[Editorial] U.S.-Japan Summit Alliance that forces sacrifices on Okinawa is an illusion

February 24, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

In Washington, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time. They confirmed their intention to cooperate in a wide range of fields such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP and security between Japan and the United States. Abe has declared that “the trust and the bond” in the US-Japan alliance has been restored, but we can’t help but sigh deeply because the two leaders have yet again exchanged empty promises regarding the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a matter about which the Okinawan people are deeply concerned.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, with regard to the TPP, which was the focal point of the summit, the two governments confirmed that a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminating all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations is not required. Obama allowed room for exceptions to tariff elimination, something that Japan had requested as a condition to taking part in the TPP negotiations.

At the same time, in the statement, as the first of the basic principles, the two governments confirmed that decisions on all goods would be subject to negotiation. There is no doubt that this statement is a compromise struck in order to encourage Japan to participate in the negotiations. Prime Minister Abe made it very clear that he would make the decision to join to the TPP negotiation as soon as possible. However, we must remember that this agreement does not guarantee protection for domestic agricultural products such as rice, a product that the Japanese government currently protects by enforcing high tariffs on foreign rice. There is also strong resistance from a group of more than 200 in Liberal Democratic Party Diet members who are opposed to the TPP negotiations.

We believe that the highest priority for the Prime Minister should be to clearly explain to the public, the advantages and disadvantages of TPP and how the negotiations will be handled.

Prime Minister Abe should not be lightly announcing the country’s participation in the TPP negotiations before entering into a national debate on the matter.
On the still pending issue of Futenma Air Station, while the two leaders agreed to move ahead with their plan to relocate the facilities to Henoko in Nago, the Okinawan governor reiterated his stance that practically speaking relocating the Futenma base within the prefecture is impossible. All 41 heads of the municipalities within the prefecture are clearly opposed to the government’s policy. The two leaders ought to face the fact that the Japan-U.S. agreement on this matter is not in keeping with the reality of the situation.

In the eyes of the Okinawan people, who fervently wish to reduce the excessive burden they are forced to endure because of U.S. military bases, the prime minister’s statement that the Japan-U.S. alliance has been restored implies that Japan is strengthening its policy of subservience towards the United States. We want the prime minister to immediately adjust the rudder to steer us in a direction that eliminates the structural discrimination forced upon the people of Okinawa through the years.

If Prime Minister Abe thinks that not mentioning the timing of the application of the Henoko landfill at the summit serves as an expedient to placate Okinawa, he is horribly wrong. We want him to understand that without drastically improving the situation so the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements do not force sacrifices on Okinawa, the strengthening and full recovery of the U.S.-Japan relationship is nothing more than an illusion.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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