TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese island chain of Okinawa marked the fiftieth anniversary on Sunday of the top of U.S. occupation and its return to Japan with ceremonies and celebrations amid rising fear about their proximity to an more and more assertive China.
Okinawa, a string of tropical islands off far southwest Japan a lot nearer to Taiwan than Tokyo, suffered large devastation in World Battle Two. Two months of bloody battles between U.S. and Japanese forces left as many as a 3rd of its individuals useless. Almost 30 years of U.S. rule adopted.
On Might 15, 1972, the islands had been lastly returned to Japan in what was seen as a hopeful step ahead from the struggle’s painful legacy. However right now they nonetheless host the vast majority of U.S. navy bases in Japan, a satan’s cut price that has offered jobs but in addition fed worries about crime and navy accidents.
Now, as China grows more and more assertive within the Pacific area and tensions rise round close by Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, Okinawans are involved that they may as soon as extra find yourself on the entrance strains – particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“These are small islands,” stated a protester on the island of Miyako, host to Japan’s latest military base, declining to present her title.
“Increase a navy base won’t shield them however quite make them a goal of assault.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will participate in ceremonies to commemorate the handover on Okinawa, whereas Emperor Naruhito will make feedback by way of videolink from Tokyo.
Okinawans have lengthy resented having to bear the outsize burden of internet hosting bases, and the difficulty has often sparked large protests. Of 812 Okinawans polled by public broadcaster NHK in March, 56% stated they strongly opposed U.S. bases; solely 1 / 4 of 1,115 individuals exterior the prefecture stated the identical.
Tensions are more likely to rise on condition that lawmakers for the ruling Liberal Democratic Celebration (LDP) have stated they need a dedication to extra defence spending, together with missiles that may hit targets on overseas soil – missiles that may very well be deployed on Okinawa. The nation is revising its nationwide safety technique this yr.
Okinawa’s present governor, Denny Tamaki, would really like the bottom footprint decreased, however plans to maneuver some bases off Okinawa, together with sending some Marines to Guam, are transferring slowly.