Japanese women have stepped to the front in the struggle to have all U.S. military bases removed from their country. To this end, a number of prominent Japanese women writers, professors and community leaders ran a full-page ad in a January issue of the New York Times.
In the ad, the women point out that the Japanese "are paying for 70 percent of the cost of the presence of 47,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Japan. This has squeezed the Japanese national budget for intensely needed social programs such as welfare, education and for the elderly."
Last week, Japan's government reported the highest unemployment rate since the 1950's -- nearly 4 percent. Most analysts state that Japan routinely underreports unemployment figures and that the actual rate could be as high as 8 percent. Japan has yet to break out of the deep recession which hit the country in the early 1990's.
According the Nov. 11 issue of Asahi Shimbun, a leading Japanese newspaper, over 73 percent of the people want the number of U.S. bases reduced and over 92 percent want the "Status of Forces" agreement to be reviewed.
The military bases were built upon land seized by U.S. forces in the wake of Japan's defeat in World War II. "The people of Okinawa (where 75 percent of the 136 U.S. bases in Japan are located) were made to give up their fertile lands at gunpoint and with bulldozers, [were] deprived of their right to live, and have been forced to suffer from noises of military exercises and live in constant danger threatened by the fear of crimes," according to the Times ad.
The women stated that what was at issue was Japan's sovereignty. "The most important thing we believe is to recognize the sovereignty of nations in solidarity with the people of the world, remove foreign military bases, and aim at a complete ban on the testing, manufacture, threat or use of nuclear weapons," the women stated.
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