Japan dispatches warship to Okinawa as anti-base protests mount

As a campaign of nonviolent protests mount in Okinawa over construction of a new off-shore US military heliport at Henoko, an e-mail alert from the local anti-militarism group “Project Disagree” informs us that the the Japanese government has dispatched the Maritime Self Defense Force ship Bungo to the Henoko base. The Bungo is a gunboat and mine-sweeper equipped with divers, and its mission is apparently to assist private contractors in the environmental “pre-survey” for the off-shore expansion. The environmental assessment is being overseen by the Defense Facility Administration Bureau, and local media have noted that Maritime Self Defense Force involvement in this type of environmental review is unprecedented. Writes Project Disagree: “Although Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Chief Cabinet Secretary, said the Maritime Self Defense Force in Henoko is not tasked with suppression of local base opposition, Okinawans suffering from the US presence and the Japanese government’s discriminatory policies reacted with anger.”

The move comes as Japan’s Diet has approved a national referendum to amend the country’s post-war constitution, which officially renounces war and bars re-armament. The referendum is slated to be held in 2010. (New Kerala, May 14)

See our last post on Japan and the struggle on Okinawa.