Turmoil over U.S. bases in Japan
The Japanese want U.S. military bases on Okinawa moved to a less-populated part of the island or to a location outside of Japan.
We’ve had enough of the U.S. Marines, said Okinawa’s Ryukyu Shimpo in an editorial. This island has hosted U.S. military bases since the end of World War II, and it has become commonplace for American planes to buzz our neighborhoods and American soldiers to commit crimes against our people. After the “harrowing incident” in 1995, when three U.S. soldiers from the Futenma air base abducted and brutally gang-raped a 12-year-old girl, the U.S. promised to move that base to another city on Okinawa. It still has not done so. At this point, a better alternative would be to move the Futenma base “outside Okinawa, or even outside Japan.” President Barack Obama claims to be an agent of change. Well, “it’s also time for change for the bases in Okinawa.”
Obama isn’t the only one who needs to start thinking creatively about Okinawa, said The Okinawa Times. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was also recently elected on a platform of reform. “From two such reformists we have reason to hope for a new policy approach to solving Okinawa’s military base problems.” Now that the Cold War is over, there is no longer any strategic reason why the U.S. bases have to be on Okinawa, as opposed to elsewhere in Japan. U.S. sources told us that the U.S. would be perfectly willing “to relocate Marines to mainland Japan,” but that the Japanese government objected. This is simply unfair. Okinawa makes up just 1 percent of Japan’s landmass, yet it hosts 75 percent of the U.S. bases in Japan. “If mainland Japan does not want U.S. military bases, why would Okinawa?”
It’s understandable that the Okinawans are upset, said the Tokyo Yomiuri Shimbun. Hatoyama led them to believe that he would renegotiate an agreement with the U.S. that calls for Futenma to be closed, with some Marines sent to Guam and the rest to a new base in a less-populated part of Okinawa. But now he is coming to realize that renegotiation would be extremely difficult and diplomatically irresponsible. “Hatoyama’s inability to quickly settle the Futenma base relocation issue has been the biggest destabilizing factor on bilateral ties” with the U.S. And the stakes are getting higher. When Obama visited Japan earlier this week, he and Hatoyama agreed to begin talks on “deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance in a multilayered way.” Details of the new, closer alliance are to be announced next year, on the 50th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. The Futenma relocation must be settled by then.
It looks as if it will be, said the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun. Obama and Hatoyama have agreed to set up a Cabinet-level working group to determine “whether or not there is no other relocation option” outside Okinawa for the base. Presumably, the committee will quickly decide that there is not, and the relocation within Okinawa will go ahead. Japan simply can’t let the Futenma base issue hurt its relationship with the U.S. “Japan’s security and foreign policy are based on the alliance with the United States,” and the two countries must “continue to be trustworthy alliance partners.”