U.S. X-Band Radar Base Jeopardizes Environment and Lives of Citizens of Kyotango in Japan
By Prof. Harumi Ishino
Is establishment of the U.S. Kyogamisaki TPY-2 Radar Base (The 14th Missile Defense Battery) in the city of Kyotango really necessary for defense of the nation? Is it really for enhancing safety and peace, and for benefit of people?
According to Government’s announcement, the purpose of establishing X-band radar base in Kyotango is for ‘missile defense’ to control especially attacks from North Korea. It is uncertain, however, that the X-band radar, providing data for interceptor missiles attacks of U.S. Navy Aegis really protects Japan. The establishment of a radar base in Kyotango is a part of U.S. military ‘ballistic missile defense systems’ strategies for controlling South East Asia, and it means to defend U.S. bases in Pacific region and U.S. homeland in the first place.
The operation of X-band radar of Kyotango started December 26th, 2014. It has brought a drastic change on the life of people nearby small villages, namely Ukawa and Sodeshi (population 1,400). They live on mainly agriculture and fishery. The quiet environment of typical Japanese seaside villages is now a forefront of modern missile wars under the U.S. and Japan Security Treaty. With operation of X- band radar, they are now exposed to threats, or first attacks from other nations, and also, to unknown environmental change.
Today, local residents are exposed 24 hours continuing low frequency noise (55 to 70, over the limit of 41 decibels) caused by the engines. It is almost unendurable to human body. Many complain of headache or insomnia. Japan’s Ministry of Defense and local government of Kyotango discussed the matter in February, and now the U.S. Army has applied noise reducing mufflers. Yet, it does not seem to reduce noise effectively. Like Shyariki in Aomori, they had to have electricity directly from the electricity company to solve problem, which takes almost over a year.
Although, more than half of the people in the region were against the planning of the U.S. army site at the beginning, they were almost forced to offer their land for use (300 yen per 1m²).
They signed the contract, saying it was not for money the government paid them, but for the sustenance of villages, as the young generation tends to leave and forsake their native places. Moreover, they could not dare say no to the strong advocacy of ‘defending the nation’, and of ‘national interest’. Their ancestors who died during World War II sleep in the graves faced with the present radar base across the road. It was only reluctantly that they conceded.
All process from the start of construction through installation of the radar base was disputable. The related information was almost completely undisclosed. Before the actual construction, no satisfactory explanation on the adverse effects or possible health hazards was given in the town meetings or in the public hearings. Neither local governments of Kyotango and Kyoto Prefecture, nor Self Defense Forces which was supposed to work with U.S. military could give appropriate answers to questions raised by people concerned. No environmental assessment was conducted by the Government, since there is no domestic law applicable.
The construction of the site began suddenly in May 27th, 2014 with no public information until the very day before. The body of the radar was brought in, with no proceeding public notice. It was at midnight of October 21, as if in the case of emergency traffic, they drove trains of trucks from Komastu airport of the Self Defense Force base. The process reminds us that Abe regime was preparing for the secret law to be enacted in the first half of the year 2014. This move was mainly for the sake of the military cooperation with U.S. Forces. On December 6th, 2014, the secret law was put in force.
A group of concerned citizens (Kyoto Citizens for Preservation of Environment)¹ sent an inquiry letter to U.S. Forces Headquarters, Zama Camp, addressed to Commander Angelella Salvertore in September 2014. The letter focused on the environmental questions citing the articles (Chap 12, 13) of Japan Environmental Governing Standards (JEGS). The answer from U.S. Army authorities was expected. In November, an answer letter came from Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Toner. In the inquiry letter, was a crucial question whether U.S. Army has already conducted any environmental research on the base site before starting the construction?
To this question of an environmental research required in JEGS, their answer was vague, although they say they will comply with JEGS. Not referring to an environmental research directly, they say that natural resources management plans is not required, as the size of the site, 8.7 acres is less than the size applied to regulation, 500 or more. They add that “in case of smaller size, it is required if they have natural resources that are especially vulnerable to disturbance, but the land is not sustaining or serving for any known species for concern”.
It is reported that U.S. Forces in Zama asked Government of Japan for the need of research before the construction of the new base in Aug, 2013, and was given a negative answer (Kyoto Newspaper, Aug 8, 2014). It seems that the U.S. Forces agreed to the idea that no research was needed.
However, under the U.S. regulations of NEPA, it seems they did conduct a small scale research. They mentioned that they conducted surveys on the noise, water, and electromagnetic wave with assistance of Ministry of Defense, and would conduct the surveys also after operation begins.
At present, the data of surveys before the construction turned out to be no help for the noise problem. The data given on electromagnetic waves was only at a few spots and counting data was far from satisfactory. The adverse effect of electromagnetic waves (6km radius) is still not clearly explained by either U.S. Army or Ministry of Defense, even after the start of operation. No satisfactory information is given to the public as to water and water supply system (50 tons’ need) or the water contamination that might be caused.
They say they conducted a physical survey of the caves (Ana-monju in Japanese) beneath the base site, and judged no physical damage would be caused. This cave is in fact listed in Red Data of Kyoto Prefecture as a protected landscape (formed with volcanic rocks 25 to 15 million years ago). The details of the survey are not given to public. They neglect the cave itself has been a sacred spot of religious worship of Monju (one of Buddha’s disciples) since 17th century, related to a nearby temple Kuonji. It is notable that they did not put much consideration into Japanese historical, cultural heritages.
To the question on the protection of endangered species, such as falcon (category II, vulnerable) and some vegetation (Red Data of category of Kyoto Prefecture), U.S. authorities denies direct harm. Their answer indicates that they limited the area of research to the small area of the actual site.
However it seems that change of environment at even one spot affects birds and plants in various ways, in a larger scale. Without conducting the proper environmental assessment, nobody really can predict how operation of X-band radar base with its electromagnetic waves, hazardous noise, and other possible contamination would affect the whole environment of living creatures.
The area is located at the east end of San’in Kaigan (Seaside) global Geo Park of UNESCO. It is evident that the army base would damage the beautiful landscapes, affecting bio-diversity environment, and local industries such as fisheries.
Mayor Yasushi Nakayama requested Major Jason Albright to call attention to the garrison to safety and security for citizens of Kyotango in Sept, 2014. People were worried about possibilities of traffic accidents or crimes caused by U.S. service personnel and civilian employees.
In spite of urgent driving lessons given to U.S. Army garrison, the numbers of traffic accidents counts 14 cases (at the end of February 2015), which is unusually high, with stationing of 160 personnel and civilians. The details of the accidents were not openly informed. People still fear for future accidents. They are worried that the region would be like Okinawa where many accidents and crimes are daily reported.
People begin to understand what the establishment of U.S. base in Kyotango in Kyoto means. Similar to the situation of Okinawa, the rights of people are not much regarded in Kyotango. The threat and danger which might be caused by the U.S. Army stationing in Japan, now is becoming a reality in the Kansai area. People of the mainland of Japan realize that they share agony with people of Okinawa.
Japan’s defense policy and recent government’s decision toward closer cooperation with U.S. Forces, denies rights of people for safety and peace, damages the environment, and violates the Constitution of Japan.
- The Global Network will hold our 23rd annual space organizing conference (July 29-August 2) in Kyoto in order to stand with the people of Kyotango in their opposition to this 'missile defense' radar base