Futenma Airbase in Ginowan auf Okinawa, Japan

Ampo's Troubled 50th: Hatoyama's Abortive Rebellion, Okinawaâs Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship (part 3)

Gavan McCormack

Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22-5-10, May 31, 2010.

This is the third and final part of a comprehensive survey of the US-Japan relationship defined by the Ampo Treaty of 1960, and refined subsequently in ways that have deepened Japanese and Okinawan subordination to American global power and ambitions. The article focuses on questions pertaining to the legacy of Article Nine of the Constitution, and to Okinawa and base relations as a template for exploring the troubled Ampo relationship, including the powerful and sustained Okinawan resistance to US base expansion.

(Part 3)

Revisiting Ampo

The shared refrain on both sides of the Pacific is that the Ampo base system is the indispensable source of the "oxygen," as Joseph Nye put it in 1995, for Japan's security and prosperity, indeed for that of East Asia and the Pacific, and that Okinawa will continue to be the irreplaceable source of that oxygen. The same justification was central to the commemorative Statement by the two governments in January 2010: the peace and security of East Asia depend on the presence of the Marines in Okinawa. The Japanese media took up the theme in generally acclaiming the alliance's accomplishments and agreeing it must be expanded and deepened. Gradually, Prime Minister Hatoyama, while desperately seeking to implement his personal and party pledge to find an alternative to the new base at Henoko, adopted the same language. Yet the notion that Ampo is the sine qua non of Japan's defense is at best tendentious.

Many military analysts recognize that the Security Treaty has little to do with the defense of Japan. It is clear that the reason that the Marines in particular are in Japan is that the Government of Japan provides the bases and pays such generous subsidies for them. More important, since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the putative "enemy," the bases have become oriented to global rather than to Japan or "Far Eastern" considerations as required by the treaty. Since 1990, the Marines have flown from bases in Japan for participation in the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars. They are essentially an expeditionary land combat "attack" force, held in readiness to be launched into enemy territory, or for the defense of US carriers and ships. In contrast to the US navy and air force, they are largely irrelevant to the defense of Okinawa or Japan as stipulated under the Treaty.1 Though the Japanese government referred to an 18,000-strong marine presence in Okinawa, of whom 8,000 were to be transferred to Guam under the 2006 "Roadmap," leaving a 10,000-strong component to transfer to the Futenma Replacement Facility, in fact there were only 12,400 marines as of September 2008, and perhaps as few as 4,000 to 5,000 (according to Defense Minister Kitazawa) in February 2010, the rest then serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. That meant that both the supposed 8,000 to be transferred to Guam and the 10,000 to move to Henoko were phantom, groundless, figures.2

The notion that a Marine force in Okinawa somehow stays China or North Korea from possible aggression seems especially misconceived. China, if ever it might have been considered a potentially hostile country, is now Japan's closest trading partner and governments of Japan and China talk about formation of an East Asian Community. As for North Korea, if it constitutes a "threat," it is the threat of its possible collapse rather than of it launching suicidal attack on its neighbours. As Okinawa International University's Sato Manabu put it (of the Henoko project), "This is not a replacement of Futenma, whose main function is training. This is a new, different, upgraded facility that U.S. Marines will receive for free and will use as a forward base capable of attacking foreign territories, not just for training."3 Senior levels of the Japanese defense bureaucracy express a similar view. The 3rd Marine Division is a "force for deployment at any time to particular regions beyond Japan .... By their nature, they are not for the defense of particular regions."4

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it seems likely that the US has, for its own strategic purposes, decided to transfer core units of the Futenma Marines (not just their command) to Guam.5 Guam was identified in the Quadrennial Defense Review of 2010 as "hub for security activities in the region."6 This point has been most forcefully made by the mayor of Ginowan City, Iha Yoichi, based on analysis of existing and publicly available US military documents. If he is right, the Henoko project itself, and the hullabaloo in Japan surrounding it, rested on a fundamental misunderstanding. With Guam's military infrastructure upgraded - Andersen Air Base is four times larger than Kadena, the largest US Air Force base in Asia (or 13 times larger than Futenma) - and with three nuclear submarines, it is to become a military fortress and strategic staging post covering the whole of East Asia and the Western Pacific; the Henoko project therefore loses its strategic rationale.7 When spokespersons for both governments today equivocate, saying the Guam future is "not yet decided," (as US ambassador Roos said to Iha) Iha believes it amounts to deliberate obfuscation. That, he says, means "deceiving the people of Okinawa, deceiving the people of Japan, and deceiving the Japanese Diet."8


B-2s and F-15 fly over Andersen Air Force Base


Even if he is right, however, and the Pentagon has indeed decided to convert Guam into the core military fortress for the region, that is not to say that the US would be likely to let Japan off its promise to build, furbish and pay for an additional base for them, particularly a multi-service base with deep-sea port and expanded and upgrade air force facilities such as attached to the Oura Bay design at Henoko.

