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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Okinawa, 65 Years Later 戦後65年―沖縄戦没者追悼式

Photos from Ryukyu Shimpo (left), and Okinawa Times (right) - extras on the day of 65th Okinawa Memorial, on June 23, 2010.

Former Prime Minister Hatoyama, in a TV interview recorded on June 11, talked about how he had to give up his idea of not building a Futenma "replacement" facility within Okinawa. He said, "Both the U.S. and the bureaucrats (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense) wanted to build in Henoko. It was not the situation that would allow the Prime Minister's Office to exert leadership over this issue."

Hatoyama was saying it was the U.S. and those two ministries that are running the show over ANPO and the base issue in Okinawa, and the Prime Minister had no power over it. It is no surprise, but this raises a fundamental question: where is democracy? What are we doing as the Upper House election approaches? Is there no way for people and their votes to influence the government's decision, if matters are controlled by those bureaucrats and the corporate interests that rein them?

Yesterday (June 23 in Japan) was the 65th memorial day to remember those who perished in the Battle of Okinawa. Prime Minister Kan Naoto attended the memorial - his first visit to Okinawa since he took office at the beginning of June. A Japan specialist colleague of mine suspected that the bureaucrats were behind this plan, making it impossible for the Okinawan people to engage in any major protest activity on the day when communities across the Okinawan islands are in mourning.

Kan's speech at the memorial was nothing new: he stated his "apology" and "gratitude" for the base burden on Okinawans and pledged to reduce it (see Kyodo news below). It appears that the Okinawans are getting abundant thanks lately, including those from across the Pacific Ocean. On June 22, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers submitted a resolution to "express gratitude" to the people of Japan, especially Okinawans for hosting U.S. military bases.

Right after Kan's June 11 policy speech, in which he thanked Okinawans for decades of hosting bases, Miyagi Yasuhiro, author and former Nago City Council member wrote on his blog wrote, "you don't need to thank us; can you just remove those feet off us? " Those fake "thanks" and "apologies" would be unforgivable to the souls of the ancestors who "died their unbearable deaths in the hellfire of the Battle of Okinawa," Miyagi says, as the government's deeds that accompany those words are perpetuation and addition of U.S. military bases on the island.

June 23, 1945 was the day on which General Ushijima Mitsuru, Commander of the Japanese 32nd Army took his own life, after issuing the last order "to keep fighting bravely until the end." Okinawan people, not just soldiers, were not allowed to surrender and were forced to fight until death or commit suicide. In 2008, Ota Masahide, former Goveronr of Okinawa discovered this charge by Ushijima in the U.S. archives, issued on June 18, 1945, to the commander of Student Corps, units of teenage Okinawan boys mobilized to fight in the battle, of which Ota himself was a member. The charge ordered the student soldiers to "engage in guerrilla combats after the organizational battle was over."

On the contrary, Ota Minoru, Commander of the Japanese naval forces who killed himself earlier, on June 13, sent a telegram to his vice commander. Here is the well-known part of this telegram:

"Ever since our Army and Navy occupied Okinawa, the inhabitants of the Prefecture have been forced into military service and hard labor, while sacrificing everything they own as well as the lives of their loved ones. They have served with loyalty. Now we are nearing the end of the battle, but they will go unrecognized, unrewarded. Seeing this, I feel deeply depressed and lament a loss of words for them. Every tree, every plant is gone. Even the weeds are burnt. By the end of June, there will be no more food. This is how the Okinawan people have found the war. And for this reason, I ask that you give the Okinawan people special consideration from this day forward. "

Ota Minoru's dying wish has not been realized on the land of Okinawa to date; the reality has completely been opposite, as surviving Okinawans were sent to the concentration camps while their houses and farms were taken to make space for new U.S. military bases. Okinawans underwent the U.S. military occupation for twenty more years after Japan resumed sovereignty in 1952, and the U.S. bases remained, with all the noise, danger, crimes and humiliation associated with them.

How could anybody, who has the slightest understanding of this history of Okinawa and of the ongoing suffering of people there, think of adding another military base there, and assume that saying those words of "appreciation" and "apology" makes it okay to do that?

In memory of those who died in Okinawa,

  • Kan apologizes for base-hosting burden on Okinawa
    Wednesday 23rd June, 12:00 PM JST
    Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered an apology to people in Okinawa Prefecture on Wednesday for forcing them to host a large part of U.S. military bases in Japan, but suggested the bases are indispensable to peace in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Kan made his first visit to the island prefecture since he took office earlier this month amid strong criticism from locals for an agreement reached between Japan and the United States in May to keep a key U.S. military base in Okinawa. ‘‘I offer an apology as a representative of all Japanese people,’’ Kan said at a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, which killed over 200,000 soldiers and civilians in the closing days of World War II.

