If 2014 was a year of consolidation on the two opposing sides of the long-running Okinawan saga over US military base hosting plans, 2015 promises to be one of intense, perhaps decisive struggle. By 2014, civic groups had established a strong institutional power base in the city administration in Nago and the prefectural one in Naha, while resistance continues also at Takae in the Yambaru forest (against the construction of “Osprey pads” for the Marine Corps), and on Yonaguni Island, where the town assembly has called a plebiscite on the issue of the construction of a Self-Defense Force base, to be held on 22 February 2015. But the Japanese state had shown itself to be implacable in its determination to push ahead with its long delayed project for the construction of a major military complex for the US Marine Corps at Henoko, in Northern Okinawa. Since the national government is unbending in its determination to overrule Okinawan dissent and the “Okinawan problem” was scarcely mentioned during the national elections of December 2014, Prime Minster Abe Shinzo has a more-or-less free hand to deploy whatever resources of the state he wishes in order to crush opposition and implement his design on all fronts.
Through 2014, Okinawan civil society delivered powerful messages to the government in Tokyo, to the nation, and to the government of the United States on three major fronts. In January, citizens of Nago City returned to office its mayor, Inamine Susumu, who was an uncompromising opponent of any base construction within the city (and in September, Inamine supporters retained control of the City Assembly); in November, the Okinawan electorate decisively rejected the Governor, Nakaima Hirokazu, who had reneged on his pledge to oppose base construction and issued the permit the government needed to commence reclamation of Oura Bay, electing in his stead a candidate committed to doing “everything in my power” to stop construction at Henoko, close Futenma Air Base, and have the Marine Corps’ controversial Osprey MV 22 aircraft withdrawn from the prefecture (and therefore stopping the construction of “Osprey Pads” for them in the Yambaru forest, also in Northern Okinawa); and in December all four Okinawan local constituencies elected anti-base construction candidates to the lower house in the National Diet.
Read the whole article on The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
Image by Ojo de Cineasta on Flickr under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.