials said.

"I'd like you to know we certainly take this charge with great concern," he said. "We certainly take this charge very seriously. We are very disappointed and deeply and sincerely regret that . . . this concerns a U.S. service member."

Hailston's apology came during a visit to the prefectural office in Naha, a day after Okinawa police obtained an arrest warrant for air force Tech. Sgt. Timothy Woodland, 24, on suspicion of rape, the officials said.

Woodland is assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base.

Chief prefectural accountant Noriaki Kakazu met Hailston on behalf of Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine, who was in Tokyo meeting with Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani to seek his cooperation in the matter.

Kakazu demanded that Woodland be handed over to Japanese authorities as soon as possible, the officials said.

He also told Hailston that U.S. forces have failed to uphold past pledges to tighten discipline and to take measures to prevent similar incidents, they said.

Hailston said he wants to ensure appropriate action is taken but did not specifically promise to hand over Woodland, they said.

In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka echoed calls for Woodland to be handed over and asked the U.S. to act swiftly on the matter.

Japan "cannot allow such incidents to happen," Tanaka told reporters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda also said the incident is of considerable concern for Tokyo, adding that the government strongly requests that the U.S. take action to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

The government hopes a bilateral working team in Okinawa will draw up measures to "eradicate" incidents involving U.S. forces, Fukuda told a news conference. The working team was set up by the Japanese government, the Okinawa Prefectural Government and U.S. forces to discuss preventing future incidents involving U.S. forces in Okinawa.

Those opposed to the U.S. military presence in Okinawa meanwhile took issue with reports that Washington is still considering whether to turn the suspect over to Japan.

"It takes too much time to arrest the suspect," said Keiko Itokazu, who cochairs a women's group calling for the abolition of military forces and bases. "Revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement is the only way."

Under SOFA, the U.S. does not have to hand over U.S. military personnel suspected of crimes until they are indicted by Japanese prosecutors.

However, after three U.S. servicemen raped a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Okinawa in 1995, the U.S. agreed to give "sympathetic consideration" to any request for custody of U.S. military personnel who are suspects in serious crimes, including rape and murder, before indictment.

In July 1996, 20-year-old Terrence Swanson became the first U.S. serviceman to be handed over to Japanese authorities before indictment. The case involved the attempted murder of a woman in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

If the Kadena sergeant is handed over to Japanese police, he would be the second such case, and the first in Okinawa, a prefecture that hosts three-quarters of the U.S. military presence in Japan.

Okinawa Prefectural Police obtained the arrest warrant for Woodland on Monday night from an Okinawan court.

Woodland is suspected of raping a woman in her 20s just after 2 a.m. Friday on the hood of a car in a parking lot in the American Village entertainment district in Chatan, which is situated in central Okinawa.

Police said a group of U.S. Marines witnessed the incident and intervened to stop the sergeant. He then fled the scene with a few other U.S. airmen in a car with license plates bearing the letter Y, which is reserved for vehicles used by U.S. service members.

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed "deep regret" over the incident Saturday when he met Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Okinawan locals have been calling for a reduction in the U.S. military presence following a series of crimes by U.S. servicemen.

 

Locals plan patrols
NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Residents of the central Okinawa town of Chatan, where a young woman was allegedly raped by a 24-year-old U.S. airman last Friday, may consider conducting community patrols.

Residents have already asked the Okinawa police to set up a police post in the area and to increase patrols in the popular entertainment district of Chatan.

The head of a local trade group, Chokichi Miyazato, said self-defense measures need to be considered.

"Every time an incident like this takes place, the U.S. forces harp on about enforcing discipline among their personnel, but there has been no effect so far," Miyazato said.

"I cannot believe it," said Yoriko Moromisato, 19, who works in a clothes shop nearby. "These things are always happening. I want something to be done about them."

The entertainment district houses numerous bars, restaurants, cinemas and bowling alleys and is popular with young people and tourists but is also reportedly the site of frequent rowdy scenes late at night.

The Japan Times: July 4, 2001

 

 

The Japan Times: June 24, 2001
Battle of Okinawa anniversary draws Koizumi to Itoman


ITOMAN, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged Saturday to try and ease the burden on Okinawans, home to about 25 percent of the 100,000 U.S. troops in the Asian region.

Koizumi attended a gathering of some 6,000 people here to mark the 56th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, a series of skirmishes fought in the closing days of World War II that claimed more than 200,000 lives.

"About 75 percent of U.S. military bases are concentrated in Okinawa, imposing various burdens on locals," Koizumi said. "Settlement of the problem is one of the key tasks of my administration. I will make efforts to relieve the pains of people in Okinawa."

Koizumi said he will convey the feelings of Okinawans to U.S. President George W. Bush when he holds his first summit with the U.S. leader at Camp David on Saturday.

Those who attended Peace Memorial Park in Itoman offered a one-minute silent prayer from noon to commemorate the end of the fierce ground battle, the only one fought in Japan during the war.

The names of about 200 people who died in the battle have been newly inscribed since last year on the Cornerstone of Peace in the park, bringing to 238,161 the number of people -- including U.S. and South Korean nationals -- whose names are engraved at the memorial.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine addressed the crowd at a ceremony organized by the prefectural government, saying, "We will properly convey lessons from the miserable war to future generations without letting them fade away."

