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Abe's "Save Face" Tour 2015
Next week the Prime Minister of Japan will be coming to the U.S. to negotiate Japan's part in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), or is it to "celebrate the 70th anniversary of WWII"? Shinzo Abe will arrive on April 26th and depart on May 3rd, he is confirmed to be in D.C. from the 27th-30th but is also supposed to appear in Boston, L.A. as well as San Francisco. It might be safe to assume that Abe will go to Boston first, then D.C., and ending his trip in California... although its hard to find any confirmation on his itinerary outside of the D.C. dates. Hopefully this piece will raise global awareness and inspire U.S. peaceful public protests regarding a number of issues facing Japan, its relations to the U.S. and abroad. Abe's U.S. tour is the perfect opportunity as it creates a platform for voices and issues to be heard by Abe, across the U.S. and around the world. The straw that broke the camel's back was Anthony Blinken's recent Town Hall for the #USAJapan70 anniversary. On Twitter Blinken was "looking forward" to questions being submitted for him to answer at the Town Hall, one of the questions submitted (which was highlighted by both hosts), was completely ignored by Blinken. That question (among many others), was regarding Okinawa.
In order to gain a slightly 'Okinawan' perspective a short review is in order. To this day there is a dispute as to whether the Japanese are related to the Chinese, as well as the Okinawans to the Japanese. A recent study of heredity showed that Okinawans do share much in common with the Japanese, and whether the Japanese are related to the Chinese is still being unraveled. The discovery of the Minatogawa Man on southern Okinawa near Naha has opened up debate as the remains date as far back as 20,000 years. Aside from these claims and debates of heredity and early human migration, one wouldn't have to look far to find examples of cultural and political differences between Japanese and Okinawans currently. It is said that Japan came to Okinawa in 7th & 9th centuries, but left until the 17th century with the rise of the Japanese Satsuma-Han. Before Japan's second arrival, Okinawa was a sovereign nation of islands as well as a trading hub for the South China Seas area. During that time the Ryukyuan King of Okinawa had pledged loyalty to China, and China respected their domestic affairs and sovereignty, unlike Japan today. With the Satsuma-Han came sugar cane cultivation and colonization, or what the Okinawans call "Sugar Hell", in 1879 Japan officially annexed Okinawa. From this point up until the end of WWII, Okinawa remained under Japanese control and domination only to be handed over to the U.S. as a military outpost at the end of WWII. 40-100,000 Okinawan civilians died in WWII, "many of whom were forced to commit mass suicide by the Imperial Japanese Army." In this period there are stories of U.S. land purchases using coercion and deception or bulldozers and bayonets. In 1972 the U.S. handed Okinawa back to Japan but retained the military bases and arranged for Japan to burden some of the costs as well as deal with the diplomacy. With the end of the Cold War Okinawan hopes were high that relocation of the U.S. forces off Okinawa would surely occur... to this day they have not. With the coming of the U.S. Pivot to Asia and the South China Seas dispute it seems that Japan and the U.S. have no designs to stop using Okinawa for it's Geo-strategic location in the near future. You may find it easier to see things from an Okinawan perspective now, and from there you might be able to see that... Okinawa deserves it's sovereignty and it's island back.
Futenma Relocation... to Japan
Currently there are many areas of conflict between Okinawa and the Japan/U.S. occupation, but the main issue is the FRF or Futenma Replacement Facility. In 1995 there was a highly publicized rape case involving 3 Marines and a 12 year old Okinawan girl, shortly after this the SACO (Special Action Committee on Okinawa), was created and in 1996, Futenma along with 1000's of acres was supposed to be returned to Okinawa. Well, it's now 2015 and the Futenma Base is still there. One could blame Japan for buying out Okinawan politicians typically vehemently opposed to relocation or expansion of U.S. forces on Okinawa, one could also blame U.S. Congress and senators like John McCain for stalling plans due to budget constraints and reporting, there is always the U.S. and Japanese Cold War hawks and the current Pivot East, but whomever you choose to place the blame for Futenma, putting it on the Okinawan people is not one of the options.
Recently Abe met with Takeshi Onaga, the new Governor of Okinawa, to discuss the 20 year old stalled relocation plans... neither Abe or Onaga budged. Meanwhile the din of dissent is rising with protests, petitions and the new Henoko Fund. The wife of a famous Japanese actor (who up until his death was an avid supporter of Okianwa), was one of the founders of the new fund. Okinawa has also garnerd the support of environmentalist activists, scientists, Nobel Prize winners and even Oliver Stone. Recently Okinawan protestors including Yamashiro Hiroji (Dir. of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center), were arrested by U.S. Military and held by the Nago police for 35 hours. The relocation spot picked for Futenma is Henoko, home to coral reef environments and the endangered relative of the manatee, the Dugong. Worthy of note in the peaceful protest department, Okinawa has even used kites in their protests to disturb the U.S. Osprey from landing.
