Okinawa does not want more bases

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The rampant militarism in the East China Sea has its weak link in the stronghold of Okinawa. The governor of the prefecture, Denny Tamaki, denounced on Monday in Geneva, before the UN Human Rights Commission, the “threat to peace” that, according to him, represents the proliferation of military bases.

For the United States and its allies, preparing for any scenario in Taiwan may be nothing more than a rhetorical exercise. But for Okinawa it evokes some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, which wiped out a third of its inhabitants. Some of them, at the hands of the Japanese themselves, who did not trust the natives of the old kingdom of Ryukyu, who at that time spoke their own language.

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Okinawa hosts 30,000 US military personnel and 50,000 civilians in 32 bases that occupy 18% of the island's territory.

Last year marked fifty years since the return of Okinawa to Japan by the United States. A reintegration that continues to present rough edges.

The numbers sing and Tamaki summoned them again to the UN. Japan's southernmost archipelago, with just over 1% of the population, hosts 70% of the US military bases in the country. “A threat to world peace,” he said, which also pollutes and makes them a “target.”

The politician also complained that the works on a new base on the coral coast continue, despite the non-binding referendum he called four years ago, in which more than 70% of the islanders spoke out against it. Just fifteen days ago the Supreme Court dismissed his appeals.

Tamaki conquered the prefecture on an anti-base platform, like his predecessor, the late Takeshi Onaga, who also spoke at the same forum eight years ago, although with a more direct vocabulary, in which there was no shortage of accusations against Tokyo of “discrimination” and ignore the “right of self-determination.” On Monday, a Japanese government envoy disqualified Tamaki's arguments on the spot.

However, their fears are not unfounded. An American think tank has predicted that, in the event of a military escalation by Taiwan, China's first objective would be the landing strips of the Okinawa bases.

It should be added that Yonaguni Island is only one hundred kilometers from Taiwan. And that the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets, under Japanese control but claimed by China, are on the periphery of the archipelago.

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Likewise, the largest of Okinawa's bases, Futenma, occupies hundreds of hectares in the center of one of its largest cities. In peacetime, Futenma was described by the late US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as “the most dangerous air base in the world.” In addition to being a continuous source of neighborhood protests.

In times of war, it would be a mousetrap again. The eviction of Futenma is something that, in fact, has been agreed since 1997. Not only because of the “inconvenience” to the neighbors, but because it was taken at the point of a machine gun.

The eviction has been interpreted from Washington and Tokyo as a relocation to the same island, in Nago, something frowned upon by the inhabitants of Okinawa, who would like a more equitable distribution of the burdens.

Okinawa hosts 30,000 US military personnel and 50,000 civilians in 32 bases, which occupy 18% of the island.

The governor's suspicion multiplied a year ago, with the new Japanese military doctrine, unveiled by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. This abandons the pacifist itch and opens itself to intervene abroad, under American command. It also commits to devoting 2% of GDP to defense, as if it were a member of NATO, doubling its budget in five years against China - "strategic rival" - Russia and Russia and North Korea ("adversaries")

Japan occupied the island of Formosa in 1895, until 1945. A quarter of a century earlier it had taken over Ryukyu, a prosperous archipelago until then due to its intermediate position between China and Japan.

“We must never allow the people of Okinawa to suffer the same terrible experience we went through again,” Tamaki concluded. “The security of Japan is the concern of all Japanese.”

A governor against

Denny Tamaki is a product of the occupation of Okinawa and never knew his father, a Marine who abandoned his mother before he was born. Like his predecessor in the prefecture, he protests in front of Tokyo and Washington about the density of military bases on his island.

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