A series of battles on Okinawa Island, about 1,500 km southwest of Tokyo, and surrounding islands in the prefecture are believed to have ended on June 23, 1945. The day is a public holiday in the prefecture.

The fighting left some Okinawan civilians with bitter memories and distrust of the Imperial Japanese Army, which allegedly slaughtered many locals to prevent landing U.S. soldiers from gathering intelligence.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston, the head of U.S. forces in Okinawa, also attended the ceremony.

About 20 former leprosy patients living in state-run sanitariums in the prefecture attended the hourlong ceremony for the first time after a district court handed down a historic ruling in May ordering the government to compensate current and former leprosy patients for discriminative treatment.

Shortly before the ceremony, about 50 U.S. veterans and staff of the U.S. Consulate General in Naha gathered near the Cornerstone of Peace, where they were joined by Hailston.

Speaking near black granite tablets that carry the names of U.S. victims, Consul General Timothy Betts said Japan and the United States are responsible for preventing further wars.

Former marine John Foley, 74, from Florida, said reading the many names of the fallen on the memorial made him question if their sacrifices were necessary.

The Japan Times: June 24, 2001

 

 

The Japan Times: May 20, 2001

More Okinawans accept presence of U.S. military

The percentage of Okinawans who accept the presence of U.S. military facilities in their prefecture exceeds the percentage of those opposed to the bases for the first time since 1975, according to the results of a government poll released Saturday.

According to the Cabinet Office, 45.7 percent of the residents responding to the survey said they accept the U.S. bases on their soil, saying they are "necessary" or "unavoidable."

But 44.4 percent of Okinawans said they are not happy at playing host to the U.S. military.

The poll questioned 2,000 adults, of whom 68.7 percent responded.

Among the male respondents, those who tolerate the U.S. military presence outnumber opponents by 54.7 percent to 39.4 percent, but the corresponding figures are reversed among female respondents, at 38.5 percent and 48.3 percent.

According to the poll, 20.6 percent said the U.S. bases are "unnecessary," down 4.3 points from the previous poll in 1994, while 23.8 percent said they pose a danger to Japan's security, down 5.6 points.

The poll also showed that 9.8 percent believe the U.S. military presence is "necessary" for Japan's security, up 2 points, while 35.9 percent said it is "unavoidable," up 4.9 points.

Okinawa accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan's total land mass, but is home to about 75 percent of the land occupied by U.S. military facilities in Japan.

The findings of the poll come at a time when people in Okinawa are concerned about their jobs amid a prolonged economic slowdown. The jobless rate in Okinawa is roughly twice the national average.

Tetsumi Takara, a professor of law at the University of the Ryukyus, said the economic benefits of U.S. bases might have influenced the responses.

"I guess the economic benefit may have helped many people reply that 'the bases are unavoidable'," he said.

"But it is too early to conclude that the latest survey shows 'Okinawa approves of the bases' because public opinion can changes drastically in Okinawa, particularly after accidents and scandals involving the U.S. military," he said.


Okinawa 'not crucial'

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) A scholar on defense issues at a U.S. think tank told visiting Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine on Friday that the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the prefecture could be drastically cut from the current 15,000 level as the bases there have little military value.

Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Department of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the United States, however, is concerned that if it agrees to reduce or integrate its military bases in Okinawa, it would eventually have to completely withdraw its military presence from the region.

But O'Hanlon told Inamine that the U.S. could agree to reduce the number of troops in Okinawa if the prefectural government allows the U.S. military to retain certain facilities such as ports and airports.

Inamine told O'Hanlon that any kind of "trade-off" concerning the base problem would be difficult and would be met with strong opposition from local residents.

The governor is in Washington on the first leg of a two-week tour of the U.S. to confer with senior U.S. government officials on issues concerning the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa's Ginowan.

He is also hoping to convey to Americans the feelings of local residents, who view the U.S. military presence in the prefecture as a heavy burden.

Calls for a reduction in the U.S. military presence in Okinawa have become stronger in the wake of a series of crimes committed by U.S. Marines stationed there and their family members.

The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and several town assemblies have adopted resolutions calling for withdrawal of the troops or a reduction in their number.

Okinawa Prefecture is home to about 75 percent of land occupied by U.S. military facilities in Japan.

The Japan Times: May 20, 2001



The Japan Times: Feb. 23, 2001

Okinawa to call for cut in troops
Governor wants Tokyo to raise issue in talks with U.S.

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine said Thursday that he will ask the central government to raise the issue of reducing the number of U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa.

"I would like to call on the state to raise (the issue) during talks between the Japanese and U.S. governments," Inamine told a session of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly.

It is the first time for Inamine, who took office in December 1998, to take up the issue of reducing the size of the U.S. forces in Okinawa.

A series of incidents involving U.S. military personnel in Okinawa has led to various protests by local citizens and municipalities.

Okinawa Prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan's territory, but hosts 75 percent of the land allocated by Tokyo for U.S. military facilities. About 25,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Okinawa, more than half the 47,000 serving in Japan.