As the two governments scrambled for a satisfactory explanation of what role the Marines might be serving by their Okinawan presence, Pentagon spokesmen began to offer alternative accounts of their role: as a kind of humanitarian force, spending much of their time in disaster relief, given "the increasing frequency of disasters in the Asia-Pacific," including fires, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and mudslides,9 or as a force needed to cope with the possibility of North Korean collapse.10 However worthy such missions may be, there is no warrant for them in the Ampo treaty, those trained to take life are not necessarily best at protecting it, and the insistence for geographic reasons on locating such facilities in Okinawa makes no sense (Kyushu would be much closer to North Korea). Above all there is no military or strategic rationale for imposing yet another military facility on Okinawa against the will of the vast majority o Okinawans.

Okinawa - Regime Change

Under the "LDP Okinawa system," governments in Tokyo served the US, paid it large subsidies and gave priority in Okinawa policy in particular to US strategy and planning, while exacting compliance from local government authorities in Okinawa by supporting "development" projects, and encouraging local governments to avoid discussion of the base issue at elections. Monies under a "Northern Districts Development" formula (tied to submission to the base project) had been poured into Nago City and surrounding districts (80 billion yen in 2000 to 2009), filling the coffers of construction and public works-related groups and easing the fiscal crisis of local governments. At elections, the LDP made every effort to avoid a focus on the base issue, while stressing its ability to provide jobs and money. Through these 13 years (1996-2009), conservative" (pro-base) groups insisted that they could be relied on to handle economic problems better and to produce better outcomes in terms of jobs and services than anti-base forces because they enjoyed better "pipelines" of connection to the national government and to national business, as indeed they did. Over time, however, the system of subsidy-induced regional compliance in base siting cultivated cynicism and corruption, and blocked development rooted in local needs, leaving Okinawa by far Japan's poorest prefecture.

By 2009, the system no longer worked. The political credibility of the Liberal-Democratic Party-based system that ran national, prefectural and city governments had been fatally weakened in the minds of Okinawan electors: it had simply failed to deliver. Over the years from 2000 to 2009 dependence on government subsidies deepened, unemployment in Nago City rose to 12.5 per cent, well above the prefectural average and more than double the national average, jobs and incomes shrank, shops and businesses closed,11 and virtually all local governments sank into chronic fiscal crisis. Far from there being a "benefit" attached to base-related income, towns and villages without bases (and therefore not "enjoying" special subsidies) in general fared much better than many with them, and those that had managed to recover parcels of base land found that productivity and income tended to shoot up, by as much as twenty, thirty, or even forty times, after reversion from military to civilian use.12 Ryukyu shimpo's deputy chief editor refers to the bases as "a parasite sucking out Okinawa's vitality" and rotting its economy.13

Certainly the mood in Okinawa changed with the Hatoyama victory in the national elections of August 2009. Okinawan DPJ (and associated opposition party) candidates who explicitly opposed any Futenma replacement project swept the polls, recording a higher vote than ever before in the proportional section. Where opinion in Okinawa had once (1999) been divided almost evenly between those who opposed relocation within Okinawa and those prepared to accept it, ten years on anti-base sentiment had hardened and opinion was running consistently at around 70 per cent against the Guam formula (for Henoko construction).14 In May 2009, one survey found a paltry 18 per cent in favour of the Henoko option on which Washington was adamant, and by November that figure had fallen to 5 per cent.15 Both Okinawan newspapers and prominent figures in Okinawan civil society, maintained a strong anti-base stance.16 The signals of anger and discontent rose to their peak with the adoption by the Okinawan parliament (the Prefectural Assembly, elected in 2008) in February 2010 of an extraordinary resolution, unanimously demanding that Futenma be closed (moved "overseas or elsewhere in Japan").17 In March 2010, all of Okinawa's 41 local town mayors declared themselves of the same view, and in April the Association of City Mayors, made up of the mayors of the 11 Okinawan cities, also adopted, unanimously, a resolution calling for the closure and return of Futenma and opposing any replacement.18

It meant that, while Tokyo struggled desperately to find a way to implement the Guam Treaty, Okinawa unanimously rejected it, specifically its provisions for expanded base infrastructure on Okinawa. There was no longer a "progressive-conservative" divide in Okinawan politics on this question. The Mayor of Okinawa's capital, Naha, who in the past served as President of the Liberal Democratic Party of Okinawa, even made clear that, as a prominent Okinawan conservative, he was disappointed by the Hatoyama government's reluctance to redeem its electoral pledge on Futenma and hoped the Okinawan people would remain united "like a rugby scrum" to accomplish its closure and return (i.e., not replacement).19 No local government or Japanese prefecture had ever been so sharply at odds with the national government over security and base issues.

