[Editorial] Celebrating the date of restoration of Japan’s sovereignty is further humiliation for Okinawa Is Japan really an independent nation?

March 9, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Is this also part of the “Abe brand”? Starting this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to hold a ceremony on April 28 to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Japanese sovereignty after the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect in 1952.

Abe explained the reasoning for holding the ceremony as, “There are a growing number of young people who do not know that Japan was under U.S. occupation for seven years. It is important to be aware that Japan achieved independence 60 years ago.” We wonder if announcing the ceremony gave Abe the feeling that he is politician who is devoting himself to Japan.

It would seem that not even in the deepest recesses of his mind did Abe think of April 28, 1952 in terms of the humiliation it brought for Okinawa. While Japan regained independence that day, Okinawa was separated from Japan along with the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture and placed under U.S. occupation.

After Japan regained its sovereignty, the people of Okinawa experienced years of humiliation under U.S. military occupation, and even after returning to Japanese sovereignty in 1972, they have asserted that because local residents have been forced to shoulder the heavy burden of hosting U.S. bases the sovereign power of Japan clearly does not extend as far as Okinawa. Is it that the people in Okinawa are not part of the “Beautiful Japan” proclaimed by Abe?

However, what has happened to the sovereign power that Japan supposedly regained when it cut Okinawa adrift? The U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft have now started to fly in the skies over “Beautiful Japan.” Some intellectuals even suggest that Japan is being transformed into another Okinawa. With foreign military aircraft flying in its skies can Abe put his hand over his heart and confidently say that Japan is an independent sovereign state?

In 2004, when a military helicopter operating out of U.S. Marine Corp Futenma Air Station crashed on the campus of Okinawa International University, the U.S. military excluded Okinawan police from the scene of the accident. This is the reverse of what should have happened.

As symbolized by the Futenma relocation issue, and the forcing through of the deployment of the Osprey aircraft to Okinawa, the Japanese government is shamelessly obsequious towards the United States. We suspect that the reality of Japanese government’s position even after April 28, 1952 has continued to be one of subordination to the U.S. government.

While anti-U.S. military base sentiment does exist in Okinawa, it is rooted in the reality of having been forced to shoulder an excessive burden through the years. The Okinawan people are not anti-American. After the war, many went to study in the United States and learned about American democracy. Okinawan people view the post-war culture that developed in Koza City (currently Okinawa City) as a positive aspect of Okinawa’s rich cultural history.

In that context, we would like to reiterate that the people of Okinawa see the date of April 28 as a day of humiliation, and request that the Japanese government does something tangible to rectify the excessive burden of hosting U.S. military bases.
If Abe feels that an increasing percentage of our population does not know about April 28, then he should clearly explain its merits and demerits to the Japanese people.

If he plans to hold a ceremony to commemorate the April 28 anniversary of Japan’s restoration of independence after the U.S. occupation without touching on the humiliation that the people of Okinawa suffered, then April 28 will be a day that serves to do nothing more than remind the Okinawan people of the ever-deepening structural discrimination that forces them to shoulder an excessive burden.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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