Inamine also said he is making efforts to visit the United States "by the end of this fiscal year" to directly appeal to U.S. government officials to solve problems involving U.S. bases in Okinawa.

The Chatan town assembly the same day unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a curfew from midnight on U.S. soldiers in the area.

The resolution refers to crimes allegedly committed by U.S. soldiers, such as arson and damage to property, which it says "make town residents worried and frightened."

The Okinawa Municipal Assembly on Wednesday also passed a resolution calling for a curfew on U.S. military personnel.

The assemblies each adopted the resolutions in response to a series of incidents, including arson attacks in Chatan allegedly committed by U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kurt Billie.

The arson attacks were committed in mid-January, and Billie, 23, stationed at Camp Hansen, has been indicted by the Naha District Public Prosecutor's Office.

Another U.S. soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Murray, was arrested Saturday for allegedly damaging a police car while drunk in Chatan.

Murray, 29, assigned to the Torii communications station in Yomitan, allegedly kicked and broke a plastic window visor on the cruiser.

Earlier this month, the Okinawa Municipal Assembly passed a resolution demanding the dismissal of the top U.S. commander in Okinawa after he made derogatory remarks about Okinawa government officials.

The Japan Times: Feb. 23, 2001


The Japan Times: Feb. 23, 2001

Okinawa to call for cut in troops
Governor wants Tokyo to raise issue in talks with U.S.

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine said Thursday that he will ask the central government to raise the issue of reducing the number of U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa.

"I would like to call on the state to raise (the issue) during talks between the Japanese and U.S. governments," Inamine told a session of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly.

It is the first time for Inamine, who took office in December 1998, to take up the issue of reducing the size of the U.S. forces in Okinawa.

A series of incidents involving U.S. military personnel in Okinawa has led to various protests by local citizens and municipalities.

Okinawa Prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan's territory, but hosts 75 percent of the land allocated by Tokyo for U.S. military facilities. About 25,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Okinawa, more than half the 47,000 serving in Japan.

Inamine also said he is making efforts to visit the United States "by the end of this fiscal year" to directly appeal to U.S. government officials to solve problems involving U.S. bases in Okinawa.

The Chatan town assembly the same day unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a curfew from midnight on U.S. soldiers in the area.

The resolution refers to crimes allegedly committed by U.S. soldiers, such as arson and damage to property, which it says "make town residents worried and frightened."

The Okinawa Municipal Assembly on Wednesday also passed a resolution calling for a curfew on U.S. military personnel.

The assemblies each adopted the resolutions in response to a series of incidents, including arson attacks in Chatan allegedly committed by U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kurt Billie.

The arson attacks were committed in mid-January, and Billie, 23, stationed at Camp Hansen, has been indicted by the Naha District Public Prosecutor's Office.

Another U.S. soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Murray, was arrested Saturday for allegedly damaging a police car while drunk in Chatan.

Murray, 29, assigned to the Torii communications station in Yomitan, allegedly kicked and broke a plastic window visor on the cruiser.

Earlier this month, the Okinawa Municipal Assembly passed a resolution demanding the dismissal of the top U.S. commander in Okinawa after he made derogatory remarks about Okinawa government officials.

The Japan Times: Feb. 23, 2001


The Japan Times: Feb. 22, 2001

Okinawa city demands curfew on U.S. Marines

NAHA, Okinawa (Kyodo) The Okinawa Municipal Assembly, angered by a series of incidents involving U.S. military personnel in the prefecture, unanimously passed a rare resolution and a written opinion Wednesday calling for a midnight curfew to be imposed on U.S. military personnel.

The assembly adopted the resolution and the opinion, which also called for a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and a drastic cutback in U.S. forces in the prefecture, in the wake of a series of arson attacks in the town of Chatan allegedly committed by Lance Cpl. Kurt Billie of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The arson attacks were committed in mid-January, and the 23-year-old Billie, stationed at Camp Hansen, has been indicted by the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office.

Billie, who is now in custody, is charged with deliberately starting two fires in a bar area in the town on Jan. 15 and further fires in the same area on Jan. 20.

"Public distrust of the U.S. military authorities has reached its peak here in Okinawa Prefecture, following a string of incidents by U.S. military personnel such as the molestation of a girl, a series of arson attacks, malicious mischief and slanderous e-mail about the Okinawa governor and other officials," the resolution said.

Promises made by the U.S. forces in Japan that they would tighten discipline among military personnel have never been kept, the resolution added.

In light of such incidents, the resolution demands a partial revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces agreement and the complete withdrawal of military forces, including the U.S. Marine Corps, from Okinawa Prefecture.

In September 1995, the Marine Corps imposed a midnight curfew that barred its personnel from being in the central district of the city of Okinawa.

The curfew was imposed one month after three U.S. soldiers raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl.

The curfew was lifted in October 1999, after repeated requests from an association of local merchants, which had opposed the curfew from the start saying it would have a negative impact on local businesses.

The latest resolution follows a call from the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the town of Chatan on Tuesday that a curfew be imposed on U.S. Marines. It is the first time Okinawa Prefecture or any of the municipalities in the prefecture has requested such a measure.