    The government ‘‘will make a further serious commitment to easing the burden of hosting the bases and removing dangers’’ linked to their existence, Kan said. But he also expressed his ‘‘appreciation,’’ saying that Okinawa accepting the U.S. military presence has helped secure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who attended the ceremony, said the obligation of hosting the U.S. bases in Japan must be equally shared among Japanese people. ‘‘I would like the burden (on Okinawa) to be visibly reduced,’’ he said.

    The premier said he will respect the Japan-U.S. accord announced May 28 to move the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from a crowded residential area to a less populated coastal area in Okinawa, despite calls from locals to relocate the base outside the prefecture. At the same time, he emphasized government efforts to support Okinawa, which hosts over 70 percent of U.S. military facilities located in Japan.

    Wednesday also marked the 50th anniversary of the bilateral security treaty—the reason behind the U.S. military presence in Japan—entering into force. Kan’s predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, stepped down to take responsibility for the political confusion partly caused by the Futenma relocation issue. Hatoyama had pledged to move the base outside Okinawa or Japan but later admitted that it was a difficult goal to achieve, in a move that led to the departure of the Social Democratic Party from the ruling coalition led by his Democratic Party of Japan.

    About 5,500 people attended the ceremony held at Peace Memorial Park in Itoman city. This year, the names of 80 people were newly added to the list of those who perished in the war engraved on the cenotaph at the park, bringing the total to 240,931. Some 94,000 civilians were killed in the three-month battle between Japanese and U.S. troops in 1945. Okinawa remained under U.S. occupation after the war until 1972.

    Okinawa has called for reducing the heavy U.S. military presence on the island, saying they have been suffering from noise at military bases and criminal cases involving U.S. servicemen. While the island accounts for 0.6 percent of Japanese soil, about 75 percent of the land used exclusively by the U.S. military in the country is located in Okinawa.

  • U.S. lawmakers submit resolution to express gratitude to Okinawa
    Wednesday 23rd June, 11:35 AM JST

    A group of bipartisan lawmakers submitted a resolution Wednesday to the U.S. House of Representatives to express gratitude to the Japanese people, especially to the people of Okinawa, for hosting the U.S. military. The draft resolution says the ‘‘robust forward presence’’ of the U.S. military in Japan ‘‘provides the deterrence and capabilities necessary for the defense of Japan and for the maintenance of Asia-Pacific peace, prosperity and regional stability.’‘

    The resolution ‘‘recognizes that the broad support and understanding of the Japanese people are indispensable for the stationing’’ of the U.S. military in Japan and ‘‘expresses its appreciation to the people of Japan, and especially on Okinawa, for their continued hosting’’ of the U.S. armed forces, it says. The text also touched on a joint statement released by the Japanese and U.S. governments in May that reconfirmed their commitment to a 2006 bilateral accord on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, which includes a plan to relocate the U.S. Marines Corps’ Futenma base within Okinawa.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the Okinawa memorial,

    I think there is some kind of information control on the media reports
    of the Prime Minister Kan Naoto's visit to the Okinawa Memorial Ceremony
    on June 23rd. My friend in Okinawa has seen TV reports, and
    newspaper articles about the people who yelled "Go home!" during Kan's
    speech and who waited with "anger" signs on the sides of the road as Kan
    came to the Peace Park, but I have not seen any reports on the net; at
    least not yet.

    My friend also told me about this article in Okinawa Times, which is not
    on the net. As Kan expressed his "thanks" to Okinawan's base burden,
    there were yells of "Don't kid us!" from the memorial attendants.
    Takashima Nobuyoshi, Professor Emeritus of University of Ryukyus,
    criticized Kan's speech as saying, "there is severe lack of
    understanding that he (Japanese Government) imposes those bases on us
    and he thinks it is okay just like that." It was hard for Governor
    Nakaima to understand it too. "What is he 'thanking us' for?" Before
    Kan entered the ceremony site, a citizens' organization was there to
    express their opposition. The man who yelled "Go home!" during Kan's
    speech was stopped by security guard and brought outside the ceremony.
    Yoshida also told me about a photo in the newspaper in which people in
    yellow shirts and "anger" placards were surrounded by police officers.

    I found the whole footage of Kan's speech, videotaped from his side.

    At the beginning, you can clearly hear that man's yell. This blogger
    says, "during the news, this part was cut."