World Scholars, Artists, Activists Call for Demilitarization of Okinawa

To Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo
To President of the United States, Donald Trump
To Acting Governor of Okinawa, Jahana Kiichiro
To Acting Governor of Okinawa, Tomikawa Moritake

September 2018

To people of the world:

In January 2014, more than one hundred scholars, peace activists and artists from around the world issued a statement condemning the Japanese and U.S. governments’ plans to close MCAS Futenma, which is located in the middle of a congested urban neighbourhood, and build a new base for the US Marine Corps offshore from the coastal village of Henoko in Northern Okinawa. While we applauded shutting the Futenma base, we strongly objected to the idea of relocating it inside Okinawa.

Okinawa has suffered at Japanese and American hands for more than a century. It was incorporated by force into both the pre-modern Japanese state in 1609 and into modern Japan in 1879. In 1945, it was the scene of the final major battle of World War Two, resulting in the deaths of between one-third and one-quarter of its population. It was then severed from the rest of Japan under direct US military rule for another 27 years during which the Pentagon constructed military bases, unfettered by Japanese residual sovereignty or Okinawan sentiment. Reversion to Japan took place in 1972, bases intact. In the continuing post-Cold War era, Okinawa has faced the pressure of state policies designed to reinforce that base system, not only by construction of the Henoko facility but also by the building of “helicopter pads” for the Marine Corps in the Yambaru forest of northern Okinawa and by the accelerating fortification of the chain of “Southwest” (Nansei) islands that stretch from Kagoshima to Taiwan (including Amami, Miyako, Ishigaki, and Yonaguni).

Signatories of our 2014 statement included linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, filmmakers Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and John Junkerman, Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, historians Norma Field, John Dower, Alexis Dudden and Herbert Bix, former US Army Colonel Ann Wright, authors Naomi Klein and Joy Kogawa, former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine Richard Falk, and former Defense and State Department official Daniel Ellsberg. The present statement follows on from that of four years ago and from subsequent statements such as those in January and August 2015. It includes many of the original signatories.

We raise our voices again because our concerns were never remedied and are heightened today. In military and strategic terms, Japanese and American experts agree that there is no reason why functions of the projected new base (if indeed there is need for them, which many doubt) had to be in Okinawa. The government insists on Okinawa largely because it thinks it is “politically impossible” to build such a new base elsewhere in Japan.

In 2017-18, the government of Japan built seawalls around Cape Henoko (mobilizing a large force of riot police and the Japan Coast Guard to crush the non-violent opposition). In June 2018, it served notice of intent to commence dropping sand and soil into Oura Bay as part of the plan to fill in and reclaim a 160 hectare site for construction of a major new facility for the US Marine Corps. It would construct a concrete platform rising ten meters above sea level with two 1,800-meter runways and a 272-meter long wharf.

In environmental terms, Oura Bay is one of Japan’s most bio-diverse and fertile marine zones, in the highest category for protection (in the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s conservation guideline), home to over 5,300 marine species, 262 of them endangered, including coral, sea cucumber, seaweed, shrimp, snails, fish, tortoises, snakes and mammals, and to the specially protected marine mammal, the dugong. The bay is also connected to the ecosystem of the Yambaru forest in northern Okinawa Island, which the Japanese Ministry of the Environment nominated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 2017, along with three other islands of Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures. That nomination was withdrawn in June 2018 as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the advisory organization on natural heritage issues to UNESCO, recommended that the nomination be “deferred,” seeking clarification on how to match the Yambaru forest as a World Heritage site with the presence of the US military’s Northern Training Area within it.