The resolution also follows another in the same vein, adopted by the Okinawa City Assembly earlier this month, that demanded the dismissal of the top U.S. commander in Okinawa after he made derogatory remarks about Okinawa government officials, including Gov. Keiichi Inamine.

Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston, in reference to Inamine and other Okinawa officials, said in an internal e-mail sent to U.S. officers in Okinawa, "I think they are all nuts and a bunch of wimps."

Hailston was reacting to a resolution passed unanimously by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly on Jan. 19 demanding a reduction in the number of U.S. Marines in the prefecture, after the alleged molestation of a 16-year-old girl by a U.S. Marine on Jan. 9.

The Japan Times: Feb. 22, 2001


The Japan Times: Feb. 17, 2001

U.S. Marine charged with arson in Okinawa

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) The Naha District Public Prosecutor's Office on Friday indicted a U.S. Marine suspected of involvement in a series of mid-January arson attacks in Okinawa, prosecutors said.

Following the indictment, the U.S. Marine Corps handed over Lance Cpl. Kurt Billie, 23, from Camp Hansen, to Japanese prosecutors.

Billie was charged with deliberately starting two fires Jan. 15 in a bar area in the town of Chatan.

The U.S. military had refused to hand him over because under the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Force Agreement (SOFA), only suspects of heinous crimes, such as murder and rape, are turned over to Japanese authorities before their indictment.

A recent uproar in Okinawa over incidents involving the U.S. military prompted the prosecutors to take unusually quick action to indict Billie, only two days after the police sent the case to them.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine issued a statement saying he regrets the fact that Billie was not handed over prior to the indictment.

"I will continue to actively call on the governments of Japan and the U.S. to review the SOFA," Inamine said.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Japan will continue urging the United States to take measures to prevent such incidents from taking place.

"Cases like these have occurred in succession recently, and we believe we must urge both the U.S. forces in Okinawa and the U.S. government to be extra careful," Fukuda said at a news conference.

As for the SOFA, Fukuda said there are no plans at the moment to take specific steps toward a revision but added he will discuss the issue with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, who has hinted Tokyo may consider seeking a revision.

Meanwhile on Friday, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously passed a resolution and a written opinion calling for a revision of SOFA and for an early handover of Billie to Japanese authorities.

In Chatan, the town assembly unanimously adopted two resolutions Thursday demanding that all U.S. Marines leave Okinawa and that the top U.S. commander there resign.

Similar resolutions have been adopted recently in other towns and cities in Okinawa.

The Okinawa Prefectural Police sent Billie's case to prosecutors Wednesday after the U.S. military refused to hand Billie over to them.

The police had obtained an arrest warrant for Billie after questioning him about 10 times with the cooperation of the U.S. Marine Corps. Police say Billie essentially admitted his involvement in the arson attacks during questioning.

The police said they are further investigating Billie in connection with a Jan. 20 arson attack that damaged five bars in the area, completely destroying some of them. Billie has admitted involvement in that arson attack, they said.

Okinawa accounts for 0.6 percent of Japan's territory but hosts 75 percent of the land allocated by Tokyo for the U.S. military. It was under the rule of the U.S. military after World War II until it was returned to Japanese sovereignty in 1972.

The Japan Times: Feb. 17, 2001

 

The Japan Times: Feb. 9, 2001

U.S. commander contrite over Okinawa remarks

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) The U.S. military commander in Okinawa Prefecture visited Gov. Keiichi Inamine and prefectural assembly chairman Kokichi Iramina on Thursday to apologize for his description of the governor and other local officials as "nuts" and "wimps" in a personal e-mail.

Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston offered, through an interpreter, his sincere apology to the governor and people of Okinawa, adding that there is no room to make excuses. He then handed a letter of apology to Inamine.

The governor maintained a stern attitude during the 15-minute meeting and said the remarks "were extremely regrettable." The internal e-mail containing the remarks caused a political furor after they were made public Tuesday.

Hailston sent the e-mail to 13 U.S. officers in Okinawa on Jan. 23 in connection with the response of the prefectural assembly to an indecent act by a U.S. Marine in the town of Kin in northern Okinawa on Jan. 9.

He was commenting on a resolution passed unanimously by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly on Jan. 19 demanding that the United States reduce the number of U.S. forces in the prefecture and tighten discipline among U.S. military personnel.

"This situation went from the governor, both vice governors, (Kin) Mayor (Katsuhiro) Yoshida, and a Diet member separately telling me in person last week, 'While this is bad, we understand and appreciate your efforts,' to all of them standing idly by as the . . . assembly passed an inflammatory and damaging resolution. I think they are all nuts and a bunch of wimps," he wrote.

After the e-mail's contents were made public, Hailston issued a statement to apologize for what he called a "very emotional" message.

Okinawa citizens have also protested Hailston's comments. On Wednesday, the Okinawa City Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the commander be dismissed.

 

Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston's apology
NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) The following is the full text of a letter of apology from Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston, commander of the U.S. military in Okinawa, delivered Thursday to Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine for describing the governor and other officials as "nuts" and "wimps" in a personal e-mail:

* * *

 

I wish to communicate personally to you my most profound regret about the e-mail.

