[Editorial]All four candidates opposing construction of a new base win the Okinawan seats in the House of Representatives election: declaration of intent against unreasonable U.S. base-hosting burden

December 16, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

Four candidates opposing construction of a new base have won the Okinawan seats in the House of Representatives election, in yet another clear statement of Okinawan people’s will. The winners are from the bipartisan forces that secured Takeshi Onaga’s post as governor, and oppose the relocation of U.S. Marine Corp Air Station Futenma within Okinawa. All four of the Liberal-Democratic Party’s candidates, who reneged on their pledges to move the base outside Okinawa, and backed the government’s push for the Henoko relocation, were defeated in the election. The outcome in Okinawa is at odds with the national result, which saw LDP-backed candidates overwhelm their rivals nationwide.

It confirmed a historical turning point. In the Nago Mayoral election, the gubernatorial race, and now the House of Representatives election, the Okinawan people have shown that they are moving beyond the old conservative- versus-progressive politics and uniting in their rejection of an unreasonable U.S. base-hosting burden. It is the first time Okinawans have universally refused to sacrifice themselves for the main islands of Japan.

The central government’s dismissive attitude toward Okinawa

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has quickly dismissed the election results in Okinawa, and showed his intention to force through building the new base, saying, “We would like to promote the Henoko relocation while soundly explaining this to Okinawan people.” On the next day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “Although we accept the defeats of all the LDP-backed candidates in Okinawa, we would like to carry out the relocation work straightforwardly and following legislation.”

It appears that they do not feel the need to have any regard for Okinawan people’s will.

They appear to see Okinawa as their territory, where they would like to put U.S military bases, and think Okinawan people are a hindrance to what they want to do.

Is there any difference between what the Japanese government has been doing against Okinawan people and what the Chinese government has been doing against the people of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy ‘Occupy’ protests?

The problem is, the idea of thrusting the U.S military bases onto Okinawa is not unique to the Abe administration.

Some opinion polls have suggested that 70 to 80 percent of Okinawan people have always been against the Henoko relocation, while people in the other parts of Japan have supported the plan to build the new base in Okinawa.

The idea that Okinawa is the most adequate area to place the U.S Marines, is widely accepted among Japanese. However, it is just a perception.

Based on strategic mobility, placing the marines in Northern Kyushu is more reasonable. In fact, the U.S government asked to transfer the Marine Corps from Okinawa to the main islands of Japan in 1996 when the U.S base issue was in the spotlight, and in 2005 when the U.S . and Japanese governments discussed the realignment of U.S forces in Japan. However, the Japanese government rejected the proposal to transfer the marines from Okinawa to other parts of the main islands of Japan.

Some say that Japan needs to keep the U.S Marines Corps in Okinawa because of the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. This idea is wrong too. According to formal documents written by Washington and Tokyo foreign affairs and defense bureaucrats, Japan has to defend the islands in the southwestern area of Japan by itself. The U.S military forces will not play a part in defending Japan in the dispute.

Most of the media in the main islands of Japan have not reported this. While the major media outlets in Japan are responsible for this lack of reporting, the Japanese people have also averted their eyes from a “truth” they do not want to face. Is it an overstatement to say that Japanese people in the mainland prefectures unconsciously think that they do not want the U.S bases close to them and want Okinawa to accept them? It is this kind of thinking that leads us to conclude that not only the Abe administration but also Japanese people in general are happy to sacrifice Okinawa and force the prefecture to bear the base-hosting burden.

Divide and conquer; Okinawan community still at risk of division

With support from bipartisan forces, both Takeshi Onaga won the gubernatorial race, and all the four candidates won the Lower House election. These politicians have had to try to resist the central government and Japanese people willfully thrusting the U.S military bases onto Okinawa without regard for Okinawan people.

Compensating for this devaluing of Okinawan interests is not an easy task.

What worries us is a rift among Okinawan people.

The Japanese government treats Okinawa as its colony by ignoring the will of the people. History tells us that colonial masters are happy when civilians in their colonies are divided. That’s why the colonial masters always try to divide the colonized people and rule them by giving their figureheads preferential treatment.

The strange thing in this election is that all the candidates who lost in single-seat electoral districts, won seats under the proportional representation system. It is safe to say the problems of the current Japanese election system have been underlined because candidates who failed to get voters’ support won the seats.

The LDP-backed candidates who won seats under the proportional representation system, will face a choice from now on. They have to decide whether they will be a spokesperson for the Japanese government or a voice to convey the will of the Okinawan people to the governments of Japan and the United States. In other words, they have to decide whether they will become the “colonized elite,” allowing Okinawa’s interests to be subsumed into those of the main islands of Japan, or proud envoys, advancing Okinawa’s right to self-determination.

The answer is clear. We would like the new governor and the new lower house members in Okinawa to unite again and work together to try to compensate for the deficit in justice and morale being afforded to the Okinawan people by the central government and Japanese population, who are thrusting the U.S military bases onto Okinawa.

(English translation by T&CT)

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