Here
and
Now

opinions

The Okinawan problem isn't about to disappear in a hurry

21 Comments
By Henry Hilton

The announcement by President Barack Obama of a high-level task force on Okinawa is a bid to defuse long-smoldering issues surrounding U.S. force deployment on Japan's southernmost prefecture. It will buy time for tempers to cool but may do little more than paper over continuing problems between the United States and Japan.

In the immediate aftermath of the bitter squabble between two supposedly close allies, there appears to be have been plenty of faults on both sides. The experts will tell us that the United States acted with extreme haste to get the floundering Aso government to agree to a deal over the Futenma replacement facility. In what was termed the "Guam International Agreement," the Obama administration was able thereby to have the Aso cabinet bind its likely Democratic Party successor to an arrangement that was highly unpopular with Okinawans. The process underlined the clear power disparity between the two Pacific allies and left Tokyo with large financial subventions toward the costs of sending U.S. Marines from Okinawa to their new base on Guam.

Yet there really isn't much wriggle room for the Hatoyama coalition cabinet. Faced with highly vocal "Not In My Back Yard" constituents outside Okinawa, who would instantly oppose the relocation of U.S. forces to virtually anywhere on the Japanese main islands, the government is stuck.

Since the security treaty with Washington remains the basis of Japan's defense policies and Obama made certain that Japan was the first nation he would visit on his swing through Asia to underline the centrality of the U.S.-Japan alliance, Tokyo does not have many options. It is obviously the weaker partner in these longstanding political, military and economic arrangements and given its concerns with North Korea and the People's Republic of China, it simply cannot think of relaxing its ties with Uncle Sam for the next decade at the very least. For now, Tokyo has nowhere else to go, despite some recent rhetoric about an embryonic Pacific community.

Since Japan remains hesitant about adopting an active foreign policy that might put its own military at risk, it is obliged to defer to the United States on most defense matters. The reality is that there are bound to be more difficulties over base relocation squabbles but despite understandable Okinawan concerns over service personnel misbehavior, expense, noise and environmental damage will remain secondary to the priority placed on keeping in with Washington.

The Hatoyama cabinet can only do so much to mollify Okinawan critics. The United States will sooner or later get it way over Futenma, though not before enraging some in the State Department and Pentagon for delays in the process. It may be an unpopular and bad tempered process but the stronger party will win through in the end. Despite all the hopes of some that the prospect of benign globalization and global justice will change the political chess board, international relations still remains a power play. Expect the stronger party to win the prize - eventually.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
Login to comment

Mr Hilton, good article - concur with 99% - just a few points:

I'm not sure I'd characterize the "Futenma Replacement Facility" issue as causing a "bitter squabble between two supposedly close allies." Certainly the Japanese media, and to an extent, the right wing media in the US, did their best to try to "spin" it that way. But in terms of overall seriousness, this was just a minor disagreement - I agree with you that this "pause" to have a working group review the issue is just a face saving way for the DJP to sign off on the existing agreement and fend off criticism from its two more left-leaning coalition partners.

While we can say that "the experts will tell us that the US acted in haste" - the experts are wrong. The US merely expected a sovereign nation to live up to its bilateral agreements as previously codified and agreed to by both governments.

I wouldn't buy into the phrase "understandable Okinawa concerns such as crime, etc...." The whole myth of the US military causing a disproportionate amount of crime on Okinawa is not supported by the facts. Certainly any crime is undesirable and causes strain on the Alliance - but the Japanese Police' own crime stats show that the crime rate for SOFA affiliated members is 50% less than that of the local Okinawan populace.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japan does not want the U.S. military to continue to provide the bulk of its defense, then it needs to take the necessary measures to change the situation accordingly.

Since it is unwilling to do so, the DPJ is wasting time and effort in attempting to backtrack on the U.S.-Japan accord reached previously by an LDP-led government.

Implementing the already-agreed-upon framework for transferring several thousand Marines and their dependents from to Okinawa to Guam in several years' time will result in a significant lessening of the burden for hosting the U.S. military on Okinawa.

Get on with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are the Japanese really worried about North Korea? They could wipe the North Koreans off the face of the earth in a flash.

All Japan needs to do is to make friends with China. That may mean giving up some of the islands that the Japanese claimed, or giving up part of the right to the oil/gas in the water around them. But compromise is what friendship is about.