I also want to deeply apologize for the inappropriate remark contained in that message. I used inappropriate words that do not reflect my true feelings as they pertain to you, your colleagues and the Okinawan people. I am sorry.

I do wish you to know that I have the greatest admiration and deep respect for you, the vice governors, (Kin) Mayor (Katsuhiro) Yoshida and other officials. I have learned a great deal from my Okinawan hosts and will carry the benefits of their friendship and wisdom for the rest of my life. I deeply regret that my remarks did not reflect that respect.

Again, I am truly sorry for the distress and disharmony this has caused, and apologize for any offense to you, the prefectural assembly and Okinawa overall.

The Japan Times: Feb. 9, 2001
(C) All rights reserved



Okinawa assembly wants fewer marines
The Japan Times: Jan. 20, 2001

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution Friday calling for a reduction in the U.S. Marine Corps presence following a recent incident in which a marine allegedly lifted the skirt of a high school student and took a photograph.

The resolution, adopted during an extraordinary session, is the first to specifically name the marines, according to the assembly secretariat. The U.S. Marine Corps make up about 60 percent of the U.S. military in Okinawa.

Observers said the unanimous support for the resolution indicates the strong sense of anger among Okinawans over such incidents being repeated, despite repeated calls for steps to prevent recurrences, as well as problems related to the U.S. military presence in the prefecture.

Last week, Cpl. Raven Gogol, 21, from Camp Hansen in northern Okinawa was arrested on suspicion of molesting a 16-year-old girl, triggering a wave of protests.

Friday's resolution says the repeated incidents "have instilled a great degree of anxiety and shock to residents around (U.S. military facilities) and the citizens of the prefecture."

It went on to say that the assembly cannot condone yet another incident.

The assembly then called on those involved, including Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and the U.S. ambassador to Japan, to seek a reduction in the forces in Okinawa, including the marines, as well as tightening discipline and further measures to educate military personnel stationed in the prefecture.

Members of the assembly were to submit copies of the resolution to several parties in the afternoon, including the U.S. Consulate in Okinawa, officials said.

Okinawa Gov. Kenichi Inamine met with Defense Facilities Administration Agency chief Yasunari Ito the same day and urged the central government to redouble efforts to prevent offenses committed by service members.

Ito, who was on a trip to Okinawa, later told a news conference that the unanimous approval of the resolution is an indication of the extent of the seriousness the people of Okinawa place on such incidents, and added that the central government needs to recognize this.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Ryutaro Hashimoto, the Cabinet minister in charge of Okinawa affairs, told a regular news conference that the adoption of the resolution was a reflection of the "sincere feelings of the people of Okinawa."

Hashimoto added that Tokyo has in the past made repeated requests to the U.S. side to prevent such incidents and that relevant parties need to discuss specific measures to this end while keeping in mind that such efforts have to date not produced the desired results.

Also Friday, Hashimoto and Foreign Minister Yohei Kono agreed to have their senior vice ministers discuss what steps Japan should take in the event of another misdeed committed by U.S. military personnel.
The Japan Times: Jan. 20, 2001

 

Okinawa seen through the summit prism
The Japan Times, Thu. Aug. 3, 2000
By PHILIP BRASOR

It's a common belief that the annual G-7 or G-8 summits accomplish little more than allowing the leaders of the industrialized world to get together and make a show of global unity. Consequently, the only thing you can count on in the post-summit analyses is that they will dwell on what wasn't discussed, which, in the case of the recent Okinawa wing-ding, was the promise made at last year's summit to forgive Third World debt.

That's what the foreign media talked about. The Japanese media were more interested in the summit-as-festival, which is understandable considering how much the thing cost (the government denies the oft-reported 80 billion yen price tag, but in any event, it was considerably more expensive than past summits) and the fact that it was held where it was held. The Japanese media at times gave the impression that the summit would force the United States and, by extension, the world to acknowledge the issue of U.S. military presence in Okinawa, despite the fact that it had no place on the agenda.

Some local commentators claimed that President Bill Clinton was actually trying to avoid coming to the summit so as not to be put into the position of having to talk about the recent molestation of a teenage girl by a drunken marine. Though it's true that Clinton didn't address the alleged crime directly, he did acknowledge in a roundabout way that the Okinawans bear a disproportionate burden of Japan's support for the U.S. Far East troops.

If he "got away" with avoiding the touchy subject it's because the international media didn't play it up as much, treating it as tangential to the matters that should have been discussed. No matter how much the Japanese media tried to make it otherwise, the summit was not about Japan, much less Okinawa.

BBC commentators, for one, complained that the Japanese hosts had spent too much on the get-together, which is not much of a revelation to people who live here. Both the Japanese government and the national media publicized the event as something along the lines of the Olympics: It's an honor to host an international event, so it's only natural to overspend.

This way of thinking characterized the saturation coverage of Okinawa over the past few months, especially on TV. Japanese TV's penchant for travel programming assured that a light would be shone into every nook and cranny of Okinawan tourism. The Japanese not only know more about the base issue than they have before, but they now know every resort on the island, every indigenous dish and the name of every person who can play the sanshin.

