Entries Tagged as 'The environment'

Japanese residents elect mayor opposing US base

Tokyo (AFP)
By Kyoko Hasegawa
January 24, 2010

Japanese voters in a city on Okinawa island elected a mayor Sunday who opposes plans for a controversial new US air base, complicating a row with Washington over relocating troops.

Two candidates in Nago city were squaring off over whether or not to give local support to a plan — currently under review by the centre-left national government — to build a major new Marine Corps air base there.

Susumu Inamine, 64, who campaigned on a platform of rejecting the base, ousted Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 63, with a more-than 1,500-strong majority.

Official figures showed nearly 77 percent turnout by the city’s 45,000 voters.

“I’ve run this election campaign with the pledge of not to build a base” in the coastal area of Nago city, Inamone told more than a hundred of his supporters who shouted and applauded in rapture. “I’ll keep to this campaign promise with firm conviction,” he said.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said he may scrap an agreement with Washington to relocate the base from its current site in a crowded urban area of Okinawa to a quieter coastal site in the Nago area by 2014.

The issue has strained ties between Tokyo and Washington, which marked the 50th anniversary of their security pact last Tuesday, since Japan’s new leaders took power four months ago ending a half-century of conservative rule.

The southern island of Okinawa, which saw some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, hosts more than half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan.

While some local businesses benefit from the heavy American military presence, many residents have long opposed it, citing crimes committed by servicemen as well as noise, pollution and the threat of accidents. …


Agent Orange's lethal legacy: At former U.S. bases in Vietnam, a potent poison is clear and present danger

Chicago Tribune
By Jason Grotto
December 9, 2009

… U.S. air bases in Vietnam remain highly polluted by defoliants, but the U.S. has done little to clean up the sites it contaminated during the war.

When a small Canadian environmental firm started collecting soil samples on a former U.S. air base in a remote Vietnam valley, Thomas Boivin and other scientists were skeptical they’d find evidence proving herbicides used there by the U.S. military decades ago still posed a health threat.

But results showed levels of the cancer-causing poison dioxin were far greater than guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for residential areas. …

Vancouver-based Hatfield Consultants began tracing the toxin through the food chain, from the soil and sediment of nearby ponds to the fat of ducks and fish to the blood and breast milk of villagers living on the contaminated site.

The breast milk of one woman from the study contained dioxin levels six times higher than what the World Health Organization deems safe. She also had a 2-year-old child with spina bifida, one of the birth defects for which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs compensates the children of U.S. veterans.

Since then, Hatfield and Vietnamese scientists have taken samples from nearly 3,000 former U.S. military bases scattered throughout South Vietnam and identified 28 “hot spots,” including three highly contaminated sites around populated areas in Da Nang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat.

Their findings offered a way to recast the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam as a solvable — and urgent — issue. Instead of a messy controversy over birth defects and other complex health issues, the discovery of persistent contamination focused attention on a measurable, present-day problem that could be addressed.

Yet since the first Hatfield study was published in 2000, the U.S. government has done little to help clean up the sites it contaminated during the Vietnam War, providing just $6 million to tackle both the serious health issues related to the contamination and the significant environmental damage caused by the defoliants. …


Japan to propose adding environmental regulations to U.S. bases treaty

Mainichi Daily News
December 3, 2009

The Japanese government will call for the addition of environmental regulations to the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement.

The proposal will be made at a coming meeting of the Cabinet-level working group established by the two nations to address the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. With the working group moving towards a solution of that issue and apparently ready to take up at least some reforms of the status-of-forces agreement, Japan is looking to lessen the burden of hosting U.S. forces on Okinawa Prefecture.

Specifically, the Japanese government will call on the inclusion of provisions calling on the United States to clean up any pollution connected to its bases, and allow both local and government officials access for inspections. There have been accidental spills of toxic substances such as fuel on and around U.S. bases, but under the current status-of-forces facilities management terms the United States is not responsible for cleaning up such spills upon return of the land to Japanese control and does not allow Japan to conduct environmental pollution assessments.

The Status-of-Forces Agreement was signed in 1960 based on the Japan-U.S. security pact. It has not been amended since, and contains no environmental provisions. …

… However, the United States is not showing any interest in amending the Status-of-Forces Agreement, and there is a danger that the U.S. will not shift away from its current incremental approach to improving the treaty.