When Japan has made friends with China it can quietly as the Americans to leave. Till then paying the US may be cheaper than the millitary spending.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When Japan has made friends with China

haha...when pigs fly

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting article by Mr Henry Hilton, who is probably "Basically" correct.

The agreement of 2006 is not worth the paper or breath it was spoken of. When do new governments become obligated to deals struck by corrupt politicians of previous administrations. Obviously Americans all think that they are correct and assume as usual as they have for the past 60 plus years that Okinawa is "American Owned" won by the blood of American Soldiers of WWII.

I would not dismiss the sacrifices of the soldiers of WWII but it still amazes me to listen to this garbage relating to Okinawa and what is best and what will happen blah blah blah.

Okinawans actually do hate the fact that the US Military does what they want to on Okinawa, We actually do hope that the burden of Okinawa having to host the US Military will become a thing of the past.

If the US Military really feels that they are in Asia, (Okinawa as 75% of the bases are on Okinawa) to protect Japan, then why not move the Futenma Air Station to the main land of Japan? I will tell you why not, it is because the Mainland of Japan does not want the US Military Presence there with the crimes and problems the bases bring and any American that tries to give facts and figures and stats and other B.S is no expert, just another foreigner who actually believes that Okinawa was invented for US Bases; Unfortunately Okinawans do not use force to push back bullies,they are easy targets to push sround. History will tell you that.

The mindset of ignorance of Americans and other foreigners relating to Okinawa is amazing but I believe that Mr. Hilton has a better grasp on the situation, even though I want to see change. Even though Mr Obama is at least opening the door, it will be a long time before justice prevails.

Moderator: Your inflammatory remarks have been removed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don`t expect this issue to disappear in a hurry with Ditherer in Chief Obama and Dovetail Hatoyama . . . . These people are incapable of leading. Period.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oshirosan, The problem I have with your statements are that they are very general and sweeping. There are a lot of very good, quality men and women here doing what their country has asked them to do. Please do not lump the "Gate 2 Street" crowd with the good people. They don't deserve it.

I absolutely feel bad for the Okinawan people. They have gotten the bad end of foreign influence since 1869, when Japan formally annexed the islands. But please do not think that all of the bases being gone is the solution to the problems in Okinawa. Wasn't it the Japanese who were telling the locals that it was better to die by your own hands than to be captured by the Americans? My father-in-law lived through this, and as an Okinawan, he would beg to differ with you that things would be better without the US here.

Are Americans perfect? No. But the Japanese are no better. And they have done worse to the Ryukyu people. They treat Okinawans like a bunch of dumb farmers, and this makes me quite mad. The people here are very open and nice. Not true in mainland.

The very thing you detest about how Americans think (all of us want your women, our towns in the US are full of crime and rapists, etc...) is what you are doing by making these comments. Generalizations backed up by little to no facts is what you accuse people here, but in the next breath you do the same. You do not speak for all Okinawan people. Most young people do not learn correct history because the Japanese government, which you prefer to the US, censors its text books so Okinawans can't learn the real history of Japan.

Please do some more research before you come on here and just label anything US as bad. It does not make you look good, and you lose creditability.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks The sicilian, I was beginning to think Oshiro had a point. But he DOES go way over the line with his generalizations about ALL american cities bla, bla, bla. For all the criime that does occur, USA is deals with it and carries on. We bring in refugees and give them a new home. People who come in from other countries, are grateful and honored to be Americans. Just talk to some of them. Sure there are problems. Which country and which human race is without them. But to a great majority, life is pretty xxxx much better than it ever could be here. Its a matter of perspective, and adjustment. Anyways, all American soldiers are not criminals. Far from it. They have honor and are for the most part decent human beings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oshiro-san, not sure what I said set you off, but just two comments;

Your general stereotyping regarding Americans can only be classifed as racist and xenophobic - that's not healthy - please get some help You're aiming your invective at the wrong audience - the US military comes to Japan becuse it is ordered to do so, The US Govt orders the military there becuse it has a bilateral security treaty with Japan. Your government has the authority to withdraw from that treaty - if you disagree so emotionally with the US military being in Japan, please convince your governmet to end the US - Japan Security Alliance. Your problem is then solved.

