Mass protests against US presence in Japan


300AC611-16E8-4620-AB13-4B361A1FD3F2_cx0_cy6_cw0_w987_r1_s_r1Tens of thousands of people have taken part in angry protests against the American military presence in Japan.

Meanwhile, a Russian delegation has been welcomed to Tokyo to try to break the deadlock which has blocked a formal peace treaty between Russia and Japan since the end of World War II.

It was soon after Japan’s defeat in the War that America began to use Japan as a military base.

Nearly 30,000 of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan are on the small tropical island Okinawa. Even though they contribute to the economy, their presence there has long been resented by locals.

The anger intensified after a former US Marine was arrested in connection with the death of a local woman in May.

Last weekend, more than 65,000 people demonstrated on Okinawa against the U.S. military presence. A few days later, 7,000 people demonstrated near the parliament building in Tokyo.

The Japanese government knows the Okinawa base is unpopular but feels it has little choice to accept it. In return for its big military presence in Japan, the United States promises to protect its ally against aggression.

Recently the defence links with America were strengthened when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought in new security laws which commit Japanese forces to defending its military allies, including the United States.

These laws, which seem to stretch the concept of pacifism enshrined in Japan’s constitution, are unpopular; studies show that more than half of Japan’s population is opposed to them.

However, the need for defence was reinforced by more missile launches by North Korea this week.

Japan’s Defence Minister General Nakatani responded by saying the threat to Japan is intensifying.

Official media reported North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un as saying “We have the sure capability to attack in an overall and practical way the Americans in the Pacific operation theatre.”

In the face of such belligerence, Japan wishes to keep the peace with neighbouring countries where it can.

Japan and South Korea recently agreed to expand an emergency communication system between their defence ministries, including a new direct line between their defence ministers.

Japan is also seeking closer military ties with Vietnam, Indonesia and other nations surrounding the South China Sea.

It complicates things that South Korea, Russia and China have territorial disputes with Japan over certain islands and territory.

But with North Korea increasing the pressure and anti-American feelings running high, Japanese diplomats are working hard to prevent its neighbours from becoming enemies.

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One Comment

  • As we discuss this is a complicated issue both in terms of Japan being seen as becoming more aggressive on the world stage while simultaneously trying to appease the residence of Okinawa and respond to the US’s call for a “collective defense” of their homeland and US bases in Japan, Okinawa, and perhaps in the future Hawaii. Additionally, the perception of the US military member having little or no respect for the local population in Okinawa has been something that has built up over time with a much higher percentage of violent crime per capita of the Military members when compared to the local population. This fueled the initial resentment of the bases in Okinawa. This resentment has been further exacerbated by the high handed way that LDP Government in Tokyo has forced the basing on the locals in Okinawa despite repeated local votes that reject the initiative.

    This initiative was agree to by both the US and Japan back in 2006, then in 2010 Secretary of State and perhaps future President, Hillary Clinton reiterated the US commitment to move and to “reduce the impact of the U.S. military presence on local inhabitants while maintaining the U.S. commitment to Japan’s security”. As far as the US Government is concerned this is a done deal and Tokyo needs to make it happen. The move is one of the key pieces of US Strategy in countering much of what they see as a lot of bad neighbors in Japan’s part of the world. The US is not going to back away from the 2006 deal. If a Trump Presidency happens, it’s possible the rapid completion of this relocation could be one of His major demands on Japan.

    I wish I had an easy solution, I don’t.

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