Editorial: We’ll exercise our right to self-determination

April 28, 2017 by Ryukyu Shimpo

The San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect on April 28, 1952, when Japan gained its independence, and when Okinawa, along with Amami and Ogasawara, were split from Japan.

In Article 3 of the Peace Treaty, the United States, with Japan’s consent and without intervention from any other country, gave themselves the ability to have free use of military bases. The U.S., ignoring the basic human rights of Okinawan citizens came with “bayonets and bulldozers,” taking away farmland and building the largest military bases in all of East Asia. Without a doubt, for Okinawa this is a, “Day of Shame.”

Okinawa recognizes April 28 as the, “Day of Humiliation,” demanding the restoration of their right to self-determination.

Currently, the Abe administration is forcing through new base construction in Henoko, Nago, against the popular will expressed in elections. There should never be a time when Okinawan’s right to self-determination is so blatantly disregarded in modern times. We must learn from the past, and for the sake of the future respond to blatant authoritarianism with unflinching resolve.

Why have the many problems associated with the bases, including incidents, accidents, noise damage, environmental pollution and human-rights violations not been resolved 65 years after the signing of the San Francisco Treaty.

The cause of the base problems stems from the stationing of the American military in Okinawa, and the lopsided Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Because the Japanese government has not demanded any substantial amendments to SOFA, the base problems go unresolved, and Okinawan citizens continue to be victimized.

Meanwhile, with the exception of Okinawa, U.S. military bases in Japan were reduced significantly up through the latter half of the 1970’s, almost entirely erasing the base problems of the time symbolized by anti-American nationalism. Conversely, the concentration of bases in Okinawa increased.

Looking at the results of a survey of the attitudes of Okinawan residents conducted once every five years by Ryukyu Shimpo (released January 1 of this year), over 35% of participants responded to questions about, “the standing of Okinawa within Japan” by indicating they would like to see an increase in Okinawan authority for things like foreign affairs, domestic politics, and even independence. Meanwhile, answers of “stay the course of a single region (prefecture),” decreased 17.7 points, dropping below the majority to 46.1%.

Since the Abe administration does not treat Okinawa fairly compared to the other prefectures in Japan, the Okinawan people should by all means be demanding an increase in autonomy.

The Japan-U.S. alliance can no longer be built on the humiliation and victimization of Okinawa. We demand that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe change his exclusive devotion to the United States, treat Okinawa as fairly as other regions, and recognize Okinawa’s right to self-determination. Only then can you truly call Japan a sovereign nation.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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