73% of the U.S. Military facilities in Japan are taking up 20% of Okinawan land, which only makes up 0.6% of Japan's land mass. With and est. 53,000 personnel, 43,000 dependents and 5,000 civilian DOD employees, the U.S. presence makes up about 7.2% of Okinawa's nearly 1.4 million inhabitants. It has also been a weigh station for U.S. forces during conflicts such as Vietnam and the Gulf War, and during these time it was reported that crime on Okinawa (especially rapes), increased as well as exacerbating the "comfort women" sex trade. With the Henoko construction plan for the Osprey landing pad going out into the bay, drilling will have to be done, permits negotiated, and sand will have to brought in. Recently a new documentary called 'Sand Wars' came out which brings this last issue from the shadows and into the environmental spotlight. Consider the accusations made against China for doing the same in the disputed Senkaku Islands, then consider that China's plans are reportedly for a search and rescue facility, as opposed to U.S. foward military base. Then consider relocating Futenma... to Japan.
Japan, Okinawa and the Trans Pacific Partnership: Sticky Rice
Futenma and the U.S. presence in Okinawa is hardly the only issue to consider before Abe's visit. If you watched the Town Hall with Blinken (mentioned above), it would not be hard to notice the overall flavor of Blinken's TPP sales pitch. In fact, one of the main agendas for Abe's visit to D.C. is none other than negotianting the TPP which U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman seems to think is going great. Aside from all of the negative impacts mentioned before, both Okinawa and Japan have significant issues with the TPP. Japan is fighting for 50K ton import quota for U.S. rice as opposed to the U.S. demand 175K tons, and Pork is on the menu as well... actual pork that is. Japan is also fighting for immediate removal of the 2.5% U.S. tariff on Japanese (and other), auto parts imports. Abe recently said:
"It is impossible to make unnecessary concessions in line with my trip to the United States."
Hopefully he means Okinawa as well, long after the "Sugar Hell" era, Okinawa's number one agricultural crop is still sugar cane as it is produced by 80% of the local farmers. Onaga Takao of the Ishigaki City cooperative said:
"The local economy is centered on the production, processing, and sales for sugar cane. Tourism is also an important source of income. But if sugar cane production is destroyed, our beautiful scenery of farmland will be destroyed too, which will lead to a rapid decrease in tourists. In that sense, sugar cane is the treasure of our island."
By making Japan (and Okinawa), the TPP front line barrier to China's growing economy as a "U.S. Pivot East" may put both islands in economic and geo-strategic jeopardy.
Fukushima & Fallout
It wasn't until March 19th of this year that TEPCO finally admitted that one of the Fukushima reactors melted down... four years later. Reports were done in California in 2014 stating that expected levels would be no more than current rad levels from underwater nuclear testing, not very reassuring really. There were also reports of a loophole allowing for food from Fukushima to be sold on Britain's shelves. On March 10th an article stated that Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), found the first evidence of radiation from Fukushima on Canada's Vancouver coast. That is some pretty unusual timing on TEPCO's announcement especially when you consider that U.S. Ambassador Kennedy had just visited Hiroshima saying that:
"Visiting Hiroshima is a profound reminder that we should continue working toward a world without nuclear weapons"
Kennedy also recently took some heat for commenting on Japan's dolphin hunt that was the topic of the Oscar winning documentary "The Cove". Her solemn tone (despite no mention of Nagasaki), is in direct opposition to Abe's recent lack of humility and revisionist attitudes regarding WWII and South Korea by saying he may not issue a direct apology regarding Japan's actions. Although Abe is reportedly avoiding the controversial Yasukuni Shrine visit that the Simon Wiesenthal Center had criticized him for previously in 2013, his lack of reflection is all too aparent. With all this revising, reposturing, relocating and renegotiating going on it seems Abe has forgotton a solom apology regarding Fukushima to all those in and on the Pacific that are, or will soon be affected. Abe may soon have the opportunity to make multiple apologies, but the one most lacking is to Okinawa. Let's see if Abe can take former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's advice on sincerity, and not just with the U.S. Congress.
Pivot to the Mirror
It has been noted by Blinken that the TPP is not just about economic power in the 21st century, but Geo-strategic power as well. Okinawa, due to it's location fits that bill for both the U.S. and Japan in their continued prodding and finger pointing at China about the Senkaku Islands while sweeping Henoko, Okinawa under the waves they've created. In Blinken's 'U.S. Economic Policy in East Asia and the Pacific' he also plainly states:
"The true question at the heart of these conflicts is who controls access to Asia’s abundant energy resources."
