Three Years After UTS III – What Happened?


The title of the upcoming symposium, “U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa — Three Years Later,” raises the question: What happened after UTS III?  This page highlights some of the significant events relating to the issue of the US bases in Okinawa since March 2013.

June 2013The Japan Times published an article that called into question a report issued by the Pentagon that denied the storage of Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides on Okinawa lang.

As evidence of Agent Orange in Okinawa stacks up, U.S. sticks with blanket denial.The Japan Times, 4 June 2013.

Agent Orange on Okinawa.”  Jon Mitchell, updated 23 October 2015.

December 2013 — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Okinawa’s Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and agrees to launch negotiations with the American government for a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).  The Okinawan government has been pressuring Abe to revise the agreement which it believes unfairly favors the US military.  This deal was made in response to Nakaima’s apparently signaling his readiness to approve a request from the Tokyo government to carry out work for an alternative base in Henoko.

Nakaima cuts deal with Abe.”  The Japan Times, 25 December 2013.

December 2013 – In a reversal of his earlier policy of moving US Futenma base out of Okinawa, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima gives his approval for landfill work in another part of Okinawa.  The Japanese government had been calling on Okinawa to accept the construction of a replacement facility in an offshore area in Nago, on the western side of Okinawa.  This leaves Okinawa’s burden of having 75% of US military bases in Japan unchanged.

Okinawa governor approves landfill to relocate U.S. base.”  The Japan Times 27 December 2013.

2014 – Initial stages of construction at Henoko and Oura Bay begun.

Urgent Situation at Okinawa’s Henoko and Oura Bay: Base Construction Started on Campt Schwab.”  The Asia-Pacific Journal, N.D.

November 2014 – Takeshi Onaga elected governor of Okinawa.  In a landslide victory by a margin of 100,000 votes, Onaga defeats the incumbent, Hirokazu Nakaima.  Onaga campaigned in opposition to the relocation of the US bases in Futenma to Henoko.

In blow for Tokyo and Washington, Okinawa elects governor who opposes military base.”  The Washington Post, 16 November 2014.

Japan’s Bravest Man.Forbes Magazine, 15 September 2015.

January 2015 – While passing a record-high ¥96.34 trillion national budget, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet reduced Okinawa’s allocation by 4.6% as a way of showing its displeasure at Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga’s opposition to the relocation of US bases from Futenma to Henoko.

Japan Cuts Okinawa Budget After Election of Anti-Base Governor.”  Bloomberg,  14 January 2014.

Abe Government Cuts Spending on Okinawa’s Economy,Wall Street Journal, 14 January 2015.

Gov’t cuts budget for Okinawan economic development.”  Japan Today, 15 January 2015.

April 2015Asahi Shimbun published the results of national opinion poll which showed that 30% of Japanese and 22% of Okinawans supported relocating Futenma Air Base to Henoko (Question 9).  In the same question 41% of the Japanese answered “No,” and 63% of Okinawans answered “No.”  The survey found strong support for Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga’s opposition to the Henoko relocation; in response to Question 12, 54% of Japanese answered “Yes,” and 70% of Okinawans answered “Yes.”  The majority of respondents disagreed with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s position that “relocation to Henoko is the only possible solution” (Question 15); 53% of Japanese disagreed and 72% of Okinawans disagreed.

Asahi Shimbun Regular Opinion Poll (04/21/2015)

June 2015 – At the memorial ceremony to remember the lives of civilians, who died in the Battle of Okinawa, Governor Onaga voiced his objections to the relocation of US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station to Henoko in the presence of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe’s Okinawa Problem.”  The Diplomat, 24 June 2015.

August 2015 – A US military UH60 Black Hawk helicopter crashes off Camp Schwab.

US military helicopter crashes off Okinawa in Japan.”  BBC News, 12 August 2015.

August 15 — The US government awarded compensation to retired Marine Lt. Col. Kris Roberts, one time chief of maintenance at Futenma Air Base, for injuries due to “exposure to hazardous chemicals.”  The Japan Times‘ article noted that in its decision the US government carefully avoided any specific reference to Agent Orange, a toxic chemical widely used in the Viet Nam war.  Roberts noted that more than 100 barrels of Agent Orange stored in Futenma were handled by US service personnel and Okinawan base workers.  He also expressed concern about the base’s drainage pipes contaminating the water supply in the vicinity of Futenma and Ginowan city.

