Japanese peace activists are watching for new developments after the government announced, on 9 September 1986, that Japan would participate in Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) research. There have been at least two high-level meetings between U.S. and Japanese officials since the announcement, but no concrete information on the extent of Japanese involvement.
Activists are also concerned about Prime Minister Nakasone's attempt to end a restrictive ceiling on defence spending. In November 1976 the Cabinet and National Defence Council adopted a policy of holding Japan's defence spending below one percent of the gross national product (GNP), and established a limit to the number of military personnel and equipment. The policy has much popular support as a check against a military buildup.
Nakasone and others within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party support the Defence Agency's demand for a seven percent increase in the 1987 budget. Nakasone said Japan's "poor economic performance in this fiscal year" made the approved ceiling hard, while Defence Agency Chief Kurihara said the ceiling would have to be broken if Japan is to "play a military role commensurate with its responsibilities as a member of the Western bloc."
Part of those "responsibilities" included an October military exercise named "Keen Edge 87-1" conducted off the island of Hokkaido. The exercise, the largest joint U.S.-Japanese war game yet, involved 13,000 troops and was aimed at repelling "enemy forces." A statement by Lt. Gen. Charles Dyke, commanding officer of U.S. troops in Japan, that "the (Soviet) threat has increased significantly" and the fact that the straits off Hokkaido are the exit routes for the Soviet Pacific Fleet from their home base of Vladivostok left little doubt as to who the "enemy" was. The press criticized "Keen Edge" for overstepping the bounds of Japanese-U.S. security agreements.
The Defence Agency also plans to spend U.S. $100 million more to help the U.S. military stay in Japan. Currently Japan pays more than one-fifth of the total amount of wages of the 21,000 Japanese employed on U.S. bases. The government also pays part of the repair and maintenance costs of U.S. facilities. The Defence Agency wants to increase wage payments, to help the U.S. make up for a declining exchange rate on the dollar.
The Defence Agency also announced plans, beginning in fiscal year 1987, to double the number of women in the Japanese military. Over the next five to eight years, the number of women will be increased from 2,678 to 5,030.
Grassroots opposition to this increasing militarization continues. An accident in December involving a U.S. attack bomber overrunning the Atsugi runway and almost crashing into a fence that separated the base from a public road has led to protests demanding the closing of the base. The bomber was nuclear-capable. The number of U.S. planes at Atsugi violating noise regulations reached a record high in 1986, which has led to protests. And in Zushi ("Disarmament Campaigns" July '86), Mayor Tomino has asked for a survey of the environmental impact a proposed U.S. Navy housing development would have on Ikego Hills, a wildlife sanctuary that the residents have been fighting to save.
Contact: Japan Militarism Monitor, 2-3-18-25 Nishi Waseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160, Japan.
Peace movements from East and West Europe will cooperate to create a nuclear-free corridor in Central Europe, base on the Palme Commission proposals, with actions culminating in September 1987. Representatives from both Germanies, Austria and Czechoslovakia met on 4 January in Nuremberg, FRG, and issued the following joint declaration:
"In 1987 a large common action will take place in Central Europe in the Federal Republic of Germany, in the German Democratic Republic and the Republic of Austria to create a nuclear weapon-free corridor. The German Peace Society-United War Resisters (DFG-VK), the Peace Council of the GDR, the Peace Committee of the CSSR and the Austrian Peace Movement have agreed to carry out this action."
The Palme proposals recommend a nuclear weapon-free corridor as a first step toward universal disarmament. This initiative has set the following schedule for bringing about the "first step" to disarmament:
End of August: an international opening event in Stockholm to be organized by Swedish activists; September 1987: two simultaneous national opening events in Bremen, FRG and Stralsund, GDR. The action will be carried on in the south, along the lines of the proposed 150 kilometre corridor to exist in both countries; 5 September: two simultaneous national opening events in Vienna, Austria and Ceske Budejovice, CSSR. The action will be carried out in the north, along the line of the proposed 150 kilometre corridor.
The north and south marches will meet simultaneously on both sides of the borderline between East and West on 19 September. The action will end with two parallel international events in Heilbronn and in the CSSR (at the GDR border).
