The government of Japan and Okinawa Prefecture will co-host a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to the Japanese sovereignty from the US control. Prime Minister Noda will attend the event. But the government has not yet processed the agreement to downsize and withdraw military bases from the prefecture, which residents of Okinawa have demanded consistently for all years. Meanwhile the Self Defense Forces (SDF) of Japan intensifies presence there. Prime Minister is not entitled to celebrate the anniversary.
WE MUST CREATE A PATH TO OKINAWA WITH NO MILITARY BASES
It is 16 years since 1996 when SACO (Special Actions Committee on Okinawa) reached an agreement concerning a return of base land of Futenma Air Station, but implementation processes are blocked by both the US and Japanese governments that cling to a plan to construct a new base at Henoko, Nago City, as a bargaining point despite strong opposition of local communities.
Residents as well as conservative Okinawa Governor keep a consistent posture to refuse the plan to relocate the airfield to other place inside the prefecture. The US Congress criticizes it, too, saying that 'the relocation plan is not realistic'. These constraints in fact prevented the two countries from releasing earlier a bilateral statement to review the realignment of US military forces. The finalized document incorporated equivocal wordings. The Henoko plan is now almost moribund.
Barren Discussions on Defense Against China
The Noda Government reiterates a phrase of bureaucrats on defense and diplomatic affairs: 'the US-Japan alliance is a common asset'. It means a military deterrence strategy against China in the western Pacific Ocean.
It is a clear fact that China has successfully achieved a rapid economic growth and, on this basis, it modernizes military capabilities and intensifies its interests in the Yellow Sea, the Senkaku islands and South China Sea. But it faces negative phenomena due to market economy, including serious gaps between the rich and the poor, and fears on energy shortage. Dissatisfactions spread among people with the Communist Party's dictatorial leadership and corruption. The Chinese military has kept a privileged status because of the US military pressure and the mission to protect vested interests of the nation.
A military response under these circumstances constitutes a repeated, barren Cold War vying. It is political and diplomatic duty to disunite and relieve the conflicting structure to produce cooperation and bring mutual benefits. The vicious cycle of competition in military expansion will even bury possibilities to this direction.
Okinawa Will Have Heavier Burden
The US government has changed to a plan to reduce the Marine Corps stationed in Guam to deploy them to Hawaii and Australia. The US government originally planned to cut transfer costs of the Marines to Guam from Okinawa, but later demanded the Japanese government to owe more. The Noda government agreed to pay the sum set at the initial stage.
The SDF, taking advantage of the US military strategy, proposes 'Southwest Region Defense Strategy' to hurry up in building new bases in various locations in Okinawa and deploying personnel. The Japanese military accords with the US counterpart to stage joint maneuvers in the Philippines and the North Mariana Islands.
The SDF flamboyantly mobilized PAC3 systems in April with an excuse of North Korea's missiles, which is proven political propaganda: the military wants to reinforce the alliance with US and deploy SDF in Okinawa.
The Okinawa Defense Bureau, in the end of last year, brought the controversial environment assessment report on Henoko, insisting that procedures to construct a new base are underway, in the room of night guard personnel of Okinawa Prefectural Government Office. Okinawa Prefecture has inquired the Ministry of Defense as many as 579 items in the report, but the ministry has not yet given satisfying replies.
Some members of the ruling party again propose a plan to relocate the airfield to the Kadena Base, but a suit is filed by over 22 thousand residents around the base to reduce explosive noises. Again, the idea is blocked. Meanwhile the US military prepares to deploy Osprey aircraft, which are allegedly defective, and the government of Japan cooperates in enhancing functions of the Futenma base.
Discrimination against Okinawa, No!
The Noda government repeats words of bureaucrats: it will 'explain to win understanding of residents'. The posture is similar to that used for the case to resume operation at nuclear power plants. In terms of nuclear power, the government is forced to provide 'an agreement of local people', but for Okinawa, the government does not use a word of 'agreement'.
The average annual income of Okinawa residents is the lowest of all the prefectures. Only in 2009, for the first time, Kochi Prefecture marked the lowest record, but that was due to the sluggish economic situation in the rest of nation. As for Okinawa, the military presence itself damages economic life of people, the structure of which has been left behind for 40 years under the Japan's sovereignty.
Discrimination against residents of Okinawa and sacrifices imposed remain intact for 40 years after the reversion of the island, for 60 years of US-Japan peace treaty and over one hundred years of reign. What does Prime Minister Noda celebrate without apologizing residents, without making an essential change of policies on Okinawa?
May 15, 2012