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Posts tagged ‘Okinawa’

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.

China Questions Japan Okinawa Rule, Widening Island Dispute.

BEIJING — China is trying to strengthen its claim on tiny, uninhabited, Japanese-controlled islands by raising questions about the much larger Okinawa chain that is home to more than a million Japanese along with major U.S. military installations. The tactic, however, appears to have done little but harden Tokyo’s stance.

Japan refuses to offer any concessions to China over Tokyo’s control of the uninhabited East China Sea islands, which are called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan.

Tokyo issued a formal protest to Beijing over the comments about Okinawa, made in last week in the ruling Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily.

Scholars in Japan and elsewhere, meanwhile, warn Beijing may be shooting itself in the foot by arousing fears of a creeping campaign to nibble away at Japanese territory.

“If China’s goal is to hold talks with Japan over the Senkakus, articles like these are counterproductive,” said M. Taylor Fravel, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “As a result, Japan has an even stronger incentive now to stand firm with China and not hold talks.”

The Diaoyu issue has rarely been out of the headlines in China since Japan’s government bought the islands in September to preempt Tokyo’s pugnacious former mayor from doing so.

Although the Japanese government purchase was ostensibly aimed reducing tensions, the move was seen in China as an attempt to solidify Tokyo’s sovereignty over the islets.

Outraged Chinese staged violent street protests and attacked Japanese property, while the government backed up its objections by dispatching patrol boats to confront Japanese ships and sending a surveillance plane into Japanese airspace. While the sides have avoided clashes, the situation remains tense and neither side has backed down.

The comments about Okinawa appeared in a scholarly editorial in People’s Daily, in an apparent attempt to weaken the historical basis of Japan’s claim to the Senkaku islands by questioning the legitimacy of its control over the entire Okinawa chain.

Its authors, Li Guoqiang and Zhang Haipeng, are prominent academics at the government’s Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the editorial is believed to have received high-level approval.

Li and Zhang wrote that Japan’s annexation of the formerly independent kingdom of the Ryukyus, including Okinawa, in 1879 amounted to an invasion and the question of sovereignty remains open.

The kingdom had also been a Chinese vassal, giving Beijing a say in its political status, although the ruling Qing dynasty was too weak at the time to oppose Japan, the two wrote.

“Not only is Japan obliterating the truth about the Ryukyu issue, but it is doubling its aggressiveness and making provocations over the Diaoyu issue. Therefore it is necessary to revisit the Ryukyu issue,” Li wrote in a follow-up article in a sister newspaper, Global Times. Neither scholar said what, if anything, China should do about the Okinawa chain.

Japan added the Senkaku islands to its territory in 1895, but China refuses to consider them a part of Okinawa. It claims that they were always part of Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by Beijing.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said last week that the Chinese remarks about Okinawa were “totally unacceptable to us.”

China’s increasingly combative stance is seen as reflecting the attitudes of the country’s new leader Xi Jinping, who espouses a muscular nationalism and an aggressive approach to China’s territorial claims.

China has sparred with the Philippines and Vietnam over overlapping claims in the South China Sea and recently engaged in a three-week standoff with Indian troops along a remote Himalayan section of their disputed border.

China’s navy and air force have also been increasingly active around Okinawa, passing through on their way to the West Pacific and conducting missions over the East China Sea that regularly force Japan to scramble its own jets.

The Chinese assertiveness has prompted a rebalancing of forces to the Asia-Pacific region by the United States, which already maintains Air Force, Marine, Navy, and Army bases on Okinawa, along with about 25,000 troops.

Although Washington doesn’t take a formal stance on the Senkakus’ sovereignty, it recognizes Japanese control over them and says they fall within the scope of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense pact.

Washington’s stance has drawn rebukes from Beijing, which already resents the United States for emboldening Japan on the issue and is highly criticial of what is referred to as the American military’s “pivot” to Asia.

The U.S. rebalancing “has aroused a great deal of suspicion in China,” former Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei wrote in Foreign Policy magazine this week. “These suspicions deepen when the United States gets itself entangled in China’s dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu islands,” He wrote.

Liang Yunxiang, a Japan expert at Peking University, said China’s questions about Okinawa are in part intended to win over global public opinion by “raising awareness of Japan’s invasion history that Japan has tried so hard to obscure.”

However, Liang said that “the move will, of course, frustrate Japan and the stances of the two sides may get tougher.”

Beijing will likely take further such moves as part of a calculated strategy to increase pressure on Japan and strengthening China’s bargaining position, said Paul O’Shea of the Center for East and Southeast Asian Studies at Sweden’s Lund University.

June Teufel Dreyer, a China expert at the University of Miami, said the danger for Beijing is not only that it could alienate Japan, but that it could raise expectations among Chinese activists.

That could make it harder for the government to back away from the issue, posing the “first serious test of Xi Jinping’s leadership abilities,” she said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

North Korea Issues Fresh Threat To America.


  • North Korea Issues Fresh Threat To AmericaView PhotoNorth Korea Issues Fresh Threat To America

North Korea has threatened to attack American airbases on the Japanese island of Okinawa and the Pacific island of Guam.

A statement by Kim Yong Chul, the spokesman of the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army warned of “military actions”.

The US should not forget that the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam where B-52 bombers take off and naval bases in Japan and Okinawa where nuclear-powered submarines are launched are within the striking range of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) precision strike means,” the statement read.

“Now that the US started open nuclear blackmail and threat, the DPRK, too, will move to take corresponding military actions.”

The words mark the latest escalation in a lengthy stand-off as North Korea defies calls from the rest of the world to halt its dual nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The American government has not yet responded to the threat.

British diplomatic sources speaking to Sky News from Seoul have said the UK Government “takes any threats seriously and there is some concern over the more harsh rhetoric coming from the DPRK”.

However, the source insisted that there was no panic or alarm among diplomatic circles and that UK travel advice to South Korea remains unchanged.

The latest threat from North Korea is a direct response to a series of joint military exercises involving the US and South Korea.

On Tuesday, the US Air Force deployed its giant B-52 bombers from their base on Guam. The planes, which are capable of carrying and deploying nuclear bombs, flew sorties over the Korean peninsula as part of the military exercise.

The Pentagon in Washington confirmed the B-52 deployment. Spokesman George Little said the US wanted to underline its commitment and capacity to defend South Korea against an attack from the North.

However, the flights were condemned by Pyongyang as “an unpardonable provocation”.

“The US is introducing a strategic nuclear strike means to the Korean peninsula at a time when its situation is inching close to the brink of war,” the North Korean statement added.

The North Korean military does have rockets capable of reaching both Okinawa and Guam.

The surprisingly successful rocket launch in December followed a trajectory similar to that which any strike against Okinawa would take.

Okinawa is 600 miles due south of the Korean peninsula. Guam is further away, to the east of the Philippines.

While Pyongyang has proved it has the range capability, it is not clear whether or not their missiles are accurate enough to hit a specific target. And the country does not yet have the ability to carry out a nuclear strike at this range.

Earlier this month, the UN imposed the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un reacted with anger, threatening to attack America, South Korea and Japan. The young and unpredictable leader toured military units calling for them to prepare for ‘all out war’.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s unusually large cyberattack in South Korea, which brought down banks and broadcasters for one hour, has been traced to China.

Experts in Seoul claim the simultaneous attacks all bore the same IP address which was traced to the Chinese mainland.

Many of North Korea’s internet and computing operations are tied to China. There is no suggestion that the Chinese government had any involvement.


Sky NewsBy Mark Stone, Asia Correspondent | Sky News

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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