Foreign Minister Okada has asked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to wait until May for Japan's decision regarding the planned expansion of a US military base in Henoko, an ecologically sensitve region located in northwestern Okinawa.
Are both these parties forgetting a January 2008 US federal court ruling in San Francisco that found the U.S. Defense Department's plans to construct a new U.S. offshore Marine airbase in Okinawa violated the National Historic Preservation Act by not protecting a Japanese “national monument”--the endangered Okinawa dugong.
And does the democratic decision-making of the people of Okinawa and Henoko matter to them?
Hundreds of thousands of Okinawans have nonviolently protested US military bases occupying over twenty percent of Okinawa for over sixty years--since the US first seized lands owned by Okinawans following World War II. The US promised a "reversion" in 1972. But it turned out to be in name only--the US never left Okinawa.
Does Clinton need to be reminded that the ostensible purpose of the Pacific War and the US occupation of Japan and Okinawa were supposed to be about replacing Japan's military regime with a democratic society--not supplanting it with a permanent (and ever-expanding) US military regime?
The Washington Post printed an insightful letter to the editor from a US military vet once stationed in Okinawa on this point:
The Jan. 5 editorial, "An ally's wobbles," on the U.S. military and its presence on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, appears to support the relocation of a Marine Corps helicopter base there to "new facilities in another area near the island's coast," while also criticizing the Japanese prime minister for failing to make this happen.Following the Sept. 4, 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US military servicemen, 85,000 people rallied in Okinawa against the presence of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. (Photo: Uchinanchu, the Okinawan Peace Network of Los Angeles)
But the editorial did not mention that the more than 1 million Japanese citizens on Okinawa tend to oppose a new airbase that will destroy a beautiful and pristine coral beach and that many more Japanese appear to be increasingly tired of American officials lecturing them on the sacrifices needed (usually on the Japanese side) to maintain the U.S.-Japan military alliance. Actually, the 2006 helicopter base relocation accord follows the half-baked plan agreed to by the Clinton administration in 1996 to build a floating offshore base there, a technically unworkable approach that left Okinawans increasingly distrustful of both American and Japanese bureaucrats bearing gifts and promises.
In short, the Japanese prime minister's "wobbling" looks like a well-functioning Japanese democracy at work. Isn't that one reason why three generations of Americans (myself included) have served there in the U.S. military in the first place?