Okinawans have been fighting to prevent a new US Marine airbase at Henoko, in the northern part of their main island, since the day it was first proposed in 1996. Their opposition does not come out of an abstract pacifism, but is rather grounded in their history. To understand the passion, the courage, the stubbornness of that opposition, one needs to know something about that history.
The once-independent Ryukyu Kingdom conquered and colonized by Japan, its people subjected to compulsory Japanization, the scene of the horrific Battle of Okinawa followed by 27 years of despotic rule by the US military, “returned” to Japan in 1972 only to find that the US military bases increased as a result – all these experiences and more lie behind the determination to prevent yet a further increase in the US military presence in their land.
The 73 Year History of Okinawa and the U.S. Military Bases
Even today when 73 years has passed since the war, approximately 10 % of the land of Okinawa has been occupied by the U.S. military bases. Due to the discriminatory treatment of Okinawa by the Japanese Government, 70% of the total U.S. bases located in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa.
An assault on a young school girl occurred in 1995. It was the case that 2 marines and 1 sailor abducted an elementary schoolgirl of 12 years old and gang raped her. The anger of the people of Okinawa exploded and it resulted in the base reduction/removal campaign.
In response to the growing protest, the U.S. Government eventually sat in the seat of negotiation. As a result of the negotiation, the governments of the U.S. and Japan reached the agreement for large scale return of the land taken for the U.S. bases.
However, the same “trick” was employed here again. In return for the closing of Futenma Air Station which is a dangerous base located in the middle of the residence area, the U.S. and Japanese goverment required to reclaim the beautiful sea of Henoko and build the most advanced multi-function base.