Editorial:While in the U.S. Gov. Onaga must show grit to block new base

May 25, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

It has been necessary for Governors of Okinawa on a frequent basis to visit the United States. There are no other prefectures in this country enduring such hardships as are imposed on ours. Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga will travel to the United States today.

The four most recent former governors have also visited the United States. It was because they had no other direct way of conveying overwhelming Okinawan majority feeling to the American people than by going there. Tokyo lacks the political will to listen to the wishes of the people. We believe the government discriminates against Okinawa.

The recent political situation has changed dramatically in Okinawa. All the candidates opposing the new base construction have won their recent election campaigns. They were victorious in the Nago mayoral election, and at the end of last year in the gubernatorial race and the House of Representatives elections. Furthermore, mass rallies have attracted vast numbers. The people have demonstrated their will by using every means available in the democratic process. While in the U.S., Governor Onaga should declare his determination to block the new U.S. base, and show clear pride in the massive public support backing him.

Washington’s clear violation of the Hague Convention

It falls to us to point out that the governments of the United States and Japan take a non-humanitarian approach to maintaining the presence of the U.S. military in Okinawa.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. military seized land for its bases while most residents were being encouraged to surrender and were then held in internment camps. In the 1950s, it deprived local people of their homes and farmlands in order to expand their bases – often at bayonet point. Those actions violated Article 46 of the Hague Conventions, an international agreement forbidding the confiscation of private property by any occupying power. Now Tokyo and Washington are trying to build their new installation in Henoko, Nago. That measure is being enforced against the clear will of the people. Washington and its military machine have placed Okinawans – in their own homeland – in such circumstances by having violated international law over a period of 70 years, that is since the end of the war. And it will continue to do the same into the foreseeable future.

Tokyo and Washington state that the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma will remain in Ginowan if resistance to its replacement facility at Henoko persists. From the start, they deprived us of the lands on which the bases were built. Once a base seems to be inoperable, they demand that we provide a new one. It is too obviously unjust and inhuman that they threaten us with the aim of our allowing a new base.

Washington and Tokyo are unable to maintain freedom, equality, human rights and democracy in Okinawa. We wonder whether those two states subscribe to the practice of disseminating universal values worldwide. That situation is nothing short of a mystery.

Some people say that the Okinawan economy depends on benefits derived from the U.S. military facilities. That is a huge misconception: rather the bases serve as a disincentive to growth within the Okinawan economy. Prosperity could develop quite dramatically if the bases were closed. Many examples and much data prove that.

Then there are others who say that if the U.S. Marines were transferred from Okinawa to the main islands of Japan, or the United States or Australia, their capabilities would be diminished. No one in the United States, though, accepts that notion. Experts on security affairs in America also advocate the transfer of the Marines from Okinawa to Australia.

Thus circulate such myths – that transferring U.S. bases beyond the prefecture could ravage the Okinawan economy, and that Japan would lose its deterrent endowment. Those particular myths, though, have already been dispatched.

“I would like Okinawa to become a buffer zone for peace,” Onaga told the overseas press corps in Japan. What is more, there is a view that Okinawa can grow with the assistance of developing Asian countries. Okinawa already has a vision of the future following the removal of a large portion of the U.S. military bases.

Washington amplification

There is a process known as “Washington amplification,” coined by Sayo Saruta, the director of Tokyo-based think tank New Diplomacy Initiative.

To illustrate the phenomenon, some Japanese politicians and ministerial mandarins identify certain political goals that will ultimately yield their objectives. However, those goals happen to be unpopular among a majority of the Japanese people. Therefore, they pitch their agenda items at a mere 30 or so American members of Japan specialist groups, but mainly at five or six Japan policy specialists in Washington D.C. Among them are such major figures as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Senior Director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council Michael Green. Such Japan policy specialists express the objectives in question as their own views. Even though a majority of Americans know little about those policies, they come to be mentioned in terms of their being “what Washington wants.” As a result, Tokyo-originated political goals are achieved.

The so-called “Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements (Anpo) mafia” members, certain Japanese politicians and Foreign and Defense Ministry bureaucrats in favor of maintaining US bases in Okinawa, frequently resort to such tactics to achieve their objectives. We have been swayed by those amplified remarks over a long period, too long a period.

The method is sometimes used to silence opposition. The Anpo mafia members label the Okinawan movement opposed to the construction of the new military base as being a maneuver to extract funding and subsidies. The result is that opposition voices are discounted or discredited and thus dismissed. Former director of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs Kevin Maher claimed, “Okinawans are masters of manipulation and extortion from Tokyo.” That is a good example of Washington amplification.

The reason why Governor Onaga has to visit the United States is that Okinawa needs to counter that formidably dense barrier. It will not be easy. However, we would like to hear Governor Onaga’s persistently proclaiming, “I have an unflagging resolve to halt the construction of the new base. I require the U.S. government to return Futenma Air Station to Okinawa swiftly, and redeploy the Marines beyond Okinawa and Japan.”

(English translation by A.P. Jenkins and T&CT)

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