An independent environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required by law for such large-scale reclamation and public works, but the Japanese government simply commissioned the Ministry of Defense, the party seeking to reclaim, to conduct its own EIA. Governor Nakaima Hirokazu found that it would be “impossible, by the environmental protection measures spelled out in the EIA, to maintain the preservation of people’s livelihood and the natural environment.” Despite that, and despite the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee in 2012 listing 150 cases of insufficient findings and understated adverse effects on the environment, and despite Nakaima’s having been elected in 2010 on a pledge to demand relocation of Futenma outside of Okinawa, he reversed himself under heavy state pressure while ensconced in a Tokyo hospital in December 2013, granting the permit to proceed with construction despite overwhelming opposition in Okinawa. His unexplained shift angered many Okinawans and, in November 2014, he suffered massive (by more than 100,000 votes) defeat by Onaga Takeshi, whose core pledge was to do “everything in my power” to stop the Henoko project.

Onaga appointed a “Third Party” Commission of experts to advise him on this matter and its report in July 2015 was equally clear that the necessary environmental conditions for construction had not been met. Documents later released by the US Department of Defense (DOD) in a US federal court case showed the DOD’s expert opinion concurred that the EIA was “extremely poorly done” and “does not withstand scientific scrutiny.” In August 2015, we urged him to act decisively, and in October, he did “cancel” the reclamation license.

However, after prolonged litigation, the Supreme Court, late in 2016, upheld the national government’s claim that the cancellation was illegal. Onaga submitted to that ruling, thus reviving the reclamation permit, and the state resumed site work in April 2017. As those works at Oura Bay gradually gathered momentum, Onaga even appeared at times to be cooperating with the state’s construction design. In late 2017, he gave permission for use of Northern Okinawan ports for transport of construction materials to the Henoko-Oura Bay site and in July 2018 he approved the application by the Okinawa Defense Bureau for permission to remove and transplant endangered coral from the construction site despite strong evidence that transplanting, especially in spawning season, offered little prospect of success.

He retained, however, the option of issuing a “rescission” or “revocation” (tekkai) order, something he repeatedly promised to do when the time was ripe. Eventually, on 27 July 2018, Onaga gave formal notice of his intent to revoke and ordered preliminary steps accordingly. Two weeks later, however, on August 8, he suddenly died. Pending the election of a successor, to take place on 30 September, two Deputy Governors, Jahana  Kiichiro and Tominaga Moritake  took over the functions of Governor. The planned revocation would proceed, said Jahana, though the timing is uncertain.

Base construction flies in the face of constitutional principles such as popular sovereignty and the right to regional self-government. Okinawan opposition to the construction of a new base has been constant, reaching at times over 80 per cent in public opinion surveys, and has been repeatedly affirmed in elections (not least that of Onaga himself in 2014). No Okinawan candidate for office has ever been elected on an explicitly pro-base construction platform. The Okinawan parliament has twice, in May 2016 and November 2017, called for withdrawal of the Marine Corps altogether from Okinawa.

It is time to rethink the “fortress” role assigned to Okinawa by successive Japanese governments and U.S. military and strategic planners and to begin to articulate a role for Okinawa, including its “frontier” islands, as the centre of a de-militarized community to be built around the East Sea/Sea of Japan. Cancellation of the Henoko project and an end to the militarization of the Frontier Islands would, more than anything, signal a commitment to the construction of such a new order.

We, the undersigned, support the people of Okinawa in their struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of their environment, and we call on the people of Japan to recognize and support the justice of that struggle.

We declare our support for Okinawa prefecture’s revocation of the reclamation license for Oura Bay of which former Governor Onaga served formal notice on 27 July and which Acting Governor Jahana has pledged to carry out.

We call on Prime Minister Abe to cancel forthwith the planned base construction for the US Marine Corps at Henoko and to open negotiations with the government of the United States towards drastically reducing, and eventually eliminating, the US military base presence on Okinawa.

We call on Prime Minister Abe to order a halt to the construction or expansion of Japanese military facilities on Amami, Miyako, Ishigaki and Yonaguni Islands and to initiate debate on ways to transform Okinawa Island and the Frontier Islands into a regional centre for peace and cooperation.

We call on the candidates for election to the Governorship of Okinawa to make clear their intent to carry out the manifest will of the Okinawan people to close Futenma, stop Henoko and rethink the Frontier Islands, shifting overall Okinawa policy priority from militarization to peace, the environment, and regional cooperation.

