Like many groups throughout the world, their expectations from the new president are high, and the interfaith coalition of 16 groups of Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians, recently made public the open letter to Obama they sent at the end of 2008.
The coalition said it was “extremely concerned that the U.S. military transformation of the Asia Pacific poses a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.” It also said, “In particular, the [George W. Bush] administration’s pressure on Japan to revise [the war-renouncing] Article 9 of our constitution represents a very real danger of a new Cold War in Asia.”
The coalition said in its message to Obama, “Your promise of change is truly needed to heal and reverse the disastrous impact of the last eight years of the Bush Administration.” It noted, “The change you promised is needed not only for American people but also to the entire humankind.”
The coalition also requested Obama to review and suspend a 2005 bilateral agreement for the consolidation of U.S. bases in Japan, as well as new U.S. base construction plans in the southern Okinawa islands and at Guam in the western Pacific. It said the United States had been pressuring the Japanese government to revise the war-renouncing article of its constitution.
Among those adding his voice to that of the coalition was Reiko Suzuki, director of the Christian Peace Network, a Tokyo-based interdenominational peace movement in Japan.
In a letter dated December 14 to Obama, she cited the preamble for peace in the war-renouncing Japanese constitution, saying, “We want you to work with us to achieve this universal goal, by ending war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the withdrawal of troops and bases from other countries.” This, she said, should be done by “concluding a peace accord instead of a military treaty.”
According a report in Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2001, the United States had about 100,000 troops in East Asia, with Japan hosting some 47.000, while 37,000 were stationed in nearby South Korea.