Protests against United States military bases in Japan


This video is called Okinawa protest at Henoko base.

By Ben McGrath:

Protests in Japan denounce US military presence

27 May 2015

Japanese protesters gathered outside the parliament building in Tokyo on Sunday to demand the removal of a US base on the island of Okinawa. Numerous rallies have been held recently, both on the island and the Japanese mainland, to oppose the US military’s presence in the country.

An estimated 15,000 people took part in Sunday’s protest, denouncing plans to move the US Marine Corp Air Station Futenma base to a new location at Henoko, which is currently being constructed. Futenma is located in the city of Ginowan, while Henoko sits along a less populated coast in Okinawa. Many people held banners reading, “No to Henoko.” They demanded the base be removed from the prefecture altogether.

One protester, Akemi Kitajima, told the press: “We must stop this construction. The government is trying to force the plan, no matter how strongly Okinawa says ‘no’ to it.” The demonstrators also expressed opposition to US plans to deploy CV-22 Ospreys to the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo.

A larger protest took place on the previous Sunday, when 35,000 people gathered on Okinawa to oppose the base relocation plan. The protests began that Friday and continued throughout the weekend. On the Saturday, demonstrators marched around the Futenma base and were joined in other cities across the country by approximately 2,600 others. Besides their opposition to the base, people shouted slogans, such as “Oppose enhanced Japan-US defense ties,” directed against Japan’s turn to militarism.

Plans to move the Futenma base have been in the works since 1996, following the 1995 brutal kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three US servicemen, which resulted in widespread anti-US protests. Other, less publicized crimes by US personnel have also stoked anti-US sentiment.

Okinawa, however, is on the front lines of any conflict with China. A majority of the 47,000 American troops stationed in Japan are on the island, strategically located in the East China Sea adjacent to the Chinese mainland. Okinawa plays a key role in Washington’s “pivot to Asia,” designed to surround China militarily and economically subordinate it to US interests.

There is little chance the Obama administration would agree to relocate the Marine base off the island, especially at a time when it is engaged in provocations with China. The relocation of the base, which was outlined in a 2006 agreement between the US and Japanese governments, has provoked persistent protests. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to office in 2009 promising to revise the agreement, but the Obama administration refused point blank to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and worked to undermine him. He was forced to accept the 2006 deal, then resigned in June 2010. His DPJ replacement, Naoto Kan, quickly reaffirmed his full support for the US alliance.

The current Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government has not only made clear that the base relocation will proceed. It has stepped-up the remilitarization of Japan, acting in concert with Washington as part of the US “pivot” against China.

The recent demonstrations have been organized by citizens groups with ties to the Okinawan prefectural government. Governor Takeshi Onaga was elected last November as an independent, largely on his opposition to the Futenma base and its relocation. He is formerly of the ruling LDP and draws support from the conservative Shinpukai faction that left the LDP due to its support for the Okinawan bases.

Okinawans have for decades had a strained relationship both with Japan and the United States. Known as the Ryukyu Kingdom until it was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1879, the island saw heavy combat at the end of World War II, during which more than 100,000 civilians were killed. Following the war, Okinawa remained under direct US control until 1972, two decades after the US occupation ended in the rest of Japan.

Goverment, stop lying on forced prostitution, Japanese historians say


Dutch ex-World War II Japanese army forced prostitute Ellen van der Ploeg during a demonstration in The Hague in 2007

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Japanese historians: tell the truth about the comfort women

Today, 12:14

Thousands of historians in Japan call on their compatriots to face the truth about the history of the ‘comfort women‘. Comfort women is the designation for women from Korea, China and the Dutch East Indies who were forced during World War II to have sex with Japanese soldiers. That happened in camps of the Japanese army. Many Japanese politicians and media maintain that there is no evidence that there was coercion.

The historians disagree. According to them, sticking to this “irresponsible” position means that Japan sends the message to the world that the country does not respect human rights, they write in a manifesto published yesterday.

Unreliable

The immediate reason for the call was the decision by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun to retract a series of articles on these foreign sex slaves. In these articles the newspaper wrote that there had been coercion. In November last year, the newspaper retracted this: the main source of previously published articles was said to have been unreliable.

According to the historians that does not alter the statement of the Japanese government in 1993, that the Japanese army during the war ran brothels in which foreign women were forced to work on a large scale. They also refer to historical research done into the fate of the comfort women.

The president of the Historical Science Society of Japan said at a press conference that university teachers engaged in research on the comfort women are being threatened. They are also made to choose between not lecturing on this or to resign.

Korea objects to heritage status for Japan’s World War II ‘slave labour’ sites: here.

Whitewashing war crimes, attacking civil liberties in Japan


This video says about itself:

UN human rights panel calls on Japan to provide compensation to its wartime sex slavery victims

24 July 2014

A UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime system of sex slavery.

