To Prevent Future Incidents, the Bases Must Be Scaled Down.
Waves of rage and frustration -- once again, an Okinawan woman has been victimized. The amount of helplessness felt by the victim and her family. The amount of anger and woe felt by the Okinawan people.
A 32-year-old former marine posted at a U.S. base in Okinawa has been arrested on suspicion of abandoning a body in relation to the case of a missing 20-year-old office woman in the city of Uruma in Okinawa. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated “I also urged the United States to make sure to take effective and thorough means to prevent a recurrence, and vigorously and strictly address the situation,” but incidents involving the U.S. army are happening again and again. The conversation should not revolve around the thoroughness of “recurrence prevention policy.” Fundamental policy should proceed in a serious manner toward scaling down U.S. bases in Okinawa.
Citizens Are Always at Risk
We cannot forget the 1995 incident in which the U.S. military assaulted an elementary school girl. Okinawans’ anti-U.S. base anger erupted and they raised their voices in protest by gathering at the “Okinawa Citizens Rally,” which had 85,000 in attendance (organizer estimate).
Similar incidents involving U.S. army personnel continued on after that, and each time the U.S. army strengthened discipline by enforcing mandatory curfews.
But the incidents don’t stop. According to Okinawa prefecture officials, there have been a number of heinous crimes committed every year since 1995 – including murder, robbery, and rape. This March, a female tourist was assaulted in Naha city.
Okinawan Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s statement that these incidents happen “because there are U.S. bases” is dead on.
Approximately 74 percent of U.S. military installations in Japan are centered in Okinawa. Co-leader of the group “Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence” Suzuyo Takasato raised a profound point in saying, “the violence is continuing in the everyday lives of Okinawans.”* Is it okay to make the Okinawan people shoulder these kinds of thoughts? Of course not.
“I feel scared and regretful because she was a woman like me.” “I had a strong sensation of, ‘again, I don’t know what is going to happen after this.’” These are the voices of women in Okinawa.
The central government must fully acknowledge the fear Okinawans have due to this sense of danger they carry with them at all times.
The Expansion of Protest Demonstrations
Public protests are spreading from Okinawa to even Tokyo.
The public protest symbolized in the “Citizens Rally” of 1995 is directly connected to the agreement made by the Japanese and U.S. governments in 1996 for the return of Futenma Air Station.
However, that station was not actually returned; instead it was relocated and construction of a new base is currently underway at Henoko in Nago city. This time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated, “we will make all-out efforts to alleviate the burden of the bases in Okinawa.” But there is no alleviation in sight.
U.S. President Obama will come to Japan for the G7 Summit in Ise on May 26 and the U.S. and Japan will hold talks, during which they must discuss the incidents at hand. Also, they must fiercely and resolutely engage in discussions toward alleviating the burden placed on Okinawa.
The U.S.-Japan Alliance is the basis for Japanese security policy, but these incidents of violence are a basis for lost trust within this coalition. An alliance that does not have trust between participants is not tenable, and Japan must show it stands strong on this issue.
*Editor's Note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.