Image: The Asia-Pacific Journal)
The U.S. establishment media did not cover the 16,000 Okinawan people, of all ages, participating in the May 13th human chain demonstration for peace encircling the 11-mile periphery of Kadena Air Base. They were protesting the presence of 22,000 American troops stationed there.
The vigorous political action of thousands of Japanese citizens who live in Okinawa does not conform with the American stereotype of "homogenous" and "passive" Japanese who live to work long hours and watch quirky television.
This false image of mindless Japanese consensus reflects an authoritarian state's ideal population, but not the messy reality of competing interests and a history of politically engaged citizenry, especially since the postwar period when the U.S. decided to remake Japan, specifically the prefecture of Okinawa, into its "unsinkable aircraft carrier" cornerstone in the Asia-Pacific.
Kudos to the Japanese media which did report on the 16,000 Okinawans joining together in a human chain to protest U.S. military bases on their island.
Demonstrations continued during a week-long commemoration of the 35th anniversary of Okinawa's reincorporation into Japan. The US kept Okinawa under military rule from the defeat of Imperial Japan in 1945 until 1972. Around 30 bases cover 20% of the main island, on land seized by the U.S. military during and after the Pacific War. About 60 U.S. military bases and facilities span the rest of the Japanese archipelago.
The Asia-Pacific Journal's reprint of Kyodo's "Secret Details of Sordid Okinawan Reversion Deal Revealed" reveals more about the history of Washington-Tokyo backdealing at the expense of Okinawans, Japanese taxpayers, and those who tried to report the truth. The Japanese government even falsely arrested and ruined the journalism career of Takichi Nishiyama to discredit his now vindicated findings. The former Mainichi News investigative reporter uncovered a secret deal between the U.S. and Japanese governments that defrauded Japanese taxpayers and Okinawans whose property had been seized by the U.S. military:
To keep a secret pact from being exposed prior to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa, the United States agreed to a Japanese request to delay paying compensation to local landowners, according to recently revealed U.S. documents.Originally posted on May 18, 2007 at the Kyoto Journal website.
Under the deal, the central government agreed to shoulder the $4 million cost to restore Okinawa's land to its original state.
In the end, the compensation actually paid to the landowners came to less than$ 1 million, according to the documents in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
An Okinawa reversion agreement signed in June 1971 stipulated that the U.S. would "voluntarily" pay to convert military land into farmland. However, Japan reportedly shouldered the cost by slipping the $4 million into the $320 million Tokyo paid to Washington to buy U.S. assets along with the reversion.
According to the documents, the $320 million was to be paid in five installments, and $4 million was to be diverted to a trust fund to be set up from the first installment of $100 million, which was to be paid in May 1972, so that the compensation payment could begin by the end of 1972.
Lawmakers of the then main opposition Japan Socialist Party had taken up the secret pact in the Diet between late March and early April 1972, based on copies of classified diplomatic documents obtained by a Mainichi Shimbun reporter, Nishiyama Takichi.
The government denied the existence of the secret pact.
A U.S. Department of Treasury document dated May 11, 1972, indicates Japan requested the United States postpone the payment on the grounds that setting up a trust fund would mean publicly acknowledging the existence of the secret deal.
The Treasury Department then decided to postpone the start of the compensation payment until 1973 after reviewing the case along with the departments of State and Defense, according to the documents.
Nishiyama was arrested in April 1972, along with his news source, a Foreign Ministry clerk, over the information leak. The development is believed to have prompted Washington to comply with the Japanese so the arrests could not reignite debates on the secret pact.
The trust fund was established in 1973. Of the $4 million Japan had provided the U.S., less than $1 million was paid to landowners in Okinawa, and some of the $4 million went to pay expenses for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was charged with the compensation payment, according to the documents.
Nishiyama, who was later convicted and given a suspended prison term, said, "It is as if the United States defrauded landowners and embezzled the money that should have been returned to Japan.
"The United States has siphoned off (Japanese) taxpayers' money. The Okinawa secret pact is just the tip of the iceberg," the 75-year-old added.
Nishiyama failed to clear his name in March when the Tokyo District Court rejected his damages suit against the government in which he argued his career was ruined by an illegal conviction stemming from his scoop of the secret pact.
In February 2006, Yoshino Bunroku, a retired diplomat who negotiated with Washington on Okinawa's reversion as director general of the Foreign Ministry's then American Bureau, admitted to the existence of the secret pact.