The call comes as two elderly victims continue their mission in the United States to raise awareness about the horrors they faced.

Park Ji-won reports.

Two victims of Japan’s wartime system of sexual slavery visited the city of Glendale in California this week.

It’s where a monument dedicated to them and the thousands of other victims,… a bronze statue of a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing,… is set up.

“Please help us, the victims, receive an apology before we all die.”

Lee Ok-seon says she was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was only 15,… and sent to a military brothel.

To this day,… the Japanese government denies its military operated the brothels, despite a huge amount of evidence that shows the military did.

The two women, now in their late 80s, spoke out against some Japanese Americans and Japanese officials who want the statue removed.

“They’re saying really inhumane things.”

Both women will stay in the U.S. for another couple of weeks.

They’ll travel to Virginia and New Jersey and to other monuments set up in memory of all those who suffered under Japan’s cruel system of sexual slavery.

Meanwhile, a UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime sex slave victims before it’s too late.

The UN Human Rights Committee said Thursday that, after reviewing the records of several countries,… it’s concerned about the re-victimization of the former sex slavery victims.

The panel criticized the Japanese government for continuously denying its responsibility and even defaming the victims,… rather than taking the necessary steps to help them.

The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, also noted that every compensation claim brought by victims has been dismissed, and every call to ask for independent investigation on the sex slavery has been rejected in Japan.

Park Ji-won, Arirang News.

From the Japan Times:

Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan?

by Jeff Kingston

May 16, 2015

Certainly it’s worse in China, South Korean security recently beat demonstrators and Spain faces a blanket gag rule, but are concerns about the anti-democratic forces of darkness in Japan unduly alarmist? How bad can it be if protestors in Hibiya Park can carry placards depicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Adolf Hitler?

Bad enough, alas. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler, among others, recently implicated Team Abe in getting Shigeaki Koga, a prominent Abe critic, axed from Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” program.

“I am afraid that media organizations’ self-restraint is spreading and, as a result, accurate information is not reaching the public,” Koga said at a press conference, claiming he was the victim of a political vendetta and corporate media timidity.

Mindful of the orchestrated attacks on the Asahi’s news organs and fearful of right-wing reprisals, self-censorship is a growing problem. Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis told me about the recent cancellation of a planned television interview that was to take place in New York. The local correspondent informed him that the Japanese network’s management in Tokyo nixed the interview because it was going to assess how Abe has handled the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this topic was deemed too sensitive.

Curtis says the worrying lesson here is that “the government doesn’t have to muzzle the press if the press takes it upon itself to do the muzzling.”

But the government is taking no chances.

Conservative Abe cronies were appointed to NHK’s top management last year, and Katsuto Momii, a man without any media experience, was named chairman. He later declared to the press, “When the government is saying ‘Right’ we can’t say ‘Left.’”

Since Momii began promoting this curious vision at NHK, staff have complained that managers are strictly insisting on wording that hues to government views on controversial topics such as Yasukuni Shrine, disputed territories and the “comfort women.” To ensure conformity, NHK now publishes an internal censorship manual, called the “Orange Book,” banning the use of the term “sex slaves” and other phrases identified as problematic. NHK insiders told me that some recalcitrant staff suffered career derailments because they didn’t toe the line, including a group that openly called on Momii to step down.

There is no smoking gun, and it could be a routine staff rotation, but an apparent casualty of the purge is NHK’s “News Watch 9″ anchor Kensuke Okoshi, who has spoken out against nuclear power and committed other “transgressions.”

Controversy erupted last summer when Naoki Hyakuta, a best-selling writer and conservative on history issues, was handpicked by Abe to serve on NHK’s board of governors. Hyakuta criticized Okoshi’s on-air comments about ethnic Korean residents in Japan that were aired July 17, 2014. Okoshi said: “The first-generation Korean residents were those who were forcibly brought to Japan or moved to the country to seek jobs after the annexation of Korea in 1910. They had a lot of difficulties establishing their foundations for living.”

At the subsequent NHK board of governors meeting, Hyakuta reportedly asked: “Is it acceptable to say ethnic Korean residents are those who were forcibly taken by Japan? That is wrong.”

The acting chair informed Hyakuta that as a governor, comments about the content of an individual program violated the broadcasting law. Hyakuta has since resigned his position, complaining he wasn’t able to have any impact, but one can imagine that NHK staff felt his presence, and indeed Okoshi is no longer a newscaster despite being one of the most respected in the business.

“The systematic suppression of the press and freedom of speech by the Abe government and its functionaries is very, very disturbing in terms of its effects on the future course of Japan and its democracy,” says Ayako Doi, a journalist based in the United States who is currently an associate fellow of the Asia Society. In her view, things have gotten significantly worse under Abe. She cites the Liberal Democratic Party’s summons of Japanese media executives, the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt’s visit to the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a Foreign Ministry official’s visit to publisher McGraw-Hill in New York to ask for changes in the descriptions of Japan’s comfort women system of sexual slavery written in a U.S. history textbook.