Kengai Kokugai

(Outside Okinawa, Outside Japan)

From December 2009, when he announced the May 2010 target for decision, the span of six months to resolve the Futenma replacement issue - and secure American consent to it - seemed impossibly tight. Numerous sites were considered: Kadena (merging some Marine functions from Futenma with those of the USAF base there), other Okinawan islands such as Shimoji (where there was a civil airport with a 3,000 meter runway currently used for pilot training) or Iejima, (a smaller airfield used by Marines), relatively near but outside Okinawan prefectural boundaries islands such as Tokuno (with a little used 2,000 metre runway airport) or Mage islands, in Kagoshima prefecture,20 Saga Prefecture's Ariake Saga (with its existing 2,000 metre runway), and various unused or underused airports in mainland Japan itself, from Tokyo's Yokota US Base (with its 4,000 metre runway) to Osaka's Kansai International (suggested by the Osaka Governor) or the recently built "white elephant" Shizuoka or Ibaraki airports; and, in a somewhat different category because of being foreign territory, Guam or other US Pacific territories. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell protested, not unreasonably, that "Almost every day someone comes up with a statement or a proposal.21

Gradually, however, the Hatoyama government narrowed the selection process to several main options:22

(a) Schwab: building either a 500-meter-square helipad at U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab (at Henoko), or a 1,500 metre runway also within the Camp but further inland, needing more time, and involving more substantial earthworks.

(b) "White Beach": building an 1,800 metre runway in a 200 hectare reclaimed area off-shore from a US Navy facility at White Beach, in the shallow seas off the coast of Katsuren Peninsula, in the vicinity of Tsuken Island or, in a longer term variant, reclaiming  a larger (1,021 hectares) ocean area between Ukibaru and Miyagi Islands and building an artificial island that would be shared by US Marine Corps, US military port facility (relocating from Naha Port) and Japan's Air Self Defense Forces (relocating from Naha Airport).

Either of these options would be accompanied by relocation of some of the training drills currently conducted at Futenma to Tokuno (or Mage) Island, both technically in Kagoshima Prefecture though historically part of the pre-modern Ryukyu kingdom and culture zone, or to the Maritime Self Defense Force's Omura Air Base in Nagasaki Prefecture or the Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture.

In broad outline, both these ideas had been considered and ruled out in the negotiations leading to the realignment agreement of 2006. The former (Schwab option) was probably not viable for the simple reason that the U.S. was intent on deploying MV-22 Osprey "vertical takeoff and landing" aircraft that are said to require a 1,600-meter runway, and neither design met that condition. By removing from the table the 2006 "V"-shaped Cape Henoko plan, which the US had continued to insist was the only option it would consider for Henoko, Hatoyama was challenging the US. Furthermore, these proposals, being both based on a "within Okinawa" design, had not only been rejected by all sides in Okinawa but were bound to antagonize the ruling coalition's Social Democratic Party of Japan (which had insisted on relocation to the US territory of Guam). To adopt either of them would also require a fresh Environmental Impact study, which normally requires several years and, if done properly, would be open to possible negative outcome or, in the event of a positive outcome, would be followed by up to 10 years for construction. For that reason alone, the Pentagon could hardly accept it. As for it being an environmentally more acceptable option than Henoko, when divers from the two Okinawan newspapers investigated the "White Beach" site, they found thriving colonies of coral, which had been assumed to be either dead or dying, a veritable "sea of fertility" as the Ryukyu shimpo put it.23

Futenma Replacement:  The Katsuren
Peninsula (White Beach) Reclamation
 (Ryukyu Shimpo)

The "Futenma Replacement" project that in 1996 began as a floating, offshore 45 meter long "heliport," had thus grown by 2010 into a 1,021 hectare artificial island, a reclamation project six times greater in scale than what had been envisaged for the Schwab option that Hatoyama had apparently cancelled, with three runways (2 of 3,600 and one of 3,000 metres) and additional facilities, spreading over an unknown area of other islands. The US-Japan alliance was on the brink of degeneration into grand-scale theatre of the absurd.

Hatoyama's negotiating position was weakened by his acceptance of the Pentagon logic that the Marines were a necessary deterrent force and it would be inappropriate to relocate them far from Okinawa.24 His bottom line has seemed to be that the US demands would be met at all costs, even if it meant alienating Okinawans (who would be offered "compensation"). To Okinawans, that sounded remarkably similar to the LDP position.25

Responses to these ideas were almost all negative. Neither, in the US view, would work, and it would continue to ask Tokyo to maintain ("honor") the Guam accord.26 Furthermore, in a surprising demonstration of an ostensibly new-found sensitivity, the Pentagon let it be known that there was nothing to negotiate with Japan unless and until its Government could show it had secured the consent of residents in the newly chosen sites.27 If Tokyo were to take that statement literally, it would have meant an end to negotiations there and then, because the Okinawan response was unambiguous. The Okinawan Governor declared either plan would be "extremely difficult" (read: impossible),28 and the Katsuren artificial island would take "20 years" to build.29 The Ryukyu shimpo said that it "would be hard to imagine anything worse" than this plan, with its combination of two "worst" choices.30 Uruma City and the Kagoshima prefecture towns and villages (especially Tokuno Island) that had been mentioned all insisted they would not tolerate any such project. In April, Tokuno was the scene of the largest gathering of people in its history. Three in five of its inhabitants gathered to send Tokyo a message of defiance and resistance to any base transfer plan.31 Weeks later, 90,000 Okinawans gathered at Yomitan Village. The Governor, all 41 town and city mayors or their representatives, members of the Provincial Assembly, Okinawan representatives of all political parties from Communist to Liberal-Democratic, and Okinawan citizens presented a united front of opposition to any new base construction and demanded the unconditional closure and return of Futenma. It was the largest demonstration, and indeed the largest gathering of people, in Okinawan history.


