Last night I spoke to 70 people in Fukuoka. The people came from several different local groups including those who are working to oppose the US-Japan deployments of PAC-3 missile defense systems; working to stop the US Iraq-Afghanistan war; and organizing to stop another nuclear power plant in the region. After I spoke each of the groups was asked to make some comments about their issues and afterward we had an open question and answer session.
I was particularly moved by the comments of a woman who is organizing to stop the PAC-3 deployments which are justified as defense against North Korea but most peace activists in Japan and South Korea believe they are really being deployed against China.By Hiroko Watanabe
I am Hiroko Watanabe of Tsuiki, where we have the Tsuiki ASDF Base. We locals founded a small grup named 'Circle watching for Peace and all lives' in 1987, opposing the joint exercise by the US force and Japan's ASDF at Tsuiki Base. On April 2, 1989 we made a demonstration of surrounding Tsuiki Base with 2,500 people, in opposition of F-15 deployment there. In order not to forget the feel of the firm grips on that occasion of 'human chain,' and also so as to aim at 'continuation of the struggle,' we have conducted, for these 20 years, monthly 'anti-base sitting-in' at the front gate of the base. This August 2 saw our 243rd return, and 40 people participated in the sitting-in.
However, as for the PAC-3, which is soon to be deployed at this base in my hometown in this fall, local people have no, absolutely no, interest in it.
It is every body's knowledge that PAC-2 is already here in this base, having deployed in May, 1994. At the time of its deployment, we locals voiced our opposition and also acted against it, with the local government and assembly and the labor union together with us. We conducted the same kind of human-chain demonstration of surrounding the base where they had the air defense artillery's. Even those who were non-committed to these opposition movements must have paid heed to what was going on at that time.
So, what a contrast between then and now! There are no public concerns nor oppositions. For us locals around Tsuiki Base, the problem of Patriot missiles are all over as a result of our loss in the struggle against PAC-2 deployment. The imminent deployment of PAC-3 is only the matter of a new type of missiles taking over the current one.
I myself is at a loss what to do with that. I assume you all here tonight know what has become of the labor union, which was our strong ally in the past two opposition movements including the human-chain. The labor union has stopped its systematic participation in our continued monthly sitting-ins named 'Every 2nd day Action.' So, we locals are now the only player in the town of Tsuiki in dealing with almost all the social issues deriving from the ASDF base. I know this sounds defensive, but we cannot handle such problems by ourselves while being engaged in our daily work, as there are too many.
However, I am not in despair. One example of good signs: Although Japan's Ministry of Defence and the SDF had been proceeding their 'Expansion Plan of Tsuiki Base' in order to reinforce the functions of the base according to the global transformation of the US forces, the association of local residents living next to the area planned for the expansion had strongly been opposed against this plan, finally forcing the Ministry of Defence recently to withdraw the current expansion plan. This is a remarkable victory by local citizens.
Local residents, who had been in the opinion of 'co-prosperity with the base,' never saying NO to the base, seem to be changing. I think we, local activists, can self-praise ourselves for our 22-year-long struggle, as it may have raised the consciousness in such people.
I know our power is limited and we cannot stage a big opposition action in Tsuiki, regarding the forth-coming PAC-3 deployment, but I want to carry on what I and we, as a group, can do in our daily life, never giving it up.
Now I believe it most important for us to have a strong will in ourselves: such will as 'I shall not to retreat,' 'I shall never give up,' 'I shall not to obey.' Only from such wills can we derive solidarity with comrades and true social reforms for the sake of citizens. This is my conviction obtained through my struggle during these 22 years. Thank you.