International participation and support is welcome and requested for the closing events. The activists will be organized according to national conditions and shall comprise as many public events as possible such as marches, walks, bicycle tours, and rallies. The organizers want the broadest possible participation in their respective countries. They also request endorsements for this common action in order to demonstrate that peace organizations, as well as governments, in the East and West can cooperate for specific goals. Suggestions, endorsements or inquiries should be directed to:
Coordination Olof Palme March, c/o Heinrich Aberlain, Neuweiher Str. 16, D-500 Nuremberg 30, FRG
January 1987 may have been a pivotal moment in the struggle to prevent the Pentagon's development of a first-strike nuclear arsenal, due to disarmament activists' focussed attention to the first flight test of the Trident II/D-5 submarine-launched nuclear missile at Cape Canaveral.
A 7000-strong march with civil disobedience was held 17 January, but the protests had been building for a year. Initiated by Peter Lumsdaine of California's First Strike Prevention Project, coordinated nationally by Mobilization for Survival and statewise by the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Cancel the Countdown campaign drew organizers and participants from all over the country. The American Peace Test and War Resisters League also lent staff people to the campaign, which was the first national peace demonstration in the South.
The campaign began 28 December with a 200-mile Peace Pilgrimage from Kings Bay, Georgia (the future Atlantic home base of the Trident submarine fleet), which drew up to 250 walkers.
Activists had planned to prevent the launch through the presence of unauthorized people in the security zone by occupying the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Although the precise test date was a carefully-kept secret, leaks indicated the missile test would take place on 15 January. As the demonstrations grew, however, there were indications that there might be an earlier test, perhaps on 10 January. The occupation began.
Beginning 9 January, ten to fifteen occupiers entered the base each night. While some were arrested, others went in and out freely, leaving ribbons and notes for the Air Force to find. Many stayed on the base for days before being caught, causing the media to label security a "sieve" and provoking Congressional concern over the Air Force's inadequate security. One woman had to telephone security guards twice before being arrested on the 13th floor of a Titan missile launch tower. Frustrated Air Force officials repeatedly tried to scare demonstrators with warnings about wild boars, rattlesnakes, and alligators.
Court appearances, the continuing Peace Pilgrimages, daily new arrests, and the impending 17 January events dominated the Florida media for a week. In the final week, local organizers across Florida doubled their bus reservations. Press reports threatened 5000 counter-demonstrators. The missile was tested on Thursday, accompanied by a massive traffic jam as police closed exits and rerouted cars to avoid several dozen demonstrators at the gate. It was delayed several days by protesters or technology. Although this first of 25 scheduled tests was depressing, activists vowed to step up their nonviolent opposition. By then, sixty occupiers were in county jails across Florida.
The Peace Train left Boston 16 January, picking up 120 activists throughout New England, New York, Washington, D.C. and the Southeast. Many cities held support actions as the train passed through, and nonviolence training sessions were conducted. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, Michigan held a service in Melboume, a town south of Cape Canaveral.
The action's highlight was 17 January. Seven thousand demonstrators, more than twice the number expected, converged on Port Canaveral for the rally. More than half of the demonstrators came from Florida; for 40 percent it was their first peace demonstration. Following the rally, the Peace Pilgrimage led demonstrators the last three miles to the main gate of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
While Air Force helicopters circled dangerously low, 138 demonstrators were arrested for climbing over the fence, bringing the total in custody to over 200. After two hours, the 500 people remaining joined in a massive spiral dance and left the area, promising to return.
Back at the rally site, Seeds of Peace (the logistical core of the Pilgrimage, which had evolved from the Great Peace march) set up their kitchen and served food to hungry activists. The dishwashers were two young airmen from the Air Force. They had piloted a helicopter earlier in the week to spot occupiers and decided to join the Trident H protest. First strike policy had been a major topic of discussion among the local military that week, and many agreed with the protesters.
A week later, most of the demonstrators had gone home. But more than 100 remained in Broward County Jail, strong in their commitment to break the backbone of the Pentagon's first-strike nuclear strategy. Cape Canaveral has joined Groton, Connecticut and Bangor, Washington as a focus of sustained anti-Trident protest. Strong statewide and national networks will sustain this struggle, as Americans become more and more aware of the military intrusion in their lives.
By Charles Scheiner, member of Mobilization for Survival's Coordinating Committee. Contact: Judy Freiwirth at the national office, 853 Broadway, Suite 418, New York, N.Y. 10003. Tel. 212/995-8787.