Yomitan demonstration


Two days before the Okinawa mass meeting, Hatoyama in Washington tried to seize the opportunity of being seated near President Obama at dinner during the nuclear summit to tell the President that the May deadline would be met. He was, according to many reports, rebuffed with the sceptical response: "Can you follow through?"32 (commonly interpreted as a reference to Hatoyama's attempt to reassure Obama during their previous meeting when he said, "Trust me.") The Washington Post described Hatoyama as "the biggest loser [among world leaders]..., hapless, ... increasingly loopy,"33 and reported that Japanese officials were so "taken aback by the toughness of Obama's tone that they did not draw up a written record of the words exchanged."34

Within days, Tokyo raised the white flag. As Hatoyama's self-imposed end of May deadline approached, and as his vacillation and procrastination stirred Okinawa's resistance to a new pitch, spreading its roots and tendrils through all levels of Okinawan society, he decided he had no alternative but to implement the Guam Treaty even as Okinawa moved towards almost unanimously rejecting it. He first indicated that he was prepared to "broadly accept" the existing agreements by proposing a Henoko, offshore, pier-like structure that would rest on thousands of piles driven into the sea bed instead of actual reclamation of Oura Bay. This was essentially a regurgitation of an option considered between 2000 and 2002 but then rejected because of the technical difficulties it entailed.35 Though the damage it would cause to coral and sea life might be less than that caused by reclamation, it seemed absurd to pretend that the imposition of such a vast structure onto the Bay, and the concentration there of intense military activity, would not have serious environmental consequences, blocking sunlight from the coral, as well as entailing higher cost, greater risk (an extensive breakwater would have to be built because of the rough seas in the vicinity), and reduced "benefit" from the construction contracts because most would be appropriated by mainland, specialist, marine construction companies (maricon), leaving slim pickings for Okinawan firms.

Then, weeks later, Hatoyama dropped his last shred of resistance and accepted the 2006 Henoko (Oura Bay) landfill design. After nine inglorious and confused months, the "Hatoyama rebellion" ended in humiliating surrender. In just these fecund waters, which weeks earlier he told a meeting in Nagoya it would be "sacrilege" to landfill,36 he now declared that he would order precisely such a landfill construction in order to build a Futenma Replacement Facility. In an attempt to salvage some face, he insisted that his reclamation would be "environmentally sensitive."37

From Okinawa, the responses ranged from disbelief to incredulity and fury. When he visited Okinawa on 23 May to convey his decision, he was greeted by protesters bearing signs saying simply "angry." It was a humiliating climb-down. Confronting the US ultimatum and the Obama cold shoulder, Hatoyama seems to have felt he had no alternative. After fifty years, the truth was that no Japanese government could withstand the loss of Washington's confidence.

In the space of just over half a year support for Hatoyama's government had crumbled at a record-setting pace from above 70 to around 25 per cent. To satisfy Washington, he had betrayed his electoral pledge to relocate "at least outside Okinawa" while attempting to salve his conscience by saying he would not allow reclamation and pretending that at least in part some Marine functions would be transferred to outside of the prefecture (even though Tokuno was barely outside the prefectural boundary). If either he or the US government were to take seriously the condition that bases not be built where they are not wanted by the host community, none of the options he considered would get to first base. In 2005, Prime Minister Koizumi had given up the attempt to survey and construct a base on the coral of Oura bay because of "a lot of opposition." Hatoyama will surely find that opposition now is far greater. His government can only proceed now if it is ready to adopt the kind of coercive, forceful measures at which Koizumi balked to crush a prefecture-wide sentiment and a deep-rooted popular movement. That process will surely cast a dark cloud over the 6th decade of the "alliance."

(c) Environment: The "Non-Assessment"

The environmental aspect of the Guam and Henoko projects receives little media attention on either side of the Pacific but surely deserves it.

The US Environmental Protection Agency in February 2010 declared that the Department of Defense's nine volume Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the build-up process planned for Guam was "environmentally unsatisfactory," citing a range of serious problems including the risk to the coral reef, and giving it the lowest possible rating of "EU-3."38

The Henoko site is commonly described as "sparsely populated," as if that made it an obvious and almost unproblematic choice to replace the overcrowded Futenma. The Pentagon has eyed it as a site for comprehensive militarization since at least 1966.39 However, quite apart from the rights of the people who do undoubtedly live in the area and its vicinity, such discussion passes over the qualities that make this region not just of regional or national, but of global significance: its unique and precious marine and forest environment.

Under the Okinawa Prefectural Government's Guidelines for Environmental Protection, the coastal areas of Henoko are classified as rank 1, warranting the highest level of protection. In these waters, the internationally protected dugong graze on sea grasses, turtles come to rest and lay their eggs, and multiple rare birds, insects, and animals thrive. A colony of blue coral was discovered only in 2007 (and in 2008 placed on the IUCN's "Red," or critically endangered, list, joining the dugong). A 2009 World Wildlife Fund study found an astonishing 36 new species of crabs and shrimps in Oura bay.


