(Akahata: January 31, 2016 – Top play)
Under the slogan “Reduction of Okinawa’s base burden,” the Japanese government has transferred U.S. military training and units from bases in Okinawa Prefecture to the Japanese mainland. The truth is, however, that the U.S. military is enhancing its functions in both Okinawa and the mainland. Beginning with the arrival of F22 and F16 fighters at the U.S. military’s Yokota and Kadena bases, Akahata describes the reality of quasi-colonized Japan.
Fourteen of the U.S. Air Force’s most advanced stealth fighter, the F22, landed at Yokota Base from Jan. 20 through 22. On Jan. 25, six F16 fighters also arrived at the base. All came from Alaska. The F22s belong to 525th Fighter Squadron stationed at Elmendorf Joint Base, whereas the F16s are part of 18th Aggressor Squadron based at Eielson Air Force Base. The F-16s play the role of a hypothetical enemy in combat training.
After Jan. 25, following the Ginowan mayoral election on Jan. 24, the F22s landed at the Kadena Base. On Jan. 27, twelve F16s arrived there. According to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, a total of 25 of these aircraft will conduct “readiness exercises” until the end of February.
“Fighters have never come to Kadena in these numbers,” said Kadena Mayor Toyama, voicing anger. “This is just the opposite of reduction of the base burden.” As of Jan. 30, the number of aircraft arriving at Kadena from other bases totals about 40. These include the F22 and the F16, as well as the FA18 and the V/STOL AV8B aircraft from Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The Defense Ministry announced that in order to “reduce the burden” on Kadena Base, training to be conducted by about 20 Kadena aircraft including F15s will be temporarily transferred to Guam from Feb. 7 through 28. But twice as many aircraft came from other bases to Kadena as if they fill the gap.
Residents of the base-hosting community suffer tremendous noise pollution. The town government filed a written protest with the Okinawa Defense Bureau on Jan. 29, calling for the removal of the aircraft arrived from other bases, because the noise pollution they cause violates the noise prevention agreement between the town and the base.
As for the Yokota Base, even though the aircraft arrived from other bases will remain there only temporarily, such an influx of aircraft from elsewhere on this scale has not been seen since the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
Why did the F22s and the F16s stop at Yokota en route to Kadena for temporary deployment? “The aircraft probably came to Yokota to get residents of the base-hosting community used to the U.S. military fighters,” pointed out Mieko Takahashi, the head of the “Association Calling for the Removal of Yokota Base.” “Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries adjacent to the base is designated as a maintenance facility for F35 fighters,” continued Takahashi. “The fighters will certainly deploy to Yokota in the future. Under the circumstances, the arrival of the F22s and the F16s this time might have been to check the base capability, bearing in mind the situation on the Korean peninsula.”
The Defense Ministry did not give local governments advance notification of the fighters’ arrival. “The U.S. military did not inform us of the fighters’ arrival in advance,” said Defense Minister Gen Nakatani in a press conference on Jan. 22. His comment reveals that the government simply repeats the phrase “reduction of Okinawa’s base burden” although there is no evidence of that.