Alternative service "for reasons of principles" is now allowed in Poland, a military official announced in January. Between 100 and 300 Poles a year refuse military service for religious reasons. Formerly they faced prison sentences of between six months and five years. Now conscientious objectors do not have to wear uniforms or carry weapons and they can live at home while doing community service.
The announcement can be seen as a victory for the Polish draft resistance group Freedom and Peace. The group which leader Jacek Czaputowicz says has the support of 10,000 Poles, has staged hunger strikes, demonstrations and petition campaigns to win the release of imprisoned COs. They have urged the government to extend the amnesty announced last year to imprisoned COs, and to establish special military units for conscripts who refuse to take an oath to defend Poland's allies. This is interpreted by many as willingness to defend the USSR.
Freedom and Peace has won jail releases for some COs. In January of this year twenty two members of the group were in court to face charges of organizing a demonstration to obtain the release of two imprisoned members. The two men were released from jail shortly after the protest but eleven of the twenty two were acquitted while the other half were fined.
A national festival and demonstration in support of the Five Continents Peace Initiative's proposal for an end to all nuclear testing will be held 14 June in Paris. The demonstration is being organized by the French peace group, Appel des Cent, which was founded in May 1982. Appel des Cent, which has the support of France's leading communist activists, has organized many successful demonstrations in the past and several thousand people are expected at this event. There will be a chain of people between the embassies of the nuclear powers. Peace activists from other countries are invited to attend. Contact: Appel des Cent, 67 rue de l'Aqueduc, 75010 Paris, FRANCE.
A 20-ton truck believed to be carrying nuclear weapons overturned on an icy road eight miles from the city of Salisbury, England, in early January. A similar truck travelling in the same convoy also skidded and came to a stop half way over an embankment. The nuclear weapons, whose presence the Ministry of Defence would neither confirm or deny, believed to be in the trucks were anti-submarine depth charges headed for the nearby Royal Navy Ordinance depot at Dean Hill. It took 18 hours to recover the trucks. The citizen tracking group, Cruisewatch, had members watching the convoy, but were not allowed near the accident by Royal Marines. Contact: Cruisewatch, c/o CND, 22-24 Underwood St., London N1 7JG, GB. Tel. 1-250-4010
Young people in Scotland, under the auspices of Scottish Youth CND, launched a national petition drive against Trident in December. The drive will end in April. Petitions are available from Scottish CND. In Lorne, Scotland, CND supporters are placing advertisements in the local newspaper, protesting the Minister of Defence's plans to build an ELF (extremely low frequency) transmitter at Glengarry in the Highlands. ELF would be used to transmit orders to submarines, including Trident, in the event of war. To donate: Lorne CND, do Gordon Maclntyre S Loggan Road, Oban, SCOTLAND. Petitions: Scottish CND, 420 Sauchiehall St., Glasgow, G2 3JD.
TWO SUMMER PROGRAMS IN "ALTERNATIVES to Violence: Cultural Interaction and Nonviolent Living" are being offered by the Gandhi Peace Foundation this year. One will take place in India, the other on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The programs emphasize cultural immersion and nonviolent living. Contact: Carl Kline, India Projects, 802-11th Ave Brookings, SD 57006, USA
APRIL 24-25, 1987. NATIONAL MOBILIZATION. Mass actions, including civil disobedience will be held on 24 April, and a legal rally the following day in Washington, D.C. to urge the government to shift priorities from the military to human needs. The mobilization has the support of U.S. religious groups and labor unions. Contact: Coalition for a New Foreign Policy, 120 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.
MAY 29-31, 1987. DISARM THE SEAS ACTION. International participation is expected by members of the North Atlantic Network and groups in Norway, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, Canada, Philippines, U.S., and Scotland. The focus will be on action and public awareness. Contact: Nei til Atomvapen, Youngsgate 7, 0181 Oslo 1, NORWAY. Tel. (2) 2058 10.
JUNE 20-28, 1987. FOURTH BREAD NOT BOMBS week. Campaign Against Arms Trade will coordinate this annual action week with development organizations. Contact: CAAT, 11 Goodwin Street, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HQ, U.K. Tel. 01-281 0297.