Dec 19, 2018
NEW YORK - A petition to the White House to temporarily halt landfill work for the construction of a U.S. base off Japan's southern island prefecture of Okinawa hit the signature threshold on Tuesday to warrant a response from the White House.
Robert Kajiwara, a 32-year-old Japanese-American from Hawaii, started the online petition on Dec. 8 through the White House's "We the People" website and garnered more than 100,000 signatures within 10 days, well within the 30 days necessary for a reply.
Full-fledged landfill work off the Henoko coastal district of Nago started on Friday despite stiff local opposition. The work was planned for the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, based on a Japan-U.S. agreement in 1996.
Addressing President Donald Trump, the petition asks the work to be stopped by Feb. 24 when the southern island will hold a prefectural referendum on the base transfer plan.
"Please STOP the landfill work in Okinawa until a democratic referendum can be held," it asks.
The petition also references the election this September of Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki who ran on a platform to end the transfer of the Futenma base within Okinawa, after his predecessor Takeshi Onaga died of cancer in the midst of his fight to oppose the plan.
"The Japanese government and U.S. military have so far IGNORED the democratic will of Gov. Tamaki & the Okinawan people," says the petition.
Requesting a halt to the construction work "to ensure that democracy prevails", the petition says "Please show Okinawans that America is indeed an honorable and GREAT nation."
The petition also mentions that continuing the work will "forever strain U.S.-Okinawa relations."
After decades of hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, many Okinawans are frustrated with noise, crime and accidents linked to the military and do not want to see any new base built in the prefecture.
The White House is supposed to respond within 60 days to any petition that gathers 100,000 signatures within 30 days of its starting date.
Petitioners must be over 13 years old and can be of any nationality. Japan-based celebrities such as model and actress Rola and popstar Ryuchell, who hails from Okinawa, have raised awareness about the petition via their social media accounts.
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