[Editorial]Okinawa should spearhead a global drive to promote peace

January 1, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

The New Year is upon us. At the beginning of a year in which Japan marks the 68th anniversary of the end of the war, we would like to think about Japan following the path of a peaceful country. At the same time, we suggest that we look at the desired future for Okinawan society and press ahead with discussion at multiple levels among the Okinawan people about how peace, autonomy and independence should be.

The Japanese Constitution renounces war. The antiwar and antinuclear messages sent by Okinawa, which was the scene of the largest amphibious battle in the Pacific War, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, upon which American bombers dropped atomic bombs, have for global community created an image of a Japan that has learned the lesson of history. These images are valuable assets for Japan. By pursuing our peace constitution our country spearheads a global drive to promote peace. This fact should also be the basis of every discussion involving Okinawa.

Unfair treatment of Okinawa by the Japanese and the U. S. governments

While revision of clauses of the constitution including Article Nine and the establishment of a National Defense Force, move closer to being realized under the administration of newly installed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, opinion polls reveal that for Japanese citizens neither of these are priority issues.

The government should refrain from use weight of numbers to force through the implementation of policies that split public opinion, such as the increase in sales tax, participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and policies on nuclear power plants.

Prior to moving towards a majority decision, a considered review would guarantee democratic validity to any policies implemented. We want both the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito to display self-control.

Even more than in past years, Okinawa needs to exert a tenacious negotiating power in order to create peaceful and prosperous islands without any military bases.

The U.S. and Japanese governments are making steady progress on the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago. Last October, the central government went ahead with the deployment to Okinawa of the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft that has a history of crashing.

Beyond the end of January the central government will move ahead with the application to reclaim the coastal area of Henoko for the relocation of the facilities at Futenma. It is highly likely that Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima will call for the relocation of the base outside of the prefecture and reject the application. If that happens, the central government may order the prefectural government to adjust its stance, execute the plan by proxy, or even sue the prefectural government.

The Okinawan people have rejected the Henoko relocation plan, and various American researchers, and former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, have pointed out the irrationality, from a strategic viewpoint, of stationing the U.S. Marines in Okinawa. For all intents and purposes the plan does not stand up – it is ridiculous to go ahead with it. The U.S. and Japanese governments should review the agreement to relocate Futenma Air Station to Henoko, and resubmit a plan to relocate the base outside of the prefecture or outside of Japan, closing and removing the facilities currently at Futenma.

The U.S. and Japanese governments espouse freedom, democracy, respect for people, and rule of law as common values. If they are true to their word, they need to fundamentally review the unfair policies that impact upon Okinawa.

At the same time, Okinawa needs the imagination and flexibility to see the second term for Abe, who supported introducing a regional system, as an opportunity to expand its autonomy. The Regional Preferential Vision for Okinawa, which the Okinawa Regional System Advisory Conference proposed to Nakaima in September 2009, could serve as a useful reference.

Structural violence

The conference consists of educators in universities, people representing the Okinawan business community, labor circles and members of the prefectural assembly, and representatives of municipalities. In terms of moments that change the flow of events, they see the introduction of a regional system as being just as significant as the invasion of the Ryukyu Kingdom by forces of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma in 1609, the annexation of the Ryukyus in 1879, the implementation of Article Three of the Treaty of San Francisco that left Okinawa under potential U.S. trusteeship in 1952, and Okinawa’s reversion from U.S. rule to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. But the members of the conference asserted that even if a regional system were introduced, we should keep in mind that Okinawa could still be shaped by outside forces.

The vision suggests that to a significant extent the central government delegates the authority to a new Okinawa Government for matters such as the enforcement of duties and quarantines, immigration authority and coastal and border security, as well as the taxation of U.S. military forces stationed in Okinawa. It envisions the establishment of a new Okinawa Provincial Government.

In 2010, Yasukatsu Matsushima, professor of Ryukoku University, proposed the Ryukyu Autonomous Republic Federation Statehood Declaration. We hope that this year the people of Okinawa will further deepen discussion on the topics of autonomy and independence.

We want a peace movement to steadily develop. Johan Galtung, the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies and co-founder of TRANSCEND, a nongovernmental organization for conflict transformation by peaceful means, defines the absence of overt violent conflict as negative peace, and a state in which nations do not have structural violence, including poverty, oppression and discrimination that threaten safety and human rights, as positive peace.

What we push for is positive peace. A military alliance cannot remove structural violence. We suggest that through international collaboration and the power of the people, including nongovernmental organizations, we reduce the structural violence prevalent in Okinawa and the world. Okinawa needs to call for the global community to work together.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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