U.S. marine wins compensation for Okinawa toxin exposure and calls for tests on residents near Futenma.”  The Japan Times, 17 August 2015.

August 2015 — City Council of Berkeley, California, passed a resolution expressing support for the people of Okinawa’s opposition to the construction of a US Marine base in Henoko and Oura Bay.  (See similar action in December 2015).

Meeting with Visitors from Okinawa and Berkeley City Council Members and Members of the Asian-American Community.”  The Berkeley Daily Planet, 3 August 2015.

September 2015 – Governor Onaga rescinds the permission granted to the central government for land reclamation at Henoko Bay.

In Okinawa, protesters dig in as work proceeds to relocate U.S. Marine base.”  The Washington Post, 7 February 2016.

November 2015 – Japan government sues Okinawa government over Governor Onaga’s decision to block approval for landfill work at Henoko Bay.

Japan Sues Okinawa Local Government Over US Military Base Relocation.”  International Business Times, 17 November 2015.

December 2015 — The city council of Cambridge, Massachusetts, passed a resolution opposing the construction of a new base in Henoko.  It was the second city council to do so; the first being the city council of Berkeley, California.

City of Cambridge, MA second in the US to pass resolution opposing Henoko base.”  Ryukyu Shimpo, 24 December 2015.

January 2016 – Atsushi Sakima is elected mayor of Ginowan, the city around Futenma base.  Sakima supports Futenma base closure but took no position on the relocating of the base to Henoko.

In Okinawa, protestors dig in as work proceeds to relocate U.S. Marine base.”  The Washington Post, 6 February 2016.

January 2016 — Resolution 15-322 introduced at Honolulu City Council calling for the consideration of alternatives to the construction of a military base in Henoko.  In May 15 action on Resolution 15-322 is deferred, i.e., the bill is killed. (See related entry for May 2016)

Resolution 15-322. PDF

March 2016 – Japanese government orders Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga to “correct” his cancellation of approval for landfill work at the replacement site for the Futenma military base.

Government tells Onaga to ‘correct’ Henoko landfill decision.”  The Japan Times, 7 March 2016.

March 2016 – US sailor, Justin Castellanos, assigned to Camp Schwab, raped a Japanese tourist at a Naha hotel.  He pled guilty to the charges in May 2016.

Sailor accused of Okinawa rape pleads guilty.”  Stars and Stripes, 27 May 2016.

April 2016 – Former US Marine, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, admits to killing Rina Shimabukuro.

Kadena worker admits strangling, stabbing woman found dead in Okinawa.”  The Japan Times, 20 May 2016.

May 2016 — City Council of Honolulu kills Resolution 15-322 (see January 2016) which urged alternatives to the construction of a military base in Henoko.  The language of Resolution 15-322 was toned down but even the CD1 version mild as it was failed to win acceptance by members of the Council.  It is worth noting that none of Hawaii’s major news agencies reported on Resolution 15-322; much of the reporting came from a personal blog

Resolution 15-322, CD1 Deferred.”  Liuchiuan, 11 May 2016.

May 2016 – Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga calls for a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement.  This agreement put in place in 1960 has never been formally revised over more than 50 years.

Onaga doubts U.S. disciplinary measures in Okinawa, urges SOFA revision.”  The Japan Times, 28 May 2016.

Revising Status of Forces Agreement.The Japan Times – Opinion, 12 October 2013.

May 2016 – Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga traveled to the US and met with members of the US Senate and House of Representatives to explore a solution for the Futenma and Henoko issues.  Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said that if the Japanese government offered an alternative to the Henoko relocation, the current plan could be changed. Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono’s comments were not made public.

US congressman suggests Henoko relocation can be changed.”  Ryukyu Shimpo, 28 May 2016.

May 2016 – US President Barack Obama visits Japan for the Group of Seven summit.  Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Obama but did not bring up for discussion the revising of the Status of Forces Agreement.

