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Posts tagged ‘Okinawa Prefecture’

Japan Gets Okinawa Approval for Controversial US Marine Base Move.

Image: Japan Gets Okinawa Approval for Controversial US Marine Base MoveJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima gesture during their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on Dec. 25.

TOKYO — The governor of Japan’s Okinawa on Friday approved a controversial plan to relocate a U.S. air base to a less populous part of the southern island, but said he would keep pressing to move the base off the island altogether.

The nod from Okinawa, long a reluctant host to the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan, is an achievement for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has promised a more robust military and tighter security ties with the United States amid escalating tension with China.

Skeptics, however, said it remained far from clear whether the relocation – stalled since the move was first agreed upon by Washington and Tokyo in 1996 – would actually take place given persistent opposition from Okinawa residents, many of whom associate the U.S. bases with crime, pollution and noise.

The approval came a day after Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, seen in parts of Asia as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, infuriating China and South Korea, and prompting concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the Asian neighbors.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima told a news conference he had approved a central government request for a landfill project at the new site, on the Henoko coast near the town of Nago. His approval for that project, required by law and a first step to building the replacement facility, was the last procedural barrier to eventually replacing the U.S. Marines Futenma air base in the crowded town of Ginowan.

“The government has recently met our requests in compiling a plan to reinvigorate Okinawa. We felt that the Abe government’s regard for Okinawa is higher than any previous governments’,” Nakaima told a news conference.

The governor, however, added that he still believed that the quickest way to relocate the Futenma air base would be to move it to an existing facility with runways outside Okinawa.

About 2,000 people gathered in front of the Okinawa government building to protest against Nakaima’s decision, with a few hundred of them staging a sit-in at the lobby of the office building, Jiji news agency said.

The United States and Japan agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma base but plans for a replacement stalled in the face of opposition in Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the U.S. forces in Japan. Okinawa was occupied by the United States after Japan’s defeat in World War II until 1972.


Japan’s ties with the United States were strained when then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who took office in 2009, sought to keep a campaign promise to move the U.S. base off Okinawa.

The Futenma base has been a lightning rod for criticism because of its location in a densely populated area.

Activists living in tents have been staging a protest near the site of the proposed Henoko base for almost 10 years and have promised demonstrations if Nakaima approves construction.

An election for the mayor of Nago next month could prove problematic if incumbent Susumu Inamine — who opposes the plan — is re-elected, while the central government could face a dilemma if demonstrators try to block construction.

“There are so many potential wild cards, so much that has to be done, that every small decision moves the process forward but by no means guarantees a final conclusion,” said Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think-tank.

In April, the United States and Japan announced a plan to close Futenma as early as 2022.

Abe said the government would study whether that plan could be accelerated and would begin negotiating an agreement with the United States that could allow for more local oversight of environmental issues at U.S. bases.

That would address Nakaima’s call to revise the bilateral Status of Forces agreement that has applied to U.S. military in Japan since 1960 but has never been officially revised.

Abe’s government has also earmarked 348 billion yen for Okinawa’s economic development in the draft budget for the year from April, a 15.3 percent increase from this year.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


US Military Helicopter Crashes on Japan’s Okinawa.

TOKYO — A U.S. military helicopter crashed on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa on Monday, U.S. Forces in Japan said, an incident which may stoke anger over the concentration of U.S. military bases on the island.

The Japanese defense minister said three of the four people onboard were confirmed to have survived the crash, but the U.S. Air Force said in a news release that the condition of at least four people onboard was unknown.

There were no casualties among local residents, a Japanese official said.

Video footage showed smoke rising from a fire on a remote mountainside.

The air force said an HH-60 helicopter, based in Kadena airbase in Okinawa, crashed in a training area on the U.S. MarinesCamp Hansen and U.S. fire and rescue crews were responding, adding that the helicopter was conducting a training mission at the time.

A private broadcaster earlier said that the aircraft was a CH-46 helicopter.

“This is really regrettable. We are asking the U.S. side for a speedy supply of information,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters. “We plan to strongly demand for investigation into the cause of the accident and measures to prevent a recurrence.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to move the U.S. Marines’ Futenma airbase to a less crowded part of the island, but stiff opposition from Okinawa residents is stalling the plan.

Residents of Okinawa, host to the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan, have long resented bearing what many feel is an unfair share of the burden for the U.S.-Japan military alliance. Many associate the U.S. bases with accidents, crime, and pollution.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

The world’s silliest territorial dispute.


Why are China and Japan threatening to go to war over a few uninhabited islands in the East China Sea?

Are the islands important?
Only in a symbolic way. The eight tiny islands and outcroppings — known as the Senkaku islands in Japan, which administers them, as the Diaoyu in China, and as the Tiaoyutai in Taiwan — have a total area of less than three square miles, and are home only to a band of feral goats. Located about 100 miles northeast of Taiwan and 265 miles west of the Japanese island of Okinawa, they do sit in prime fishing territory, and there are natural gas deposits and possibly large oil reserves nearby. But it is national pride, honed by centuries of bitter rivalry and war between Japan and China, that provides the prime motivation for the contesting ownership claims. As a growing world power, China is eager to assert its authority over Asian waters, while Japan doesn’t want to be seen as yielding an inch. “We must draw the line with the Chinese here,” said Hissho Yanai, head of a Japanese nationalist group. “If we let them have the Senkaku islands, they’ll come after all of Okinawa next.”