The typical evening news report during the week prior to and during the summit was shot on a pristine beach at sunset with stunningly beautiful cloud formations in the background. The news anchors would then switch to videotape of base protests, on-the-street interviews with Okinawan citizens or profiles of colorful locals or customs -- all of it blending together in a mash of indistinguishable info-overkill.

Though the foreign media were treated grandly, they couldn't be bothered with these tourist destination themes. They covered what was and wasn't discussed and the complaints of NGOs who had come to the summit to make sure the world leaders stuck to the issues at hand.

The NGOs were disappointed that IT was given priority over the real day-to-day concerns of the developing world, and some of their disappointment spilled over onto the Japanese hosts, who seemed determined to keep the leaders diverted. In an interview with the BBC, one activist referred to Okinawa as the "lobster and caviar summit."

Despite an occasional veiled complaint about cost, the Japanese coverage seemed to take the lavishness for granted. Switching back and forth between CNN and Asahi TV, I could tell that the same event was being covered, but it was as if the two media giants had been given totally different assignments.

The late Keizo Obuchi suggested Okinawa for the summit for reportedly romantic reasons: He spent an idyllic time there once during his youth. It's why an Okinawan motif is included on the Obuchi-inspired 2,000 yen bill. The media scrutiny from greater Japan emphasized this romantic relationship, stressing the fact that the island was once a separate kingdom that just happens to speak the same language . . . or almost the same language.

So while the value of the Okinawa summit for the world is still open to debate, its value to the Okinawans themselves and the rest of the Japanese people was to further illuminate their problematic relationship. The two aspects had nothing to do with each other, and just as the summit didn't result in much except some well-meaning but basically empty promises, in the end the Okinawan coverage showed Tokyo that Okinawa's culture is just as colorful and its problems just as intractable as they've ever been.

The Japan Times: Aug. 3, 2000

 

 

 

The Japan Times, Mon, May 15, 2000

Japan, U.S. to cap host-nation support

Japan and the United States are poised to agree on measures to keep upper limits intact when they renew a treaty on host-nation financial support for U.S. military facilities in Japan*1, Japanese government sources said Sunday.

(Comment by Ken Matsuoka - *1  Related reports: 
Host Nation Support, Responsibility Sharing, and Alternative Approaches to U.S. Bases in Japan 
- Paul S. Giarra, 1997
Do Domestic Politics Matter?: The Case of US Military Bases in Japan, Working Paper No. 7
- Sheila A. Smith, Boston University ?year)

The measures are designed to keep Japan's financial obligations almost unchanged, departing from the cost-setting method that led to higher burdens when the treaty was renewed twice in the past, the sources said.

They would address U.S. objections to reductions in host-nation support and calls by Japanese lawmakers for outlays to be scaled back after the current treaty expires next March.

The sources said the two countries are also working on an agreement to set up a "coordination mechanism" to decide and implement nonmilitary cooperation, such as medical services and transportation of goods, in the event of an attack on Japan or an emergency in "areas surrounding Japan."

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and U.S. President Bill Clinton are expected to agree in principle on the two issues when they hold talks in Tokyo on the eve of the July 21-23 Group of Eight summit in Okinawa Prefecture, the sources said.

The two nations will then officially agree on a new host-nation treaty and the defense mechanism when they hold a so-called "two-plus-two" meeting of defense and foreign ministers in the autumn.

Tokyo and Washington have been negotiating renewal of the Special Measures Agreement, which stipulates that Japan will cover all yen-based costs incurred by U.S. forces in Japan for labor, utilities and relocation of training facilities.

The planned upper-limit measures include fixing the number of yen-paid civilian workers and setting energy-saving targets for utilities.

The Special Measures Agreement does not spell out the amount of Japan's financial obligations, but the past method of revising upper limits in advance has led to a ballooning of the burdens.

The two countries adopted the highest annual costs over the prior three years as the upper limits for yen-paid civilian workers and utilities when they renewed the agreement in the past.

The current treaty puts the labor ceiling at 23,055 workers. The U.S. forces, which now have 24,500 workers, currently cover any costs that exceed the upper limit.

Japan would have to cover the costs of 24,500 workers if the previous method is adopted again in a new treaty.

Host-nation support began in fiscal 1978, when the U.S. economy was foundering and Japan's cost of living had skyrocketed amid robust economic growth. The support was dubbed a "sympathy" budget in Japan.

To give the support a legal framework, the agreement was drawn up by the two countries in 1987. It has been renewed twice, in 1991 and 1996.

In fiscal 2000, which started April 1, Japan earmarked 121.1 billion yen for labor costs, 29.7 billion yen for utilities and 300 million yen for training relocation.

Japan also pays other costs under the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement, earmarking 124.1 billion yen for housing, environmental preservation and labor welfare.


Mori pledges assistance for Okinawa

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori pledged Sunday to actively promote measures that would promote economic growth in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa.

Mori was in Okinawa Prefecture for a one-day trip to attend a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the main venue for the Group of Eight summit in July in the city of Nago, in the north of the island.

During his visit, the first since he assumed the prime ministership, Mori met with Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine, Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto and the mayors of other cities, towns and villages in northern Okinawa.

