Commentary – Okinawa public opinion poll on the 45th anniversary of the Okinawa Reversion Agreement focused on bases, casts shadow on Okinawans

May 9, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Takumi Takimoto

As we look towards the 45th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, while approval ratings of the reversion in a recent public opinion poll of Okinawan residents remain high, they are at their lowest point since similar questions began appearing in the poll 20 years ago. Meanwhile, for the first time, the largest response to “Downsides of the Okinawa Reversion” was, “Damage from U.S. bases.” Despite growing demands for the consolidation and reduction of U.S. bases since the reversion, the unchanged situation surrounding the bases has cast a dark shadow over the hearts of Okinawans.

In addition to accidents and incidents related to the U.S. military such as the crash of the Marines’ MV-22 Osprey at the end of last year, and the violent murder of a woman by a base worker, the forced landfilling by the Japanese government as part of the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko, Nago filled survey responses.

At the center of this is the fact that while 20 years ago 75% of all land used for U.S. military facilities in all of Japan was in Okinawa, currently it is still at around 70%. Demands for the reduction of bases and return of the land in the Japanese and Okinawan policies by Okinawan residents is at its highest point in five years, and furthermore the proportion of responses calling for these policies is at an all-time high. The contrast of the governments claims of “a reduction of the burden on Okinawa,” and the un-met demands of Okinawan residents is reality surrounding the 45th anniversary of the Okinawa Reversion.

The Japanese government staged the start to landfill construction in Henoko Bay, related to the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko, at the end of April, emphasizing the progress of the construction both inside Japan and abroad. This is in spite of the fact that 74.1% of people demanded that MCAS Futenma be moved either outside of Okinawa, outside of Japan, or demolished, well above the number of people who accepted or supported the construction. Public opposition to the Henoko relocation remains as strong as ever, and it reveals that the government’s forced construction is not linked to an evocation of a “mood of resignation” on the part of Okinawan residents.

Furthermore, Governor Takeshi Onaga’s approval rating is at 66.7%, much higher than the approval ratings of Masahide Ota, Keiichi Inamine, and Hirokazu Nakaima, which all fell between 34-37%. There is growing pressure on Gov. Onaga’s decision to revoke the permit for filling Henoko Bay, however it can be said that the responses show a renewal of support for Onaga as one who will stand up to the Japanese government.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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