Okinawan people’s justified demand should no longer be ignored
Global Times, September 13, 2022 — In the Sunday election for the governor of Okinawa, Japan, Denny Tamaki, the incumbent governor with no party affiliation, won reelection over the Liberal Democratic Party-backed candidate Atsushi Sakima. It is widely believed that Tamaki’s position against the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma within Okinawa and his call to reduce the size of the US military bases were the main reasons for his victory. This is the result neither the Fumio Kishida administration nor the Joe Biden administration wanted, but Tokyo and Washington should stop turning a deaf ear to the public opinion in Okinawa that the reelection result has reflected.
It is well known that more than 70 percent of the US military facilities in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, and the atrocious record of the US troops in Japan has made Okinawa bear too much. The relocation plan of MCAS Futenma originated from the 1995 Okinawa rape incident, in which three US soldiers raped a Japanese schoolgirl. Under the protection of “extraterritoriality,” pernicious incidents involving US troops frequently occur in Japan, as they rob, rape, kill and sell drugs. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US military bases have become uncontrolled “sources of infections.” For a long time, Okinawa has wanted the US military bases to move out of it, but Tokyo has been pressuring Okinawa to relocate these facilities within the prefecture, which is equivalent to “giving what’s in your left hand to your right hand.”
What’s worse, as the US accelerates the pushing of its strategy to contain China and Japan continues to aggravate the situation, these actions directly induced and intensified tensions in the Taiwan Straits. With all these external factors combined, Okinawa was further pushed to the forefront of geopolitical conflict. Under the banner of “maintaining security,” the US and Japan are deploying more weapons on Okinawa. Earlier this year, it was announced that Japan’s Defense Ministry is pushing the construction of a “staggering massive” missile base on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. The result of the latest election is a strong signal of resistance from Okinawa, where the people clearly don’t want to become “cannon fodder” for the confrontation between major powers. They want Okinawa to become an “island of peace.”
Over the years, the impression the US military has left on the Okinawan people is so horrific that most voters resisted the huge lure of the around 350 billion yen ($2.46 billion) subsidy Tokyo had promised and they voted for Tamaki. They reject the action of moving the US military facilities from one part of Okinawa to another. They want them to move out of Okinawa instead. Facing Tokyo’s “carrot and stick” policy, the people of Okinawa are not foolish. Tamaki previously said that if land taken by the US military is returned to the prefecture for other use, it will produce three times more income for Okinawa than the island now makes from US bases.
In fact, it’s not just Okinawans who have realized this. Not long ago, protests broke out in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, where the US and Japan jointly conducted military exercises, during which people said that “military forces cannot create peace.” Nowadays, US military bases are increasingly becoming hot potatoes, and no one wants to host them. The public’s general attitude toward US military facilities in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and many other places is: Don’t come to the doorstep of my house. With Washington’s destructiveness of world peace becoming more and more prominent, the stationing of US troops has increasingly become synonymous with turmoil, divisions and chaos. Their unpopularity is inevitable.
What chills the hearts of Okinawans is Tokyo’s attitude. Tokyo’s kowtowing to Washington is well known. It has not shown any will or motivation to negotiate with Washington and win over these issues. Instead, it has devoted its energy to blind, pressure, entice and deceive the Okinawan people. The development level of Okinawa’s local economy has been relatively backward, and its per capita income has been at the lowest level in Japan for a long time. Despite having abundant tourism resources, the potential in this regard hasn’t been fully tapped. Now both Tokyo and Washington intend to make Okinawa a military fortress to deter China, which completely runs counter to the well-being of the Okinawan people.
War once left deep scars on Okinawa: The Battle of Okinawa in 1945 was the deadliest battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II, when about one-quarter of Okinawa’s population died in it. Because of this, the people of Okinawa particularly cherish peace and oppose war. They have repeatedly said “no” to US military bases, which is a cry for human rights and a pursuit for peace. They are more sober and more responsible than those high-ranking political elites in Tokyo. Okinawa’s justified demands should no longer be ignored.