Nago is to accept the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station, currently located in central Okinawa. In return, the central government has pledged to carry out steps to boost the area's economy.

Mori and the Okinawan officials reaffirmed their commitment to making the G-8 summit a success, and the prime minister also confirmed his administration's determination to tackle the issue of the presence of U.S. military facilities in Okinawa.

However, Mori's trip did not take him to any of the U.S. bases in the prefecture. He attended the ceremony for construction of the Bankoku Shinryokan in Nago, the main venue for the July 21-23 summit. He also visited Shuri Castle, where press conferences and a dinner for G-8 leaders will be held.

Mori also participated in a meeting of elementary and junior high school students sponsored by the prefectural government and paid a visit to memorial sites to the victims of the World War II battles fought in Okinawa.


The Japan Times, Tuesday, May 09, 2000    
Okinawa Court Rejects Suit Opposing U.S. Heliport

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese court rejected on Tuesday a lawsuit filed by citizens of Nago -- site of this year's Group of Eight (G8) summit -- prompted by the city's decision to ignore the outcome of a referendum and allow the construction of a U.S. military heliport.

In the suit, the first of its kind in Japan, 501 Nago residents had demanded compensation of $45,990 from the city and former mayor Tetsuya Higa for "mental stress" caused by the 1997 decision.

The Naha district court on Okinawa, the southern island where a majority of U.S. bases in Japan are located, said it ruled against the suit because the referendum was not legally binding, Kyodo news agency said.

"The referendum was nothing more than a reference point," presiding judge Toshio Hara was quoted as saying.

The plaintiffs said they will consider appealing their decision to a higher court.

Okinawa, which has only one percent of Japan's land area, is home to 75 percent of U.S. military bases in the country, prompting local resentment that flared in 1995 following the rape of a schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen.

In an effort to settle one sticky base issue, Okinawa agreed to relocate a heliport from the massive Futenma Air Station in central Okinawa to Nago on the island's northern coast.

But local residents opposed the move, voting against it in a December 1997 referendum.

The central Japanese government subsequently put pressure on Higa to allow construction of the facility, including the promise of economic assistance to Okinawa, the poorest region in Japan.

Higa agreed, but then resigned, saying he had assented under protest.

The decision to hold the G8 summit in Nago this July is widely seen as an additional government ploy to quell opposition to the heliport.

Controversy also rages about how long the U.S. forces will be able to use the facility. Okinawa has strongly pushed for a 15-year limit, but Washington remains adamantly opposed, citing security concerns. ($1-108.93 Yen)


(Nov 19, 1999 Japan Times) 

Inamine agrees to heleport relocation

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine made it clear Friday that he will accept the relocation of key functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station to a new facility within the prefecture -- as long as the site is a joint military-civilian site that the U.S. military will be required to leave in 15 years.

"Many Okinawans hope the Futenma airfield will be returned unconditionally, but when we consider the international situation, we will have to make the bitter choice of moving it to another place (in Okinawa)," Inamine said during talks between central and prefectural government officials at the Prime Minister's Official Residence.

Although Inamine did not mention a candidate site for the new facility, it is widely believed he will select the Henoko district of the northern Okinawa city of Nago, near Camp Schwab. The governor is expected to announce his decision next week.

Inamine's comment marks a major development in the stalled efforts for relocating the military functions of the Futenma base, which is located close to residential areas in Ginowan, in line with a Japan-U.S. agreement.

The 1996 agreement stipulates the Futenma airfield be closed in five to seven years on condition that its military functions are relocated to another site within the prefecture.

But talks to select an alternative site have been deadlocked, and government officials recently said the return of Futenma by 2003 is unlikely.

Tokyo has been under pressure to resolve the heliport relocation issue quickly so it won't flare up during next summer's Group of Eight leaders' summit in Nago.

During Friday's talks, Inamine urged Tokyo to present clear policies to boost the local economy.

He also demanded that the central government be aggressively involved in the redevelopment of the Futenma site as a civilian district after its return from the U.S. military.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said after the meeting that the central government will deal positively with Okinawa's demands through further dialogue.

"The relocation issue took a step forward with today's meeting, and I hope we can settle it as early as possible," he said.

After the meeting, Inamine told reporters he welcomed the central government's attitude, saying he got the impression that the government is making serious efforts to deal with the relocation issue.

However, some key hurdles remain until a final agreement is reached.

After the talks, Inamine again stressed that Okinawa will demand that the new facility be jointly used by the U.S. military and civilian aircraft, and that use by the U.S. military be limited to 15 years.

These two points made up the key pledge in his campaign for the governor's post last year; Inamine defeated Masahide Ota, who opposed construction of a new facility within the prefecture.

At a regular news conference, Aoki said the two sides did not exchange views on the matter.

"We take the governor's campaign pledge seriously, but we also have to consider the U.S. military's requests, and we cannot predict what the international situation will be 15 years ahead," Aoki said.

 

 

(Oct 18, 1999 Japan Times)

Pearl Harbor survivors meet their attackers

Two U.S. war veterans who were at Pearl Harbor during Japan's surprise attack in December 1941 were united in Tokyo on Tuesday with Japanese veterans who took part in the mission.

