Sunday, August 22, 2004

Demonstration against US aircraft carrier in Sasebo, Nagasaki-ken; thoughts on where it had been; Chalmers Johnson and Taiwan

Activists in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, demonstrated against a visit by a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier yesterday.
Protesters' boats circle US aircraft carrier
The nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis enters Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture on Saturday, circled by fishing boats carrying local antinuclear activists.

Protesters greet carrier in Sasebo

SASEBO, Nagasaki Pref. (Kyodo) The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John C. Stennis made a port call Saturday at Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture.

It was the third port call by a nuclear-powered carrier in as many years, following one in August 2002 in Sasebo and another in May 2003 in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The 102,000-ton vessel, which engaged in drills with the U.S. carrier Kitty Hawk and the Maritime Self-Defense Force after leaving San Diego, is scheduled to leave the port Wednesday.

Members of local labor organizations opposing the vessel's visit staged a protest throughout the day.

While some 100 unionists organized a public rally at 7:50 a.m. in the city, others approached the aircraft carrier aboard 20 fishing boats, sailing around the flattop.

In the afternoon, more than 1,000 people from the labor groups and some 300 members of citizens' groups organized an additional antinuclear rally.

"I have been suffering from radiation since an A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki 59 years ago," said 79-year-old Nagasaki native Hideo Morimune. "I don't feel good about a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier entering a port here. I hope there will be no accident."

Concerns about the safety of nuclear power have been under the spotlight after an accident at the No. 3 reactor in the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture killed four workers earlier this month.From the Japan Times.

Presumably this is one of the seven US aircraft carriers (about half of the US fleet) which took part in an unprecedentedly large exercise in the Pacific this summer. Chalmers Johnson's article about 'Operation Summer Pulse '04' is on ZNet. As he says, it's a provocative piece of sabre-rattling which is bound to have upset the Chinese leadership and strengthened the case in China for military spending.
Beware Johnson's strange bias against Taiwan, though. He says, "[US] ideologues appear to be trying to precipitate a confrontation with China while they still have the chance. Today, they happen to have rabidly anti-Chinese governments in Taipei and Tokyo as allies, but these governments don't have the popular support of their own citizens." There are plenty of things to complain about in the way Taiwan is run, but the current Taiwanese government is not rabidly anti-Chinese. It's not rabidly anything, except perhaps pro-business. And as for popular support, President Chen Shui-bian--the first Taiwanese president not to come from the party of the former dictatorship, the Nationalist Guomindang--was re-elected with a narrow majority this March. Taiwan is a democracy now, with pretty good freedoms of expression, movement and assembly. China is not. It's hardly Taiwan's fault that for historical reasons its friends include neo-cons in the US and extreme rightists like Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro in Japan. The issue is what the people of Taiwan want--and at the moment they are voting for continuation of de facto independence, while generally supporting deeper business and cultural ties with the mainland.

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