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Yoshiko Sakurai

【#230】Politicians Should Discuss National Defense in Okinawa

Yoshiko Sakurai / 2014.01.23 (Thu)

January 20, 2014

      I had a strange feeling when seeing people giving rousing cheers to Susumu Inamine who won his reelection as mayor of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, by asserting opposition to the planned relocation of the Futenma U.S. Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko in the city. Surrounding the victorious mayor were Social Democratic Party lawmaker Kantoku Teruya and other left-wingers who have been diminishing in the political circles in mainland Japan.
      "Okinawa has always been discriminated and 'uchinanchu" (Okinawa people) have not been treated as Japanese nationals," House of Representatives member Teruya said in his blog once. "I seriously believe that Okinawa should become independent of Japan."
Remarks by Teruya and other Inamine supporters indicate they have never believed that Okinawa is part of Japan so that Okinawa's interests should be based on Japan's national interests, or that national defense is the most important matter now.

Lawmakers feeling afraid of public opinions
      The essence of the Okinawa problem is that conservatives have failed to squarely face off against these people's animosity or objection. None of Liberal Democratic Party politicians has explained to Okinawans about the significance of the state or the importance of national interests.
      Feeling a sense of atonement for massive victims in the Battle of Okinawa, the United States' 20-year-longer occupation of Okinawa than that of mainland Japan, and many U.S. military bases left in Okinawa even after its reversion to Japan, Japan's central government came up with a comprehensive Okinawa development promotion plan in consideration of special conditions in Okinawa and has retained such plan.
      Left-wing camp in Okinawa has always engineered Okinawa to confront against mainland Japan, perform as victim and take advantage of the central government's sense of atonement.
      Okinawa media have exaggerated their chorus of victim mentality. Feeling afraid of Okinawa public opinions that have been formed in this way, National Diet lawmakers elected from Okinawa have sided with left-wing opinions.
      In a run-up to the Nago mayoral election, LDP lawmakers elected from Okinawa all had abnormally called for relocating the U.S. base out of the prefecture. They reversed their policy and decided to tolerate the relocation within the prefecture only last month.
      The LDP leadership has traditionally tolerated such situations. Since Okinawa's reversion to Japan in 1972, the ruling LDP has never squarely debated Japan's desirable course, national defense or national interests in Okinawa.

Limits of monetary compensation
      Politicians have failed to assert the significance of national defense in Okinawa, conceded to Okinawa's victim mentality and provided money as compensation. Spending on Okinawa development over the 40 years after the reversion has exceeded 10 trillion yen, including subsidies for military base-hosting communities and investment in development around bases. In addition, the central government has provided exclusive preferential treatments and extraordinary tax incentives to Okinawa.
      The idea of money and special preferential treatment for Okinawa has remained unchanged even for the Nago mayoral election. LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba offered a 50 billion yen development promotion package when he went to the city in the final phase of the election campaigns to support the other candidate who backed up the plan to relocate the U.S. base to Henoko.
      Such efforts are no longer effective. The LDP-New Komeito coalition has not been helpful. The LDP must rise up now. LDP politicians should squarely discuss the state, national interests and national defense in Okinawa.
Yoshiko Sakurai is President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.