Moderator: Don't come onto this discussion board and accuse other readers of being racist and xenophobic. You're not the best judge of that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

rumor has it that bama's team is costing out the relocation of the okinwans and making it the 51st state. finally will have a place to put the gitmo prisoners...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

shoulda just kept it when we had it...woulda made a nice training base to stage LARGE SCALE military exercises whenever N. Korea started sabre rattling.....Think of all the bombing and artillery practice that could be hosted here......Hey, we could even close the Hawaii bases and forward stage them all out here...plus there would be less whining by the vocal minority, they wouldn't be here....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem I have with your statements are that they are very general and sweeping. There are a lot of very good, quality men and women here doing what their country has asked them to do.

My father-in-law lived through this, and as an Okinawan, he would beg to differ with you that things would be better without the US here.

the_sicilian:

Your father-in-law is a minority in positive viewpoint of the bases. It's not about the quality of men and women that are serving their country. Facts are, majority of Okinawans do not want American base in Okinawa period. "Okinawa's future is for us, the Okinawan people has to decide," Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha told a supportive protester crowd of 21,000, which spilled out of an open-air theatre by the beach. "We cannot let America decide for us." That view was supported by 70% of Okinawa residents in a poll published this month by the Mainichi newspaper.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sfip330, again. Think of Okinawan history. Before they didn't want the US bases, they didn't want the Japanese gov't telling them what to do. That was before WWII. Shall we say, things have changed?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Okinawan Problem: this colonialism issue has nothing to do at all with the people of Okinawa -however they are expected to deal with it -with their hands tied behind their backs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Facts are, majority of Okinawans do not want American base in Okinawa period. "Okinawa's future is for us, the Okinawan people has to decide," Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha told a supportive protester crowd of 21,000, which spilled out of an open-air theatre by the beach. "We cannot let America decide for us." That view was supported by 70% of Okinawa residents in a poll published this month by the Mainichi newspaper.>

Well, if this is the case, then why didn't the governor and other high ranking officials attend? Oh, the police stated only 6,000 showed up, and the Mainichi is a mainland newspaper.

And America did not decide this for the Okinawan people. This is a US/Japanese agreement. If Okinawa wants country making decisions in its favor, then do not be a part of Japan. The sad part is the Japanese crap on Okinawa, they get the least amount of prefecture money and have the highest unemployment rate. The bases account for a few thousand jobs (I think 6500 directly but I could be wrong) plus all of the contract work. Show me a Japanese company that has come into Okinawa and provided 1000 jobs. There are none.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, if this is the case, then why didn't the governor and other high ranking officials attend?

Basically they are a defensive reasons from the governor who doesn't want Tokyo central government to come up with some new alternative that sees more US service people stationed in Kanagawa Prefecture. This is still not a US-Japan problem. The only problem lies in new Japan govenment who is still grandstanding for public opinion rather than governing the country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is obviously the weaker partner in these longstanding political, military and economic arrangements and given its concerns with North Korea and the People’s Republic of China, it simply cannot think of relaxing its ties with Uncle Sam for the next decade at the very least. For now, Tokyo has nowhere else to go, despite some recent rhetoric about an embryonic Pacific community.

wow, no.. Not the reality of today.

Today (right now) if Japan doesn't keep buying USA Treasurery-bills, even with Japan at 200% debt over GDP, the USA will crumble. This is USA weakness not Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, if this is the case, then why didn't the governor and other high ranking officials attend?

Govenor Hirokazu Nakaima is one of the largest advocates to expel 8,000 U.S. Marines and their families off the island of Okinawa. He has consistently blasted the U.S. Government as well as its officials for frivolous wrong doing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But Nakaima refused to attend, along with mayors from other cities. I would have expected the true US hater Tomon from Okinawa City to go.

And I agree the J-gov is just trying to establish itself and grandstanding a bit. However, this is the wrong fight for them to pick. Japan needs the US for security, Asia needs the US to keep Japan from becoming a large fighting force (again), and the US enjoys a nice strategic position. The governments worked this out, and that is what should be followed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i say USA should pull out because america could use the money for more like the USA

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i say the USA should pull out so it can help more important like the USA japan learned in the 1940's what america can do they have nothing to worry abou

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites