On August 13, at approximately 2:20 p.m., a U.S. Marine CH-53D helicopter crashed into Okinawa International Universityfs Administration Building and burst into flames. As a result of this disastrous incident, the Administration Building is no longer usable, and our academic information network access line has been severed. The Administration Building is the nerve center of the university, and the universityfs administrative and academic functions have thus been paralyzed. At the time of the accident, both students and local residents were using the university library, which is adjacent to the Administration Building. In another building, many students were attending summer session classes. In light of the seriousness of this incident, we immediately formed a crisis management headquarters.
Immediately after the accident, the U.S. military unilaterally sealed off the crash site, denied entry of university officials requesting emergency and minimally necessary access to the Administration Building, and even blocked the Okinawa prefectural police from inspecting the area. This outrageous violation of Japanese national sovereignty still continues*.
We have repeatedly joined with local residents in requesting that flights of all aircraft from M.C.A.S. Futenma over residential areas be terminated. It is extremely regrettable that our requests have been ignored and that this tragic accident has occurred. We are also deeply outraged that our university has yet to receive a word of apology from either the U.S. military* or the Japanese government.
We have a responsibility to our students to preserve a quiet environment conducive to study and research. Since our founding, we have maintained a policy of openness toward the local community, and have developed harmoniously within our municipality. For a university like ours which strives to contribute to the development of our community, this disastrous incident has made a mockery of all of our aspirations.
The harmful effects of noise pollution and other dangers of Futenma air base have been pointed out numerous times. In spite of this, the base, which occupies nearly one-third of Ginowan City, remains situated in close proximity to schools and residential areas. If nothing is done about the present situation, the risk of incidents like this one happening again will remain high, and the tolerance level of local residents will soon reach its breaking point.
We vehemently protest the crashing of the U.S. military helicopter at our university, and, with the aim of securing a safe educational environment and the safety and peace of mind of local residents, and in order to prevent a recurrence of such tragic incidents, we urgently demand an immediate end to all flights in and out of M.C.A.S. Futenma, and the prompt return of the Futenma base.
15 August 2004
Okinawa International University
U.S. Military Helicopter Crash Crisis Management Headquarters
Crisis Management Committee Chairman,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
* At the time of this writing.