Sunday, October 23, 2011

Okinawa Governor Nakaima: Washington & Tokyo “should stop doing deals and return the bases promptly”

(Since 1996, Okinawans have told Washington & Tokyo "NO" to the proposed new mega-military base in Henoko. Since 2008, Okinawans have repeatedly responded with "No, You Can't" to the Obama administration. This photo is of Henoko elders spelling "NO" out with empty cans for former Prime Minister Kan to see from his airplane window during his 2010 visit to the beleaguered prefecture.)

In “Discordant Visitors: Japanese and Okinawan Messages to the US,” Satoko Norimatsu and Gavan McCormack quote Governor Nakaima’s September 2011 speech at George Washington University in their commentary on the bizarre incongruity between official Japanese and Okinawan prefectural stances on the U.S. military’s proposed destruction of Oura Bay and Henoko to make way for a U.S. mega-military base.

Opposed by Okinawan civil society and global environmentalists since 1996, the U.S. base proposal follows a historical pattern of violently and undemocratically established U.S. military bases in Okinawa prefecture. During and after the Battle of Okinawa, U.S. soldiers seized Okinawan property (and imprisoned the owners in camps) to make way for bases to support Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan. When that plan was abandoned, Okinawans were kept imprisoned while U.S. soldiers transformed the bases into permanent bases. In the 1950′s, U.S. marines (by use of “bayonets and bulldozers”) seized private property by dragging Okinawan women and children from homes and destroying farms and livestock to make way for more U.S. bases. Despite Okinawan protests dating back to the end of the World War II, the U.S. government has refused to remove unwanted military bases from Okinawa.

In recent years, the Okinawan movement has garnered worldwide attention, with some observers comparing the Okinawan struggle for human rights and democracy to movements in Eastern and Central Europe during Soviet military rule, before Glastnost. Since the 3/11 Triple Disaster, Japanese citizen “tomodachi” appeals to Washington to forego costly military subsidization by Japanese taxpapers have grown more urgent. Although U.S. congressional leaders have responded to Okinawan and Japanese calls for “change”; thus far the Obama administration has ignored requests to rein in U.S. military demands for Japanese taxpayer subsidization of proposed new base construction in Okinawa, Guam, the Japanese mainland, and continued “sympathy” subsidies to the U.S. military.

In September, Okinawa Govenor Nakaima, in conjunction with an Okinawan ad campaign in The New York Times, stated his case directly to Americans in Washington, D.C. Norimatsu and McCormack explain:
Nakaima declared that opposition in Okinawa to the Okinawan base project was almost total. He spoke of the unanimous declaration within the prefectural parliament (the Prefectural Assembly), and the explicit opposition of all 41 local government mayors and heads, including the mayor of the city of Nago, the designated site for the new base. Nakaima told his Washington audience that the relocation plan ‘must be revised,’ continuing that Futenma was ‘not an acceptable option’ and that if the national government was to choose to proceed ‘against the will of the local citizens,’ it might lead to ‘an irreparable rift … between the people of Okinawa and the US forces in the prefecture.’

(US military bases in Okinawa)

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