By Yoshida Toshihiro, journalist
(Yoshida was born in 1957. He is the author of “‘Nichibei godo iinkai’ no kenkyu” [A study on the ‘Japan-U.S. Joint Committee’], “Yokota kuuiki” [Yokota airspace], and “Nichibei senso domei” [Japan-U.S. war alliance].”)
Yokota Air Base is also a facility that serves to strengthen the functions of the Japan-U.S. joint headquarters. Joint training and exercises between the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are expanding there. In the past, Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) airborne brigades departed Yokota aboard C-130 transport airplanes and conducted parachute drop training in the SDF’s Hijudai Training Area in Oita Prefecture. Similar drop training is also conducted in the East Fuji Maneuver Area. Further, U.S. Army special forces and GSDF airborne brigades left the Yokota base aboard the C-130s and jointly carried out parachute drop training in Camp Narashino in Chiba Prefecture.
National security legislation legalized the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The legislation enabled the SDF to provide logistical support such as transport and supply when the U.S. military uses force and to enter a war on the American side under the right to collective self-defense. The legislation is unconstitutional because the provision of logistical support and the exercise of the right to collective self-defense violate Article 9 of the Constitution.
The present situation of the Yokota base throws into relief the alarming reality that the U.S. military, the armed forces of another nation, is undermining [Japan’s] sovereignty, resulting in the violation of constitutionally guaranteed human rights.
Article 25 of the Constitution stipulates, “All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultural living.” But the government neglects to address the issue of noise pollution caused by the U.S. military. What’s more, the courts acknowledge the illegality of noise but reject request for injunctions to halt late-night and early-morning flights by U.S. military airplanes. In consequence, the human rights of residents suffering from noise continue to be violated.
The U.S. military’s establishment of the “Yokota airspace” and the “Yokota air base visual flight training area,” which has no basis in domestic law or the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and low-altitude flight training outside the facilities and zones (training airspace), which should not be approved by SOFA, also constitute an infringement of sovereignty. They are also causing noise damage and exposing people living beneath nationwide flight training routes to the risk of plane crashes. In other words, they are causing human rights violations.
The U.S. military’s use of bases and activities are founded on such violations of sovereignty and human rights. Recently, the U.S. military is strengthening base functions and intensifying training by mapping out a confrontational policy against China. The Bilateral Joint Operations Coordination Center (BJOCC) at Yokota for the U.S. military and the SDF and the operations of the “Alliance Coordination Mechanism” that includes the BJOCC expedite military unification between Japan and the U.S. premised on the unconstitutional exercise of the right to collective self-defense.
Yokota and other U.S. military bases are like a black hole that is beyond the reach of outsiders in the name of exclusive regulatory authority. If Japan continues to leave U.S. military’s use of bases and activities uncontrolled and forges ahead on its own path to a stronger military alliance at the U.S.’s initiative, Japan’s sovereignty, human rights, and the principle of peace adopted in the Article 9 of the Constitution will be swallowed up by the U.S. military. (Abridged)