Okinawa for Okinawans
09/11/2019 08:51 am MYT
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"Although the Okinawa prefecture comprises just 0.6% of Japan's total land mass, about 75% of all US military personnel stationed in Japan are assigned to installations in Okinawa. In addition, the presence of US military bases has caused great concern to the Okinawans due to base-related accidents and crimes."



Okinawa is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. It comprises over 160 islands and is the southernmost prefecture in Japan. Naha, Okinawa’s capital, is nearer to Taipei and Shanghai than it is to Tokyo. For the non-Japanese, Okinawa is probably best known for the brutal battle that took place there during World War II and its numerous present US military bases. Recently, Okinawa hit the news again because a fire broke out in the early hours of 31 Oct and burned down the Shuri Castle, which represents Okinawa’s history and culture. To the people of Okinawa, the Shuri Castle carries more weight than the Notre Dame Cathedral is to the people of France. This is because Shuri Castle was the heart of the former Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled Okinawa from the 15th century until Japan forcibly incorporated the archipelago into her territory in 1879. Shuri Castle served as the residence of the Ryukyu kings, the government’s headquarters, as well as a site for rituals. The magnificent castle was built mostly with wood based on knowledge acquired from China and Japan.



Built in the 14th century, the Shuri Castle had been destroyed by fire three times before 31 Oct: once in 1660, another time in 1709, and during World War II. Each time, the Castle was rebuilt, reflecting its importance to the mental and spiritual sustenance of the Okinawans. The Japanese government has promised to rebuild the World Heritage site. However, given that the local and central governments are at odds over American military bases at Okinawa as well as the fiscal strain of the central government, it is uncertain as to how long it will take for the Shuri Castle to be rebuilt. The last construction started in 1989 and was fully completed only at the beginning of this year.



Worries that reconstruction of the Shuri Castle will be delayed or might never take place are not unfounded. The presence of US military bases in Okinawa has strained relationships between the central and Okinawan governments for a long time. The Okinawans felt that they have been bullied by the central government in Tokyo as they shoulder an unequal burden of hosting US military bases in Japan. Although the Okinawa prefecture comprises just 0.6% of Japan's total land mass, about 75% of all US military personnel stationed in Japan are assigned to installations in Okinawa. In addition, the presence of US military bases has caused great concern to the Okinawans due to base-related accidents and crimes.




Although the Okinawa prefecture comprises just 0.6% of Japan's total land mass, about 75% of all US military personnel stationed in Japan are assigned to installations in Okinawa. The Okinawans have been protesting non-stop against the US military presence. (Source: Shutterstock)



The US military constantly ignores the safety of the people of Okinawa. We constantly read about incidents involving objects accidently falling from US military aircraft. The latest protest from the Okinawan government involved the US military conducting parachute drop (paradrop) training at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa on 29 Oct. Based on an agreement with the Special Action Committee on Okinawa in 1996, the paradrop training is supposed to be conducted on Ie Island, which is located several kilometres off Okinawa’s main island. However, the US military later began to conduct paradrop training at Kadena Air Base which is surrounded by residential areas. In 2007, the US compelled Japan to obey their wishes, by allowing Kadena Air Base to be used in “exceptional cases”. The problem is that the US military defined “exceptional cases” as “that paradrop training should not be conducted regularly” and that bad weather could be considered as one of those “exceptional cases”. Under such a definition, the US military could carry out training at the Kadena Base arbitrarily according to its plan. To date, such training has been performed at the base 13 times, including 4 times this year.



Paradrop training is dangerous to people on the ground because when personnel and supplies are dropped to the ground with parachutes, they could veer from their original destinations and fatally hit someone. In 1972, a girl in Okinawa was killed when she was hit by a trailer dropped by the US military. As usual, the Okinawa government has made protest to the central government based on the latest breach by the US military. Unfortunately, nothing is likely to change as long as Japan remains under the umbrella of the US. Japan needs to swerve closer to her East Asian neighbours, in particular China, so that her people can live with dignity.





Meanwhile, as expected, the first consumption data after the consumption tax hike took effect is horrible. Auto sales in Oct plunged 24.9% from a year ago, with all segments of automobile sales registering double-digit declines. More negative data are expected in the coming days. For now, i Capital retains its long-held long-term bearish outlook of the Tokyo stock market. i Capital is also retaining its bearish short-term outlook of the Tokyo stock market at a range of 13,000 to 23,500 for the Nikkei Average.



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Note from Publisher
Although India pulled out at the last minute, the 15-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement will be ready for signing next year. RCEP is a free trade agreement among the 10-member ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It is to be the world’s largest free trade bloc. The 15 participating countries make up nearly a third of the world’s population and GDP. With the protectionist Trump administration terrorizing every country in the world with tariffs, a successful conclusion of RCEP is of utmost importance.

In addition, it is the first time that China, South Korea, and Japan are in the same free trade bloc, potentially paving the way for the illusive free trade agreement among the three East Asian economic powerhouses to be realized. i Capital has written many times about the immense potentials of a China-South Korea-Japan economic alliance. It would provide a real counter balance to the US and Europe, which have dominated the world since the first industrial revolution.

The world will definitely be more peaceful when no single super power is allowed to bulldoze its way through the rest of the world. Check and balance would promote justice, responsibility, and transparency.
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