Monday, May 25, 2009

Special Action Committee on Okinawa

Special Action Committee on Okinawa

The Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) was created in November 1995 with the goal of reducing the burden of U.S. military bases in Okinawa (Okinawa Prefecture, 2008). The bilateral U.S.-Japan committee was created in response to a challenge to the legal authority of the U.S. military occupation by local community activists and Okinawan politicians, and was intended to develop plans to reduce the size of U.S. bases and move existing bases to less populated parts of the island. SACO was supposed to review the Status of Forces Agreement regulations and develop a plan to return more than 12,000 acres of land to the Okinawa prefectural government, intending to ease civilians’ concerns over safety and noise pollution (Cooley & Marten, 2006).

The SACO final report, released in December 1996, called for the return of 11 facilities, totally more than 12,800 acres – approximately 21 percent of the land used by U.S. forces. Additionally, the report called for noise pollution and night flight reduction, and the relocation of live artillery training and parachute drop training to mainland Japan (Okinawa Prefecture, 2008; Difilippo, 2002).

While the SACO process seemed promising, many Okinawans distrusted the committee, and their concerns were realized by a decade of continual delays (Cooley & Marten, 2006; Mulgan, 2000). In October 2005, Japan and the United States finally reached an agreement to reduce the Marine force on Okinawa by 40 percent over a period of six years. Nonetheless, even if this agreement is honored, more than 11,000 Marines and thousands of other military personnel will still be posted on the island (Cooley & Marten, 2006). While the SACO proposals were supposed to be completed within five years, many have yet to begin. These include the relocation of the Futenma Marine Air Station heliport to an area near the town of Nago City in the northern part of Okinawa Island. The most recent accord, in October 2005, now claims that the project will be completed by 2011 – a decade longer than originally planned – despite a 1997 referendum by the citizens of Nago City against the proposed base expansion in their area (Cooley & Marten, 2006; Johnson, 1999; Arasaki, 2001). The disregard of the citizen referendum in Nago City is only one example of the way Okinawa’s political legitimacy is marginalized by Japan and the United States over issues of America’s military presence.

Arasaki, M. (2001). The Struggle Against Military Bases in Okinawa: Its history and Current Situation. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2, 102-108. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from Routledge.
Cooley, A., & Marten, K. (2006). Base Motives: The Political Economy of Okinawa’s Antimilitarism. Armed Forces and Society, 32, 566-583, Retrieved April 7, 2009, from Ebsco Electronic Journals Service.
DiFilippo, A. (2002). The Challenges of the U.S.-Japan Military Arrangement: Competing Security Transitions in a Changing International Environment. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Johnson, C. (1999). The 1995 Rape Incident and The Rekindling of Okinawan Protest Against the American Bases. In C. Johnson (Ed.), Okinawa: Cold War Island, 5-9, 109-129, 215-232. Cardiff, CA: Japan Policy Research Institute.
Mulgan, A, G. (2000). Managing the U.S. Base Issue in Okinawa: A Test for Japanese Democracy. Japanese Studies, 20, 159-177. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from Routledge.
Okinawa Prefecture Government of Military Base Affairs Division

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