“They have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” she says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.”

Well-placed sources in Washington previously told me that even overseas the Japanese government actively disparages Abe’s critics, something that Doi isn’t surprised by.

“It seems that under the Abe government, efforts to silence critics of his policies and interpretation of history have become systematic,” she says. “It now appears to be a concerted effort orchestrated by Kantei (the prime minister’s office).”

Japan’s right-wing media also engages in trans-Pacific intimidation. For example, a rightwing pundit slammed the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum, making groundless accusations about an anti-Japan bias. He also attacked the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership for sponsoring a research project regarding Sino-Japanese relations and history issues. This research project was deemed a waste of Japanese taxpayers’ money and some of the researchers were subject to defamatory attacks on their professional integrity. But it would be a sad day for Japanese democracy if the right wing gets to set the research agenda, pick the scholars and decide what they should conclude.

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Exposing such orchestrated attacks and highlighting the dangers of self-censorship are all the more important in contemporary Japan because, as Doi puts it, media freedom is “sliding down a slippery slope” and it’s important to “speak out before the momentum becomes unstoppable.”

Jeff Kingston is the director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.

British government covering up Bahrain scandal


This video says about itself:

‘Night raids, torture, sham trials a daily reality in Bahrain’ – human rights activist

21 October 2013

In an Arab world swept away by revolutions and wars, few states have remained intact. And at what cost? Bahrain has seen protests, arrests and crackdowns on the opposition. Does stability necessarily mean political oppression in the Middle East? Why is Bahrain’s trouble off international media’s radar? We talk to human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja, daughter of Bahrain’s renowned dissident, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is now in jail.

From Reuters news agency:

Thu May 21, 2015 7:31pm BST

Classified document on Bahrain rankles Britain decades later

By Noah Browning

DUBAI – A legal battle between an activist group and Britain over a decades-old diplomatic cable on Bahrain has exposed a thorny link between the UK’s colonial past and its new military ambitions in a region it once dominated.

The Foreign Office has told a court in London that a censored assessment by a colonial officer of the Gulf Arab island’s ruling Al Khalifa family may harm the UK’s relationship with Bahrain as it seeks to build a naval base there.

The installation will be Britain’s first permanent military presence in the Middle East since it withdrew from Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf region in 1971.

The court ruled at the end of April that more of the document, which is based partly on secret evidence by a top British diplomat, should be exposed, and the Foreign Office has 30 days to appeal.

The two-page report is a 1977 record of a talk between a British official and Ian Henderson, a senior British security chief who advised Bahrain for decades after its independence.

“What surprised me in our conversation was the gloomy view he took of the ability of the Al Khalifa to survive,” the official wrote. The rest of the typewritten paragraph is heavily blacked out.

Marc Owen Jones, a PhD student who brought the case on behalf of UK-based activist group Bahrain Watch, told Reuters he believes the censored parts disparage a living member of the ruling family.

The passages were classified “on the grounds that international relations could be damaged were it to be released. Those grounds still exist,” Edward Oakden, the Foreign Office’s Middle East director, argued in the case.

Bahraini authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

Oakden noted an accord in December to put a long standing UK naval presence in Bahrain on a permanent footing at the Gulf state’s expense, and said disclosing more of the paper could also harm British efforts to reform Bahrain’s security forces.

BULWARK

The move is part of a modest expansion of British military readiness in the region. In 2013 the Royal Air Force established an air transport and refuelling hub in the United Arab Emirates.

Home to the United States’ Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is a strategic bulwark for Western interest in the energy-rich Gulf.

“Western countries seek good relations with Gulf States for defence reasons and also economic reasons,” said Jane Kinninmont, a Middle East expert at London’s Chatham House think tank. She cited rapidly increasing defence budgets in the Gulf that are partly earmarked to buy Western arms.

“The case shows how alive the history of British colonial rule still is in the Gulf today,” she added.

Britain first signed a treaty with the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family in Bahrain in 1820 and their relationship has remained strong for decades after the end of its protectorate.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa skipped a Gulf Arab summit with U.S. President Barack Obama last week and instead joined the Queen for a horse show and to discuss bilateral relations with her.

The kingdom has been buffeted by protests from its Shi’ite majority since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, which were put down with help from Saudi Arabia. But unrest within the Shi’ite community stretches back to Henderson’s mandate and before.

Bahrain has denied accusations of torture and political repression by human rights groups, saying it has implemented reforms and greater transparency for its security forces …

Ala’a Shehabi, co-founder of Bahrain Watch, said Britain was putting security interests above resolving historic wrongs in Bahrain, adding that the group will seek to declassify more of the country’s colonial archives on Bahrain.

(The story was refiled to correct typos in ‘respond’ in paragraph 9 and ‘of’ in paragraph 14)

(Editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)