China tensions loom as Okinawa marks 50 years since US handover

Okinawa, a string of tropical islands off far southwest Japan a lot nearer to Taiwan than Tokyo, suffered large devastation in World War II. Two months of bloody battles between US and Japanese forces left as many as a 3rd of its folks useless. Nearly 30 years of US rule adopted.

On May 15, 1972, the islands had been lastly returned to Japan in what was seen as a hopeful step ahead from the conflict’s painful legacy. But at this time they nonetheless host the vast majority of US navy bases in Japan, a satan’s discount that has offered jobs but additionally 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 — a self-governed island which Beijing considers its territory regardless of by no means having dominated it — Okinawans are involved that they might as soon as extra find yourself on the entrance strains, especially 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 provide her identify.

“Building up a military base will not protect them but rather make them a target of attack.”

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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 problem has often sparked large protests. Of 812 Okinawans polled by public broadcaster NHK in March, 56% stated they strongly opposed US bases; solely 1 / 4 of 1,115 folks outdoors the prefecture stated the identical.

Tensions are more likely to rise on condition that lawmakers for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have stated they need a dedication to extra protection spending, together with missiles that may hit targets on overseas soil — missiles that might be deployed on Okinawa. The nation is revising its nationwide safety technique this 12 months.

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.

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