Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yoshio Shimoji: "'Thanks' doesn't allay Okinawans"

Retired University of Okinawa professor Yoshio Shimoji's latest article, "'Thanks' doesn't allay Okinawans" published at The Japan Times:
In Okinawa to attend a memorial service for the war dead on June 23, Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized to Okinawans for having to shoulder the burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan. He then offered thanks, saying Okinawa's sacrifice was "contributing to Asia-Pacific security."

The overwhelming majority of us Okinawans oppose the current relocation plan for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which was agreed to between Tokyo and Washington over our heads. We want the base unconditionally removed from Okinawa. It is so weird for a Japanese politician to thank people who vehemently oppose the 2006 bilateral agreement on Futenma. Can we assume that Kan's apology means that the U.S. bases were mistakenly planted on Okinawa in the first place?

Kan was deputy prime minister under the Hatoyama administration. On the campaign trail of last summer's Lower House election, the slogan blaring from his sound truck was "Get the Futenma base out of the country or at least Okinawa." Kan's reneging on this campaign promise makes him no different from the Liberal Democratic Party's pork-barrel politicians. Naturally, Washington saluted Kan as a down-to-earth, realistic politician.

The last straw came June 24 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill thanking Japan, especially Okinawa, for "continuing to host U.S. forces," and noting that both nations had reconfirmed a commitment to relocate Futenma to Henoko in northern Okinawa, as agreed in 2006. What's this?! Thanking us out loud as if we were doing the United States a favor by willingly hosting the bases, after the bases had been forced on us so violently?

It is reported that a similar bill is being prepared in the U.S. Senate. Do senators also think that such self-righteous gratitude will allay Okinawa's long-held resentment against the U.S. bases? Don't they realize their repeated "thank you" resolutions are like rubbing salt into a wound, time and again?

If U.S. lawmakers want to wax philanthropic, they should stop this nonsense and begin discussing, instead, how the excessive U.S. military footprint on Okinawa can be reduced. Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 99 years as promised, but there is no timeline for the U.S. either to return its bases on Okinawa or to significantly reduce its military presence.

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