Okinawa governor irked that Abe-Obama talks didn’t touch on revising SOFA.”  The Japan Times, 26 May 2016.

June 2016 — Okinawa’s anti-base faction increased its majority in the Okinawa prefectural assembly.  The anti-base faction won 27 of the 48 seats (56%) and the pro-base LDP faction won 14 of the 48 seats (29%).

Okinawa anti-base faction boosts its majority in prefectural assembly election.”  The Japan Times, 6 June 2016.

June 2016 — A poll of Okinawan residents found that 83.8% opposed the plan to relocate Marine Air Station Futenma to Henoko.

Poll shows strong Okinawa resistance to US base realignment plan.”  Stars and Stripes, 15 June 2016.

June 2016 – Mass rally with an estimated 60,000 people gather to protest the presence of US bases stationed in Okinawa.

After Murder, Mass Protests in Okinawa Against US Bases.”  The Diplomat, 22 June 2016.

June 2016 – The US military imposed a drinking ban on military personnel and civilian workers in Okinawa from May 27 to June 28 as a gesture of “unity and mourning” in light of the recent murder of Rina Shimabukuro.  During that period two Americans were arrested for drunk driving: Aimee Mejia, a Navy petty officer assigned to the Navy Munitions Command at Kadena Air Base, was arrested on June 4: and Francis Shayquan, a shop clerk at Kadena Air Base, was arrested on June 26.

Navy sailor officially charged in wrong-way DUI crash in Okinawa.”  Stars and Stripes, 27 June, 2016.

Okinawa cops nab U.S. military base worker on DUI charge.”  The Tokyo Reporter, 27 June 2016.

July 2016 – Out of respect for Okinawans angered by the recent murder of Rina Shimabukuro, US Forces in Japan refrained from celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks and concerts.  However, Major John Severns, the deputy director of public affairs at US Forces Japan, noted that barbecues, sporting events, and other community activities were still being planned.  On 4 July 2016, Tech Sgt. Christopher Platte, stationed at Kadena Air Base, was arrested for drunk driving.

No Fourth of July fireworks at U.S. bases in Japan after Okinawa rape.”  TribLive, 23 June 2016.

US Airman Arrested for Alleged Drunken Driving on Okinawa.”  ABC News, 4 July 2016.

Okinawa cops accuse another U.S. serviceman of drunk driving.”  The Tokyo Reporter, 4 July 2016.

July 2016 – In response to Okinawan outrage over the rape and murder of Rina Shimabukuro US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Lt. Gen. John Dolan, commander of the US forces in Japan met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to discuss the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).  The meeting resulted in a more restrictive interpretation intended to reduce the number of civilian workers who receive immunity from Japanese prosecution.  Dolan also promised a “redoubling” of efforts to educate US military personnel, their family, and civilian employees “that all acts of misconduct are unacceptable.”  This, however, is a symbolic gesture as it does not involve a formal revision of SOFA.

Japan, US agree to narrow definition of workers on US bases.”  The Charlotte Observer, 5 July 2016.

July 2016 – Okinawa voters oust Aiko Shimajiri, Okinawa’s representative in Japan’s Upper House and an ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  She was defeated by former Ginowan mayor Yoichi Iha, a longtime critic of the US military presence in Okinawa, who campaigned on a platform of opposition to relocating the US base in Futenma to Henoko.

Okinawa state minister loses seat in backlash over base fight.”  The Asahi Shimbun, 10 July 2016.

Okinawan minister Shimajiri ousted from Upper House by former Ginowan mayior.”  The Japan Times, 10 July 2016.

July 2016 – Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, met with Okinawa’s Governor, Takeshi Onaga, to inform him that the Japanese government plans to file suit against Okinawa for its failure to cooperate in the relocation of the Futenma base to Henoko.

Futenma wounds to reopen as government readies fresh lawsuit against Okinawa.”  The Japan Times, 21 July 2016.

Additional Resources

Shinzo Abe Faces Growing Wrath of Okinawans Over US Bases.New York Times, 28 May 2016.

Revising Status of Forces Agreement.”  The Japan Times – Opinion, 12 October 2013.

Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between Japan and the United States of America.” (Status of Forces Agreement, 1960) PDF

Relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.Wikipedia