Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gavan McCormack: "Okinawa, New Year 201: Tokyo's Year End Surprise Attack"

Gavan McCormack introduces two new articles at The Asia-Pacific Journal on Okinawa: "Okinawa, New Year 2012: Tokyo’s Year End Surprise Attack" by Etsuko Urashima and "The Fatally Flawedl EIS Report on the Futenma Air Station Replacement Facility – With Special Reference to the Okinawa Dugong" by Kunitoshi Sakurai:
Here we present two Okinawan accounts of the events on which the year 2011 ended: one by Okinawa’s leading environmentalist, specialist in environmental assessment law and till 2010 president of Okinawa University, the other by the long-time chronicler of the Okinawan resistance movement and Nago city resident. Both are core members of that movement. They write of the astonishing events that marked the end of 2011.

By then, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government, elected at the end of August 2009, was into its third Prime Minister and had abandoned or reversed almost all the key policies on which it had been elected: the commitment to substitute political for bureaucratic direction, the renegotiation of the relationship with the US on an equal basis, the promotion of an East Asian community, the maintaining of the current level of consumption tax, an end to the Liberal-Democratic Party’s long-entrenched “construction state” policies which would be symbolized in particular by the abandonment of the Yamba dam project, and, not least, the closure of Futenma Marine Air Station in Okinawa without substitution in the prefecture.

It is the latter, superficially a “local” issue, that increasingly seems to have the potential to bring the DPJ down and create crisis in the US-Japan relationship it is nominally reinforcing. At some point, probably during 2012, it is going to have to face the fact that the promises it keeps making to the Obama administration in Washington of construction of a substitute Marine base in Henoko in northern Okinawa will never be implemented. Okinawan civil society has issued a definitive “No!” Okinawan democracy has repeatedly shown that it will not be crushed and defeated, even in the face of a unified front by Tokyo and Washington. For Tokyo to attempt to impose its will violently on Okinawa would be to accentuate the crisis and destabilize Japanese politics, the alliance, and perhaps the entire region. As 2012 dawns, it seems unlikely, but not impossible, that Noda, driven by determined bureaucratic forces, might attempt to do just that. For the time being, Noda’s government refuses to admit defeat. But in due course the consequences of its prolonging or attempting to evade that decision grow more serious.

The fact is that the DPJ government today faces a level of resistance unprecedented in the history of the modern Japanese state, with the (conservative) Governor, the prefectural Assembly (Okinawa’s parliament), virtually all city, town and village assemblies and mayors, and all media groups and civic and labour organizations firmly opposed to the attempted relocation of the Marine base to Henoko.

The following accounts deal with the submission by the Government of Japan of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) designed to accelerate construction at the projected Henoko site. The story, told here from two different but closely connected viewpoints, reveals the depths to which the DPJ has sunk, its disregard for due process and law, its insistence on the priority that must be attached to service to the US over attention to the interests of its own citizens, its contempt for democracy, and its systematic and continuing discrimination against Okinawans. This might not be unique among contemporary industrial democratic states, but this deepening crisis is little appreciated. Okinawa is Japan’s Tahrir Square. The “Okinawa problem” is Japan’s problem. And it is presently the crux of the US-Japan problem.

Just weeks before the “delivery” described here, the head of Okinawa’s Defense Bureau, the local section of the national Ministry of Defense, had to resign over his statement explicitly comparing the delivery of the EIS to rape. When about to commit rape, he said, you do not announce it to your victim in advance. The Government of Japan might have submitted to pressure to replace him in his post, but in the way it went about delivery of the crucial EIS in December, it showed the mentality of the rapist: violent, contemptuous of its victim, and moved by shame to commit its deed at the darkest hour of the night, when witnesses could least be expected.

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