It's worth noting that the 2 largest importers of crude oil to Japan are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a couple of old buddies of the U.S. petrol dollar global domination that are also currently leveling Yemen. Speaking of old buddies, Japan and the U.S. have quite a relationship going on, so much so that the famous Dutch intellectual Karel Van Wolferen wrote a piece last year entitled 'Japan as an American Client State' where he wrote:
"The resulting anti–Chinese predisposition in the region perfectly suited the ‘pivot’, which has been Hillary Clinton’s program to develop greater muscle to curtail China’s influence. The American military, which maintains bases surrounding all of China’s coast, is not prepared to share power in the the Western Pacific, and Japan plays an important part in all this, even extending to current Prime Minister Abe’s reinterpretation of the famous pacifist clause in Japan’ constitution"
But China is not the only U.S. goal for Japan as was recently stated in Bloomberg:
"U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is confident Japan will continue to play an important role in efforts to stop Russian activities in Ukraine, he said Friday. "Japan has been a very important member of the effort that we’ve put together with the G7 countries and beyond to try to convince Russia to stop,” Blinken said... Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has sought rapprochement with Putin in a bid to resolve a dispute between Japan and Russia over islands north of Hokkaido that were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II."
Last summer there were large protests in Japan due to Abe's "constitutional changes that would expand Japan's military role and allow overseas deployment. It comes one day after a man set himself on fire in protest against a proposed law." A little over six months later a video was released that purportedly showed a Japanese hostage being beheaded by ISIS. One would think these two events should have happened in reverse, but justification for the constitutional changes amounted to finger pointing at "Chinese Expansion" and North Korea's nuclear threats. Whatever the reason for Abe's revisionism, expansionism, nationalism and militarism, the effects are evident and even a matter a pride. Japan's new helicopter carrier, the Izumo, entered service in late March shortly after reports of Japan's recession. The carrier was named after the Izumo province where Japanese myth puts the "entrance to hell". Considering the classification of the Izumo, one would have to agree...
"Designating it a helicopter destroyer allows Japan to circumvent its constitutional ban on waging offensive war,"
"The diplomatic row came as Japan today began an annual large-scale military exercise involving its ground, sea and air forces. The exercise, which runs to Nov. 18, will this year be focused on island defense around Kyushu and Okinawa, according to a document issued by the Self-Defense Forces last month."
Pacific Horizon 2015 is scheduled for October 20-28th, an...
"exercise designed to improve 1st MEB's and ESG-3's interoperability and strengthen Navy-Marine Corps relations by conducting an in-stream Maritime Pre positioning Force offload of equipment by providing host country civil-military security assistance, and by conducting infrastructure restoration support."
The rising militarism in the Pacific is escalating tensions with "exercises", just as many fear the Ukraine conflict is. Turning towards the Philippines, the recent assassination of Marwan (ending with his finger being handed to the FBI), is another example of increasing tensions in the Pacific. The “Mamasapano Massacre” has thrown the Philippines in turmoil, but not enough turmoil to stop the Navy Air and Missile Defense Radar agreement with Lockheed Martin. This U.S. Pivot East is reflected in various nations and conflicts in the Pacific arena, last year Michael Green, Senior Vice President and Japan Chair at CSIS spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. defense pertaining to the Asia Pacific. He stated:
"Secretary Carter emphasized how important the TPP is to U.S. security interests in the Pacific and he is right. Should negotiations on TPP falter this year, there will be new doubts about the strategic competence and staying power of the U.S. in Asia and the Pacific. That said, trade is not a substitute for deterrence."
This Pivot East should be a positive turning point in U.S.-Japan foreign policy attitudes going into the 21st century, but the "Pivot East" has yet to turn into a "Pivot to the Mirror".
Public Support for Okinawa
There are lots of thing you can do for Okinawa, for one, there are a couple of petitions out there...
You can support the Center for Biological Diversity and the fight for the Dugong. There is the Global Network against Weapons & Nuclear power in Space that coordinated a letter regarding Okinawa with Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore & Oliver Stone. There is also the Friends of the Earth Japan, or the Save Life Society. Other than the Okinawa Times, Japan Focus, Ryukyu Shimpo and Xinhua the blog 'What's Going On In Okinawa' has been a great source of info. Just today contact information was published on the Okinawa Times for the Henoko Fund, the contact number is 098 (943) 6748. Even though there has been incredible support already, Okinawa needs and deserves much more. In honor of Okinawa's tradition of peace, get out there and peacefully protest while Abe is in town, no matter if it's against the TPP, Henoko, Fukushima, U.S.-Japanese militarism, or for Okinawa, there are ample reasons to give Abe the warm U.S. welcome he deserves. Most of all, please do whatever you can to help very kind people of Okinawa.