We call upon the people and governments of the world to support the struggle of the people of Okinawa to demilitarize the Okinawan islands and to live in peace.


Joseph Gerson, President, Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security.
Erin Jones, Independent researcher, Gilbert AZ
Petr Kuznick, Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University.
Gavan McCormack, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University.
Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, and Veteran, US Army, Okinawa.


  1. Christine Ahn, Women Cross DMZ
  2. Gar Alperovitz, Historian and Political-Economist; Co-Founder, The Democracy Collaborative; Former Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy, University of Maryland
  3. Jim Anderson, President, Peace Action New York State
  4. Kozy Amemiya, Independent scholar, specialist on Okinawan emigration
  5. Colin Archer, Secretary-General, International Peace Bureau (retired)
  6. Herbert Bix, Emeritus Professor of History and Sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY
  7. Reiner Braun, Co-president International Peace Bureau
  8. John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
  9. Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice
  10. Choi Sung-hee, Coordinator of Gangjeong Village International Team (in opposition to the Jeju Navy Base), Jeju, Korea
  11. Avi Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University
  12. Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  13. Rachel Clark, Independent interpreter/global coordinator
  14. Paul Cravedi, President, Newton Executive Office Center
  15. Nick Deane, Marrickville Peace Group, Sydney, Australia
  16. Kate Dewes, Ph.D. O.N.Z.M (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit)
  17. Anne M. Dietrich, International Peace Advisor, PUR / CRASPD, Huye, Rwanda
  18. John Dower, Professor Emeritus of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  19. Jean Downey, Attorney and writer
  20. Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut
  21. Mark Ealey, Translator
  22. Lorraine J Elletson, an independent researcher, Spain
  23. Daniel Ellsberg, former State and Defense Department official
  24. Cynthia Enloe, Research Professor, Clark University
  25. Joseph Essertier, Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology
  26. John Feffer, Co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus ( at the Institute for Policy Studies
  27. Bill Fletcher, Jr., Former president of TransAfrica Forum
  28. Carolyn Forché, University Professor, Georgetown University
  29. Max Paul Friedman, Professor of History, American University
  30. Ian R. Fry, RDA, PhD., Honorary Postdoctoral Associate, University of Divinity, Chair, Victorian Council of Churches Commission on Faiths, Community and Dialogue, Member, the Board of the World Intellectual Forum
  31. Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
  32. Irene Gendzier, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Boston University
  33. Corazon Valdez Fabros, Vice President, International Peace Bureau
  34. Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
  35. George Feifer, author of THE BATTLE OF OKINAWA, The Blood and the Bomb.
  36. Gordon Fellman, Brandeis University
  37. Norma Field, Professor Emerita, University of Chicago
  38. Takashi Fujitani, Dr. David Chu Chair in Asia-Pacific Studies and Professor of History, University of Toronto
  39. Joseph Gerson (PhD), President, Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security
  40. Rob Green. Commander, Royal Navy (retired)
  41. Stig Gustafsson, President, Swedish Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
  42. Melvin Hardy, Curator, Hiroshima Children’s Drawings, All Souls Church, Unitarian, Washington, DC
  43. Laura Hein, Professor of Japanese History, Northwestern University Chicago
  44. Kwon, Heok−Tae, Professor, SungKongHoe University
  45. Ellen Hines, Associate Director and Professor of Geography & Environment, Estuary and Ocean Science Center, San Francisco State University
  46. Katsuya Hirano, Associate Professor of History, UCLA
  47. Glenn D. Hook, Emeritus Professor, University of Sheffield
  48. Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  49. Mickey Huff, Professor of History, Diablo Valley College; Director, Project Censured
  50. Jean E. Jackson, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, MIT
  51. Paul Jobin, Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Paris Diderot
  52. Sheila Johnson, Japan Policy Research Institute, Cardiff California; widow of Chalmers Johnson
  53. Erin Jones, Independent researcher, Gilbert AZ
  54. Paul Joseph, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University
  55. John Junkerman, Documentary film director.
  56. Kyle Kajihiro, Hawaiʻi Peace and Justice, and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
  57. Louis Kampf, Professor of Humanities Emeritus, MIT
  58. Bruce Kent, Movement for the Abolition of War
  59. Assaf Kfoury, Professor of Computer Science, Boston University
  60. Nan Kim, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  61. Joy Kogawa, author
  62. Jeremy Kuzmarov, Professor of History, Tulsa Community College
  63. Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University.
  64. John Lamperti, Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, Dartmouth College
  65. Steve Leeper, Founder, Peace Culture Village
  66. Jon Letman, Journalist, Hawaii
  67. Edward Lozansky, Founder and President, American University in Moscow
  68. Catherine Lutz, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University.
  69. Kyo Maclear, Author and Independent Scholar, Toronto, Canada
  70. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate
  71. Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action
  72. Gavan McCormack, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University
  73. Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst
  74. Zia Mian, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
  75. Katherine Muzik, Ph.D., Marine Biologist,Okinawa and Hawaii. Research Associate, Bishop Museum.
  76. Vasuki Nesiah, Associate Professor of Practice, New York University
  77. Agneta Norberg, chair, Swedish Peace Council
  78. Caroline Norma, Senior Research Fellow, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
  79. Eiichiro Ochiai, Emeritus Professor, Juniata College, PA, USA
  80. Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
  81. Koohan Paik, International forum on globalization, San Francisco
  82. Parker Park, President of Parker Enterprise, and writer/journalist
  83. Lindis Percy, Co-founder of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB)
  84. John Pilger, journalist, author, film-maker
  85. Margaret Power, Professor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology
  86. John Price, History Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria, Canada
  87. Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, and Veteran, US Army, Okinawa
  88. Hye-Jung Park, Philadelphia Committee for Peace and Justice in Asia
  89. Terry Provance, Coordinator, Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee
  90. J. Narayana Rao, Director, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (India)
  91. Betty A. Reardon, Ed.D., Founding Director Emeritus International Institute of Peace Education
  92. Ernie Regehr, Co-founder of Project Ploughshares
  93. Lawrence Repeta, Member, Washington State Bar Association (USA)
  94. Dennis Riches, Professor, Seijo University
  95. Terry Kay Rockefeller, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
  96. Paul Rogers, independent scholar, Bradford, UK
  97. Antonio C.S. Rosa, Editor, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS
  98. Kazuyuki Sasaki, Senior lecturer, Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS), Rwanda
  99. Mark Selden, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and History, State University of New York at Binghamton
  100. 100. Tim Shorrock, Journalist, Washington DC

