【PART 1】 Mystery of Okinawa: Military Bases and the Constitution

 

【2】 Where do U.S. military aircraft fly?

 

Please examine the diagram below. It shows the flight routes of U.S. military aircraft during their training sessions (as of August 2011). The area enclosed by a thick black line is the Futenma base, and the diagonal lines at the top left and bottom right are coastlines. You can clearly see that U.S. aircraft take off from Futenma and fly all over, on land and sea.

However, at the top center of the diagram, above the base, there is an area without any aircraft flying over it. This is the U.S. Forces’ residential district that I mentioned above. The aircraft avoid this location completely. On the other hand, the oval-shaped area you can see below the Futenma base is the location of Maehara, one of the busiest downtowns in Okinawa. Military aircraft fly alarmingly low over these busy areas. What’s more, in this circled area is Okinawa International University, where a U.S. helicopter crashed with chaotic results in 2004.

飛行訓練ルート

The flight routes of U.S. military aircraft over Futenma Air Station during their training session as of August 2011 | Surveyed by Okinawa Defense Bureau, Ministry of Defense

 

In other words, on the island of Okinawa, U.S. aircraft avoid flying over U.S. residences because it is dangerous, but fly low over Japanese homes without a second thought. They continue to fly at low altitudes, even over the very university where doing so previously caused the accident. Put simply, they care about American people’s lives and safety, but they disregard the lives and safety of Japanese people completely.

This is not a problem of whether you are right-wing or left-wing, or pro-U.S. or anti-U.S. It’s a problem at an entirely different level–the level of human rights. Why has such an outrageous situation been allowed?

When I first found out this truth, I was naturally outraged. I felt that U.S. officials were not treating the Japanese as humans.

As I learned the details, however, I came to understand that the core issue wasn’t so simple. Rather, the Japanese side is the one at fault.

To grasp this point, consider the map bellow, showing Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (including their chart for tracking aircraft training), in San Diego, on the West Coast of the U.S. As I learned in a lecture by Mr. Yoichi Iha (former mayor of Ginowan City, Okinawa), this base is located in a mountainous area, and is, amazingly, 20 times as large as Futenma. Therefore, most flight training sessions can be conducted within the base’s airspace. The light gray part shows the base premises, and the shaded part shows the area where planes conduct their flight training. In the U.S., a base cannot exist without a large amount of space like this. (Lecture delivered by Yoichi Iha at “The Assembly to Question the Notion of Building a Base in Kyoto,” November 29, 2013.)

There is also a flight path extending from the left side of the base to the coast. However, it does not extend in a straight line from the flight strip, but bends at a 45-degree angle. This is because there are houses and schools underneath the shortest flight path from the flight strip to the coast, which they are not allowed to fly over. Instead they fly through a valley that cuts across the land diagonally.

In other words, the flight of military aircraft over U.S. homes is strictly regulated in the U.S., and military officials simply apply the same regulations to their citizens stationed on bases abroad. Thus, for them, it is very natural to stay clear of U.S. military residences in Okinawa. Therefore, the one at fault here is the Japanese government, for not demanding that “American-standard regulations” be applied to Japanese citizens, and for ignoring the infringement of its own people’s human rights.

Please refer again to the photo on the first page. Why has flight training like this been left as it is in Japan, a sovereign country that is not under the authority of U.S. Forces?