Dugong with turtle near Henoko


Major global media, even in the year of Copenhagen and in the context of an awakening sense of the urgency of protecting species and nature and bringing an ecological conscience to bear on global problems, pays little attention to the environmental aspect of the Henoko project. It is true that an environmental impact study was conducted, as required by Japanese law, but it was conducted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau, not by an independent body, and the ODB seems to have undertaken a perfunctory investigation, avoiding large questions and taking it as given that the national government wanted a positive outcome. It paid no attention to the likely impact of typhoons, because none happened while the survey was in process, and concluded that "dugong are not in the area" since it saw none, though critics protested that the dugong were not to be seen precisely because the disturbances caused by the investigation process had driven them away. The best scientific and legal opinion is that the Henoko Environmental Impact Assessment probably breached Japanese law and almost certainly lacked scientific credibility by international standards.41 Among other deficiencies, an environmental assessment to which no information was available on the kinds or number of aircraft that would be using the facility, or the materials that would be stored or used on it, could scarcely be serious.

Okinawa Prefecture's Environmental Impact Committee found multiple faults in the report and called for supplementary examination of 412 items in 59 categories (including dugong numbers). Neither of the two Okinawan officials seen as "pro-Henoko construction," Mayor Shimabukuro of Nago and Prefectural Governor Nakaima would explicitly endorse it, though neither would they give it a thumbs down. Both tried to shield their submission by seeking a slight revision of the Guam Agreement - to shift the construction design a short distance (or, in the case of Shimabukuro, hundreds of metres) offshore - as if a reversion to the basic scheme of 1998-2005 eventually cancelled by Prime Minister Koizumi would somehow solve the problem. The "slightly offshore" option was not taken seriously by anybody in Tokyo or Washington, if only for the reason that it would require cancelling the existing environmental review process and starting it anew.42 Nakaima also recommended a multi-year study of the dugong, although obviously aware that by "passing" the (interim) report as it stood that would never happen.

No such equivocation was evident in the judicial proceedings launched on behalf of the dugong in San Francisco. A judge hearing a suit against the Pentagon on behalf of the Okinawan dugong and their marine habitat on 24 January 2008 issued a ruling that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) had violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to "take into account" in the planning of the construction of a US military base in Henoko and Oura Bays the effects of the construction on the dugong (Dugong dugon), a Japanese "natural monument."She ordered the DoD to comply with the Act by generating and taking information into account "for the purpose of avoiding or mitigating adverse effects" on the dugong.43

The environmental survey also neglected to consider the matter of landfill. According to the January 2008 plan, a total of 21 million cubic metres of landfill would be required, of which initially 17 million would be sea sand. That would mean a staggering 3.4 million dump truck loads of sand, more than 12 times the current volume of sand extracted in a year from throughout Okinawa. How this alone could be done without causing significant impact on Okinawa's fragile land and sea environment defies the imagination; yet it was not considered at all.44

Setting aside the diplomatic, political, and military considerations, on ecological grounds alone the idea that a huge new military installation should be constructed at Nago is implausible. Yet neither government (and only a tiny sector of national or global media) is willing to face this fact.

The conclusion seems obvious: Futenma should be closed, not replaced. A US military facility that does not meet the standards that would be required of such facilities within the United States surely cannot be justified in the territory of a supposedly friendly "ally." And since the Pentagon had made clear it would not agree to the construction of any new base without the approval of the host community, the same principle should mean its closure of one that so plainly enjoys no such consent.


The phenomenon of foreign military bases being hosted for any period of time in the territory of a sovereign state is extremely unusual and the likelihood of them being closed following a change of government (as in the Philippines, Ecuador) is high since they are, as Kent Calder puts it, "castles built on sand."45 The Okinawan sand is now crumbling.

It is a paradox for the Japan whose constitution outlaws "the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes" to be allied to the one country above all others for whom war and the threat of war are key instruments of policy, supporting its wars in every possible way short of actually sending troops into combat, offering it more extensive military facilities, on more generous terms, than any other country, and paying far greater subsidies than any country in the world to support the US armed forces.

Official 50th anniversary commemorations celebrating the US military as the source of the "oxygen" that guaranteed peace and security to Japan and East Asia are not inclined to pay attention to the fact that the same oxygen is elsewhere a poison, visiting catastrophe on country after country, notably Korea (1950s and since), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Vietnam (1960s to 70s), Chile (1973), the Persian Gulf (1991), Afghanistan (2001-), and Iraq (2003-), and that it now threatens Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and (again) Iran and North Korea. Millions die or are driven into exile, and countries are devastated as the US military spreads its "oxygen" by unjust illegal interventions. The degree to which allied countries share criminal responsibility has been the subject of major public review in Holland (which found that the Iraq War was indeed illegal and aggressive) and in the UK (where the Chilcot Inquiry continues). In Japan, the Nagoya High Court in 2008 found that the Koizumi and Abe governments had acted in breach of the constitution in consenting to US demands to "show the flag" and put Japanese "boots on the ground" in Iraq, and that therefore the Japanese troop presence in Iraq was both unconstitutional and illegal. In response, the Prime Minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister of Defense, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Self Defense Forces all dismissed the judgement, saying with varying measures of scorn that it would have no effect whatever on troop deployment. In Japan, as in Holland and the UK, questions of responsibility have sooner or later to be asked.