To whom did they first belong?
China says it has records from the Ming Dynasty in the 1300s that refer to the islands as part of its maritime territory. Chinese fishermen used the islands as a fishing platform for centuries, the government claims, before they were ceded to Japan along with Taiwan in 1895 in the wake of the Sino-Japanese War. After World War II, a defeated Japan renounced its claim to Taiwan under the terms of the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco; China, which was not represented in those negotiations, says the disputed islands should have been included in that renunciation. For its part, Japan says that after surveying the islands in 1895, it incorporated them into Okinawa Prefecture and put down a marker to make it official. For several decades the Japanese operated a small factory on one of the islands, making dried fish flakes, and up to 200 people lived there. The U.S. held the islands under a trusteeship after World War II, but in 1972 they were returned to Japan.

Why has this flared up now?
Largely because of Shintaro Ishihara, the nationalist governor of Tokyo. Early this year, he announced that he would buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owner because he felt their sovereignty wasn’t being adequately defended. That compelled first Chinese nationalists, and then Japanese nationalists, to make pilgrimages to the rocks to film themselves waving their respective flags, stirring up patriotic sentiment back home. Last month, the Japanese government bought the three islands and nationalized them — ostensibly to prevent them from falling into the hands of radicals. But even assuming that rationale was sincere, the timing was especially poor, coming just a week before the anniversary of one of the darkest episodes in the two countries’ history — Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria.

How did China react?
Chinese nationalists viewed the purchase as an outrageous land grab and a deliberate provocation. They turned the events marking the anniversary of the invasion into a week of anti-Japanese rioting across China. Japanese-owned shops were smashed up, Japanese factories were burned, and Japanese citizens in China were harassed. More than 40 Japanese cars were destroyed, and a mob in Xian beat up a Chinese man for driving a Toyota. Damage from the riots is likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and trade between the two countries has suffered. To make its continued claim clear, the Chinese military sent naval ships to the islands for training exercises three weeks after Japan nationalized them.

Could war break out?
Chinese media have warned that it might. Politics is fanning the flames: With the once-a-decade leadership transition coming up, China’s Communist Party wants to project strength and national pride, while the Japanese opposition is exploiting the crisis to paint Japan’s unpopular government as weak on national sovereignty. Still, it’s unlikely that China would actually invade the Senkaku — not least because the U.S. could get dragged in under the terms of its defense treaty with Japan. It’s probably no coincidence that the U.S. recently deployed some of its most advanced aircraft to Okinawa, not far from the islands.

So will it all blow over?
Maybe for now, but the issue won’t go away permanently. The dispute is just one element in a Japanese-Chinese power struggle over a string of archipelagos from the Kuril Islands near Russia down to Indonesia. Nearly all of Japanese and Chinese oil and gas is shipped through those waters. June Teufel Dreyer, a China and Japan specialist at the University of Miami, says the Chinese military considers the Senkaku islands to be part of a chain fencing China in. “They say, ‘If we get these islands, we can break out into the open Pacific.'” China won’t give up that dream.

A long history of conflict and war
As East Asia’s two major powers, Japan and China have been at each other’s throats for centuries. The Beijing-based Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan, tried and failed to invade Japan in the 13th century. For centuries thereafter, marauding Japanese pirates harassed the Chinese coast, and the two countries fought a bloody and extended war over control of the Korean peninsula in the late 16th century — and another in 1895, which Japan won. In the 1930s, the rise of imperial Japan brought the two nations into direct conflict again — this time, with unprecedented brutality. Japanese troops marched into Manchuria in 1931, and then into Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanking in 1937, raping and slaughtering civilians. China claims that 35 million people died during the Japanese occupation, and that at least 300,000 civilians lost their lives to atrocities committed in Nanking alone. Those horrific events, which some Japanese politicians and school textbooks have periodically downplayed, have haunted Sino-Japanese relations ever since.

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By The Week’s Editorial Staff | The Week

U.S. servicemen arrested in Okinawa for suspected rape.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Two U.S. servicemen were arrested on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa on suspicion of raping a Japanese woman, police said on Wednesday, a case that could again strain Tokyo’s ties with its closest ally, Washington.

The arrests come at a time when public opinion in Okinawa is at odds with Tokyo for allowing the U.S. deployment of Osprey hybrid aircraft on the island despite lingering concerns about their safety.

Tuesday’s arrests also coincide with a sharp deterioration in Japan’s relations with China over a disputed East China Sea island chain that makes it strategically important for Tokyo to reaffirm its alliance with the United States.

Okinawa is major center for the U.S. military based in Japan.

Friction over U.S. bases on Okinawa intensified after the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen. The case sparked widespread protests by Okinawans, who had long resented the American presence due to crime, noise and deadly accidents.

“I feel strong anger and indignation,” Japanese Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto told Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who described the incident as “madness”.

“I will press the United States for measures to implement stricter discipline,” Morimoto said.

U.S. ambassador to Japan John Roos said in a statement that his government was extremely concerned by the incident and was committed to cooperating fully with the Japanese authorities in their investigation.

“I am also in close contact with the Commander, U.S. Forces Japan. These allegations, given their seriousness, will continue to command my full personal attention,” Roos said.

The two U.S. servicemen are suspected of raping a woman early on Tuesday morning in central Okinawa, an Okinawa police spokesman said.

The case has been sent to Okinawa prosecutors, another police official said.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Editing by Nick Macfie)



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