[Editorial] Forcing U.S. bases on Okinawa – Desist from eroding the very roots of the nation

January 24, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

“While they may be modest, we sincerely wish to lead everyday lives that are safe and secure.” So reads the concluding passage of the resolution adopted on January 22 at the Naha citizens rally held to seek the withdrawal of the Osprey aircraft currently deployed to Okinawa. This represents both the highest common denominator in a society and the minimum wish for its people. But have the feelings of the Okinawan people in general, and the citizens of Naha on this occasion, reached the hearts of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe?

The mayors of all 41 municipalities in Okinawa are opposed to the deployment of the Osprey aircraft and all the municipal councils have adopted resolutions against it. In an opinion poll carried out in the prefecture approximately 90 percent of respondents are opposed to the deployment of the Osprey. The people of Okinawa view this aircraft, which seems to have no end of crashes, as a threat to their lives and their property.

When Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto retired at the end of last year, he rejected the military logic of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within the prefecture.

We have something that we would like to ask Prime Minister Abe. If this were an issue directly affecting Tokyo, do you think that you would be able to brush off objections and go ahead with a policy if 90 percent of Tokyo’s citizens and all of the mayors of its municipalities were opposed to it? The resolution refers to the unfair treatment by the central government in imposing 74 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan onto a prefecture that constitutes only 0.6 percent of the country’s land as “discrimination and bullying” of the Okinawan people. It indicates that since the Osprey aircraft were deployed, the U.S. military has not respected the safety measures decided upon in the bilateral agreement between the United States and Japan, and points out that such acts by the U.S. military in Okinawa can only be seen as the approach of those who have an “occupation or colonial mindset.”

The government will not able to gain the understanding of the Okinawan people by imposing further bases on Okinawa. Indeed, in all good conscience, is it not the government and the members of the ruling party who should understand the hardships suffered by Okinawa?

Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, the leader of the conservatives in Okinawa and someone who accepts the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, stated, “Japan imposed the burden of the U.S. bases on Okinawa and enjoyed the rapid economic growth [as a result]. It is unreasonable to think that from now the government can force bases on Okinawa in order to develop the country.”

We would like to pose a question to the governors and people of the other 46 prefectures of Japan. Do you consider the people of Okinawa to be fellow citizens? Is it not best to avoid seeing Okinawa’s excessive burden as someone else’s problem and instead to accept it as a matter that affects you, and strive to think together to try to come up with a solution that matches the feelings of the people of Okinawa? What sort of government or mode of politics ignores citizen’s requests that are delivered through examples of the democratic process such as elections, resolutions of prefectural and municipal assemblies, and the results of opinion polls. Are we seeing the very roots of the nation rot?

Rooted in the reality of having been forced to shoulder an excessive burden, the Okinawan people’s statement of objection is anti-military bases, but it is not anti-American. This is a crucial point that neither government should misread. The Okinawa people have suffered under U.S. military control for 68 years since the war. Looking at the political big picture, the time has come for the government to come up with a solution to the Futenma issue that does rely on relocation within the prefecture. If they cannot achieve this much, Japan and the United States cannot be regarded as true friends of the Okinawan people.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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