There is no precedent in modern Japanese history for an entire prefecture to unite, as does Okinawa today, in saying "No" to the central state authorities, just as there is no precedent throughout the post-1945 decades for the confrontation that has occurred between the US and Japan in 2009-10. Transcending conventional political divisions, the polls say the Okinawan struggle is now supported by 90 per cent of its people. The Okinawa Times expressed the hope that the 50th anniversary might offer a "chance to reconsider the Japan-US Security treaty that from Okinawa can only be seen as a relationship of dependence."46 The Ryukyu Shimpo said that it was not just the fate of Henoko that was at issue but the question of whether the Japanese constitution's guarantees of popular sovereignty, basic human rights, and peace applied to Okinawa.47 Ginowan mayor Iha was in 2010 preparing to launch a suit against the national government for neglect of its duty to protect the constitutional rights of Okinawan citizens to livelihood and safety.48 The breadth and depth of such Okinawan sentiment was hard to detect in mainland discourse.

Okinawan sentiments are especially aroused as the contest over the base issue coincided with revelations of lies and deception practised by LDP governments over the past half-century, and with exposure of the readiness of successive Japanese (LDP) governments to pay almost any price to retain US forces in Okinawa. Disappointment with Hatoyama was so much the greater because the hopes of change raised by the DPJ before it took office had been high, only to be slowly let down since then, till it "seemed to be adopting an even weaker position towards the US than its LDP predecessor."49 In Hatoyama's Japan, all parties save the Communist were committed to continuing and "deepening" the Security Treaty, none to fundamentally revising the relationship. In Hatoyama's Okinawa, all parties and almost all the people were united in demanding that the burden of foreign military presence on the prefecture and its people be lightened. The Okinawa Times noted ominously that if the government tries to impose a new base on Okinawa it would invite "unpredictable" consequences.50

The reason it had taken 13 years to determine the Guam Treaty formula for Futenma replacement had nothing to do with inherent complexity or difficulty of construction and everything to with the fierce, uncompromising, non-violent and popularly-supported resistance to further base construction on Okinawa. The "old regime" (to 2009) contemplated using force, and in 2007 sent the Maritime Self-Defense Force's frigate, Bungo, to intimidate the sea-floor civic defenders of the sea and its creatures at Henoko, but held back in fear of the political consequences of mass arrests and imposition of martial law. Whether Hatoyama will be able to muster a greater resolve than his LDP predecessors seems doubtful, meaning that the fifteen year struggle to block construction of a new base at Henoko will continue.

In Washington, managers of the alliance could feel satisfied that their uncompromising stance had forced the Prime Minister of Japan to surrender. They could also note with pleasure that Tokyo was increasingly committed to the principle of military facilities being shared between US and Japanese forces. Already, JGSDF (Japan's "Army") command has moved to the US Army's Zama, outside Tokyo (which handles much of US military planing for the Pacific), where it is merged (under the 2006 Agreement) with US Army 1 Corps command.51 Already, the JASDF (Japan's "Air Force") command has merged with that of the US 5th Air Force at Yokota. As for the JMSDF (Japan's "Navy"), it is already a subsidiary and support organization under the Yokosuka home-based US 7th Fleet (with the aircraft carrier George Washington), regularly engaged in joint war games and exercises under US direction). It is far-fetched to suggest that, under such circumstances, Japan retains autonomy of "defense" planning and policy or that its SDF serves exclusively to defend; more likely it is furthering its "Client State" agenda by subordinating its 240,000-strong military to Pentagon direction with the result that the scope of its operations extends throughout the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

So, while the 2009 Hatoyama rhetoric of a close and "equal" relationship had worried Washington, and led to the flood of abuse, intimidation, and derision without parallel in the US relationship with any country, seven months of unremitting pressure wore him down till he and his ministers looked like nothing so much as clones of their LDP predecessors.

The alliance in its first fifty years was characterized by subterfuge and by the persistent abuse of Okinawa. Is it possible that it can now substitute a "mature" alliance relationship with the US for the "Client State" relationship cultivated by the former (George W. Bush) administration and its LDP partners in successive Tokyo governments? If it is to do so, also it will have to face up to the secret diplomacy, lies, deception and manipulation of the last 50 years, and reflect upon, apologize, and offer redress for the wrongs that have for so long been visited upon the people of Okinawa as a result. It is surely time to extend to the Japanese and Okinawan people the constitutional guarantees of pacifism, human rights, and local autonomy guaranteed by its constitution. Instead, at the end of May 2010 and in the teeth of unprecedented American intimidation, Hatoyama vacillated and retreated, and the deeply rooted structures of dependency pushed Japan on the 50th towards a deepening and widening of clientelism and outright clash with Okinawa.

Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal - Japan Focus, and author of many previous texts on Okinawa-related matters. His Client State: Japan in the American Embrace was published in English (New York: Verso) in 2007 and in expanded and revised Japanese, Korean, and Chinese versions in 2008. He is an emeritus professor of Australian National University.
Recommended citation: Gavan McCormack, "Ampo's Troubled 50th: Hatoyama's Abortive Rebellion, Okinawa's Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship (Part 3)," The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22-5-10, May 31, 2010.


1 Taoka Shunji, quoted in Taketomi Kaoru, "Amerika ga keikai suru Ozawa dokutorin "honto no nerai"," Sapio, 9 September 2009, pp. 11-14. 
2 "Tenkanki no ampo 2010: jochu naki Futenma, shusho 'fukuan no mikata fujo,"," Mainichi shimbun, 8 April 2010 (English translation in Satoko Norimatsu, "The myth of 18,000 Marines in Okinawa admitted by USMC," Peace Philosophy, 11 April 2010. 2010)
3 Sato Manabu, "Forced to 'Choose' its Own Subjugation: Okinawa's Place in U.S. Global Military Realignment," Japan Focus, 2 August 2006.
4 Yanagisawa Kyoji (special researcher and former Director of National Institute for Defense Studies), "Futenma no kakushin - kaiheitai no yokushiryoku o kensho seyo," Asahi shimbun, 28 January 2010.
5 See also Satoshi Ogawa, "Key marine forces to leave Okinawa prefecture," Yomiuri shimbun, 22 November 2009.
6 Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review, February 2010, p. 89.
7 Iha Yoichi, "Why build a base on Okinawa when the marines are relocating to Guam? Okinawan mayor challenges Japan and the US," The Asia-Pacific Journal, 18 January 2009. See also Dario Agnote, "Makeover to turn Guam into US fortress," Japan Times, 12 January 2010.
8 Iha Yoichi, interviewed in "Futenma isetsu to Henoko shin kichi wa kankei nai," Shukan kinyobi, 15 January 2010, pp. 28-9.
9 Retired Marine General Wallace Gregson, currently Pentagon Foreign Office Assistant Secretary for East Asia, addressing the Japan Institute for International Affairs, 1 February 2010. ("U.S. awaiting Futemma decision, to seek joint solution: official," Kyodo, 1 February 2010)
10 Lt General Keith Stalder, commander of US Marines in Asia ("US Commander reveals true purpose of troops in Okinawa is to remove North Korea's nukes," Mainichi shimbun, 1 April 2010.)
11 19.5 per cent of businesses in Nago were reported closed (shuttered) as of 2008. (Chinen Kiyoharu, "Nago shicho sen hitotsu ni natta min-i," Sekai, March 2010, pp. 20-24, at p. 22.)
12 Figures from a study conducted by the prefecture quoted in Maedomari Hiromori, "'Kichi izon keizai' to iu shinwa," Sekai, February 2010, pp. 203-209, especially p. 207.
13 Maedomari, ibid, p. 203.
14 "Futenma hikojo daitai, kennai isetsu hantai 68%," Okinawa Times, 14 May 2009. In the Northern Districts (including Nago Ciy) opposition was even higher, at 76 per cent.
15 "Futenma iten: Genko keikaku ni 'hantai' 67%, Okinawa yoron chosa," Mainichi shimbun, 2 November 2009; for a partial English account, "Poll: 70 percent of Okinawans want Futenma moved out of prefecture, Japan," Mainichi Daily News, 3 November 2009. Foreign Minister Okada's "Kadena option" also had scant support. 72 per cent of people opposed it.
16 The "Open Letter" to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  at the time of her February 2009 February visit to Tokyo demanded cancellation of the Henoko plan, immediate and unconditional return of Futenma, and further reductions in the US military presence "Hirari R. Kurinton Beikokumu chokan e no shokan (Open Letter to Secretary of State Clinton), by Miyazato Seigen and 13 other representative figures of Okinawa's civil society, 14 February 2009, (Japanese) text at "Nagonagu zakki," Miyagi Yasuhiro blog, 22 March 2009; English text courtesy Sato Manabu.
17 "Kengikai, Futenma 'kokugai kengai isetsu motomeru' ikensho kaketsu," Okinawa Times, 24 February 2010. A resolution to the same effect had been passed by a majority in July 2008.
18 "Zen shucho kennai kyohi, Futenma kengai tekkyo no shiodoki," editorial, Ryukyu shimpo, 1 March 2010; "Ken shicho kaigi kennai hantai ketsugi zenkai itchi kuni no chokusetsu yosei," Okinawa Times, 6 April 2010.
19 Onaga Takeshi, "Okinawa wa 'yuai' no soto na no ka," Sekai, February 2010, pp. 149-154.
20 "Kagoshima Mage-to ga hyojo," Ryukyu shimpo, 5 December 2009 (with photograph).