    101. Marie Cruz Soto, Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University and Member of New York Solidarity with Vieques

    102. John Steinbach, Co-Chair of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace committee of the National Capital Area

    103. Oliver Stone, Writer-Director

    104. Doug Strable, Educational researcher

    105. Frida Stranne, PhD, Peace and Development Studies, Swedish Institute for North American Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden

    106. David Swanson, Director, World BEYOND War

    107. Yuki Tanaka, Freelance historian and political critic, Melbourne, Australia

    108. Kenji Urata, Professor Emeritus, Waseda University, Japan, Vice President, IALANA

    109. Jo Vallentine, former Greens Senator, co-convenor of People for Nuclear Disarmament, Western Australia

    110. David Vine, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, American University

    111. Naoko Wake, Associate Professor of History, Michigan State University

    112. Dave Webb, Chair Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK), Vice President of the International Peace Bureau and Convenor of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

    113. Wesley Ueunten, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University

    114. The Very Rev. the Hon. Lois Wilson, Former President, World Council of Churches

    115. Lucas Wirl, Executive Director, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA)

    116. Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History Emeritus, State University of New York/Albany

    117. Karel van Wolferen, author and emeritus professor, University of Amsterdam

    118. Ann Wright, US Army Reserve Colonel (Ret) and former US Diplomat

    119. Tomomi Yamaguchi, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Montana State University

    120.Lisa Yoneyama, Professor, University of Toronto

    121. Sang Yoo, Retired ordained clergy of The United Methodist Church in the USA