Messages tied to fence around the US military base by Okinawa citizens — Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images
A politician who wants a U.S. Marine base moved out of Okinawa won election as governor of the southern Japanese island chain…
Takeshi Onaga was set to win a sweeping victory after exit polls late yesterday indicated he had almost twice as many votes as Hirokazu Nakaima, incumbent and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favored candidate.
Onaga, 64, is seeking to reduce the military burden on Okinawa, which hosts about three quarters of the U.S. bases in Japan, while boasting only 0.6 percent of the nation’s land area. Nakaima, 75, last December agreed to allow the Futenma U.S. Marine base to be shifted to a less densely populated area of the prefecture — a move that appeared to end nearly two decades of wrangling over the issue.
“Based on this victory, I will go to the government, the U.S. government and even the United Nations to tell them the people are against it,” Onaga said yesterday in a televised interview broadcast after the exit polls were published. Nakaima’s decision had “sent the wrong message,” he said…
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Nov. 14 that the government would stick to its policy of trying to close the Futenma base within five years regardless of the election result. Abe has lifted an effective ban on arms exports and reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to defend other countries — including the U.S., its only formal ally…
“Defending other countries” being Washington doublespeak for “Japan remains our leading flunky in Asia”.
Local residents complain of crime, pollution, accidents and noise associated with the U.S. bases and anger peaked in 1995 when a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by three U.S. servicemen. Polls show 80 percent of local people want to move the facility out of the prefecture.
Boasting a unique culture and language, as well as white sand beaches and clear waters, Okinawa has become a tourist hot spot. Visitor numbers from both Taiwan and mainland China doubled in September from a year earlier, while visits totaled 3.72 million people in the six months through September.
…Onaga said in an Oct. 31 interview with Bloomberg that while he doesn’t want all the bases removed, the economic incentive for hosting them has faded. They account for just 5 percent of Okinawa’s economy and about 9,000 jobs, and their removal would free up land for tourist development.
Peaceful commerce with China doesn’t mean much of anything to Japan’s militarists. They may not march at the front of election parades; but, they still pull the same old strings from their comfortable couches within corporate Zaibatsu skyscrapers.
Meanwhile, Uncle Sugar wants to retain Okinawa to be available as a rock-solid launching platform for the next time we decide to invade any part of Asia — the role that the prefecture played during the years we spent trying to return VietNam to Western subjugation.