Visiting Yasukuni Shrine together, they prayed for the souls of the war dead.

"We fought for the freedom of our country and they fought for theirs," said Denver Gray, 82, who was at Hickam Field when planes from the Imperial Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. "At one time we were on different sides, but now we are on one side."

The gathering is part of a movement that sprouted up in the early '90s to promote reconciliation between Japanese and U.S. war veterans.

Though a reconciliation event was first scheduled in 1991 to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack, it did not take place as senior members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association did not approve.

But with much effort from their supporters, the event was held in October 1992 with 25 veterans of both countries shaking hands in reconciliation and paying their respects at the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.

Shizundo Ushijima, 78, who was aboard a dive bomber targeting Hickam Field, said Tuesday's gathering was like meeting an old friend.

Richard Fiske, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, said, "I will continue to bring the two sides together as long as I live."

The veterans and their supporters said they are planning another meeting in Hawaii, possibly in December 2000, with the veterans' children and grandchildren present to, as Gray put it, "Pick up the torch and carry it on to the next generation."

 

 

(Oct 6, 1999 Japan Times)

2,000 Yen Bill to Commemorate 2000

While political pundits said his Cabinet appointments Tuesday made good use of
veteran lawmakers versed in policy matters, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi sought
novelty from a new angle -- the issuance of a 2,000 yen bill.

Emboldened by a seemingly stronger economy and greater popularity than when he
became prime minister in July last year, Obuchi now plans to add the new bill to
his list of achievements.

The prime minister took the nation by surprise by saying the Bank of Japan would
roll out the bills to mark the coming year and the country's hosting of the Group
of Eight leaders' summit in Okinawa in 2000.

Government officials said the bill would be a permanent bill, rather than one issued
for simply commemorative purposes, and that it would be issued around springtime,
in time for the G-8 summit next July.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki, on the front of the bill will be
an illustration of Shureimon Gate in Naha, a symbol of Okinawa Prefecture, while
the back will feature an illustration from the "Tale of Genji," a classic romantic
novel written nearly 1,000 years ago.

Obuchi played down the strangeness of having a bill with the numeral 2. He pointed
out that the United States issues $20 bills.

Some observers said the prime minister might be hoping to loosen consumers' purse
strings with the new bill and boost private spending, but many others questioned
whether it would have any effect at all.

The new denomination bill will be the first issued in Japan since the old 10,000 yen
note was issued in 1958. Although that note is still in circulation, it has since been
redesigned.



(Sep 19 am, 1999  Ryukyu Shinpo)

Peace through awamori proposed

 

 

Itoman City, home of the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, has hit upon a novel idea to
toast eternal peace(with "centennial awamori." G-8 heads of state will be invited
next year to sign an earthen pot containing a mixture of all the varieties of awamori
(Okinawan rice liquor). This will be exhibited at the new Battle of Okinawa
Documentation Center till 2100, at which time the contents will be quaffed,
and the pot refilled and returned to storage for another hundred years.


(Sep 15, 1999 am  Ryukyu Shinpo)

US Public Affairs Office to Open

For a more open diplomatic image, a public affairs office opened at the US Consulate
in its Urasoe building on September 14. The opening ceremony was conducted in the
presence of US Ambassador Thomas Foley who was in Okinawa to give a lecture
to the Ryukyu Forum. The director is Karen Kelly, 42, who was also at the ceremony.
It will take responsibility for arranging US-Japan cultural interchange events,
for matters arising from the Security Treaty, and for organizing commerce lecture
programs. The office will open for business on October 1. There has been no full-
time diplomat dealing with information services since 1973.
The other US consulates in Japan have similar set-ups.



(June 14, 1999 pm  Ryukyu Shinpo)

Summit Hall Work Begins

Construction of the main hall of next July's G-8 Summit officially began on June 14.
About 150 people concerned with the hall's design and construction, including
government officials, attended the ground-breaking ceremony held on site
at the Busena Resort in Nago. They prayed for the success of the summit
and the safety of the construction crew. Speakers on hand included Governor
Keiichi Inamine, parliamentary vice-minister of Okinawa Development Mikio Shimoji,
deputy chief of the Okinawa Office of the Foreign Ministry Daisuke Matsunaga,
and Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto.

Gov. Inamine said, My heart is full of emotion now that construction
is about to begin. I hope a fine hall will be built. We must make all the necessary
preparations to host our foreign visitors. Mayor Kishimoto expressed his enthusiasm
for the project and said that he hoped the summit would send a message of peace to
all Asian people.

Traditional Okinawan red tiles will be used for roofing. In addition to
adding an ethnic touch, they are expected to set off the allure of the adjoining sea.
Tentatively named Okinawa International Friendship Hall, the structure will
cover an area of 3092 m2. The deadline for completion of the hall is next March.
Laying the foundation alone will occupy the whole of July, following which
construction will begin in earnest. The OPG has been soliciting possible names
for the hall since June 1.


Welcome to Ken Matsuoka's Home Utsunomiya

The Japan Times   TownNet     Japan Update



Back to Top


AOL announcemnet: "AOL Hometown/FTP is closing 31st October 2008"

Copyright (C) Ken Matsuoka