21 "US in the dark on final Futenma decision," Asahi shimbun, 5 February 2010.
22 Media reports, especially "Govt to offer 2 Futenma alternatives," Yomiuri Shimbun, 18 March 2010, and "Futenma hikojo isetsu mondai - 1010 hekutaru jinkojima o teian," Ryukyu shimpo, 16 March 2010. 
23 "Hojo no umi sango kagayaku - Futenma isetsu kohochi," Ryukyu shimpo, 3 April 2010.
24 "Hatoyama shusho, Okinawa kinrin o mosaku, seiji sekinin ni hatsu genkyu," Ryukyu shimpo, 22 April 2010.
25 Defense Vice-Minister Nagishima Akihisa, quoted in John Brinsley and Sachiko Sakamaki, "US base to stay on Okinawa, Japanese official says," Bloomberg, 2 March 2010.
26 "US likely to nix Futenma alternatives," Yomiuri shimbun, 26 March 2010.
27 "Hatoyama's latest Futenma tack: move choppers to Tokunoshima," Japan Times, 10 April 2010.
28 "Chiji, seifu 2 an o konnan shi, Futenma isetsu," Okinawa Times, 3 April 2010.
29 "Ken-nai 2 an wa 'mattaku dame'," Asahi shimbun, 1 April 2010.
30 "Futenma seifu an - min-i azamuku wasuto no an da," editorial, Ryukyu shimpo, 27 March 2010.
31 "Tokunoshima's Record-Breaking Addition to Ryukuans' Democratic Voices," 18 April 2010.
32 Satoshi Ogawa, "US distrust of Japan sharply accelerating," Yomiuri shimbun, 19 April 2010.
33 Al Kamen, "Among leaders at summit, Hu's first," Washington Post, 14 April 2010.
34 John Pomfret, "Japan moves to settle dispute with US over base relocation," Washington Post, 23 April 2010. Hatoyama claimed that the talks had been an "in depth" discussion.
35 "Tero kiken, kankyo-men mo kadai ... isetsu-an QIP koho," Yomiuri shimbun, 29 April 2009.
36 "When I stood by the waters of Henoko, I felt very strongly that creating a landfill over those waters would be a sacrilege against nature. The current agreement should not be accepted." ("Few Futenma choices left for Hatoyama," Asahi shimbun, 26 April 2010).
37 "Kankyo hairyogata umetate" "Futenma isetsu seifu-an 28 nichi happyo de chosei, Henoko umetate mo," Mainichi shimbun, 19 May 2010.
38 Clynt Ridgell, "US EPA calls DEIS Environmentally unsatisfactory," Pacific News Center, 25 February 2010.
39 For documents, maps, etc, including the 17 January 1966 "General Development Plan, Marine Corps Facility, Henoko, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands," see Makishi Yoshikazu, "Henoko kaijo kichi keikaku wa 1966 nen kara,"
40 "Oura-wan ni 36 shinshu, ebi kani-rui, ken ni hozon hatarakikake e," Ryukyu shimpo, 25 November 2009 (and photo).
41 Sakurai Kunitoshi, "The Guam Treaty as a modern 'disposal' of the Ryukyus," The Asia Pacific Journal, 21 September 2009.
42 Shimabukuro sought its move by 350 metres to the south and 150 metres to the west. ("Futenma asesu Nago Shicho iken," Ryukyu shimpo, 26 August 2009). For Nakaima, see "Futenma asesu, Okinawa ken chiji ga ikensho 'gutai an o sokyu ni'," Ryukyu shimpo, 13 October 2009; also interview with Nakaima, Okinawa Times, 12 October 2009; and 14 October Ryukyu shimpo editorial, "Asesu chiji iken."
43 Hideki Yoshikawa, "Dugong Swimming in Uncharted Waters: US Judicial Intervention to Protect Okinawa's 'Natural Monument' and Halt Base Construction," The Asia-Pacific Journal, 7 February 2009.
44 WWF (World Wildlife Fund), Japan, "Futenma hikojo daitai shisetsu jigyo ni kakawaru kankyo eikyo hyoka junbisho ni taisuru ikensho," 13 May 2009; also Urashima Etsuko, "Okinawa Yambaru, kaze no tayori, (10), Ikusa yo wa tsuzuku," Impaction, No 170, August 2009, pp. 128-141, at p. 137.
45 Kent E. Calder, Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism, Princeton University Press, 2008. 
46 "Nichibei ampo kaitei 50 nen Okinawa no futan keigen honki de," Okinawa Times, 19 January 2009.
47 "Okinawa no min-i - Kennai isetsu 'No' ga senmei da," Ryukyu shimpo, editorial, 3 November 2009.
48 "Futenma mondai kuni teiso e chosahi keijo, gikai ni yosan teian," Okinawa Times, 27 February 2010.
49 Amaki Naoto, Introduction to his Saraba Nichibei domei (Farewell to the Japan-US Alliance), forthcoming, Kodansha 2010, as pre-published in his blog, "Amaki Naoto merumaga," 31 March 2010. Amaki, formerly Japanese ambassador to Lebanon, was dismissed in 2003 for opposing the US launch of war against Iraq. 
50 "Kengikai, Futenma 'kengai isetsu motomeru' ikensho kaketsu," Okinawa Times, 24 February 2010.
51 See "Camp Zama, 1 Corps FWDï½¥HQ, The organization and mission."


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