The End of the Postwar? The Abe Government, Okinawa, and Yonaguni Island 戦後の終焉? 安倍政権、沖縄、そして与那国

December 5, 2014
Volume 12 | Issue 49 | Number 3

1 Framing the Problem(s)

*16 November 2014: Okinawa prefecture elects as new Governor Onaga Takeshi, who campaigned on the core policy of stopping construction of a base for the US Marine Corps in Northern Okinawa

*17 November 2014: Yonaguni Island town assembly votes to hold a referendum on the national government’s project to construct a base for the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces

*18 November 2014: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo announces his intention to dissolve the Lower House and conduct general elections on 14 December

Few if any commentators link these three consecutive events, different as they are in character and scale. Yet this paper suggests that all – from one small Okinawan island to the Japanese nation state and the US-Japan relationship – may profitably be considered within a single frame. It rests on the premise that it is profoundly mistaken to think in terms of the “Okinawa Problem” (and “Yonaguni problem”) as distinct, self-contained and therefore relatively minor in significance. The three superficially distinct events of November 2014 all involve the democratic process, and may be seen as manifestations of a complex struggle whose nature is best perceived at the periphery, in Okinawa and Yonaguni, but which is deeply rooted in the nature of the Japanese state in Tokyo. Through their prism, much is to be learned of Japan itself – state, democracy, law, constitution, and diplomacy. This paper addresses first the “Japan problem,” then the “Okinawa problem,” and finally the “Yonaguni problem.”

2. The Japan Problem

When Prime Minster Abe announced his decision to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election, he offered as his reason the wish to secure the electorate’s approval of his decision to postpone for 18 months the raising of the consumption tax from 8 to 10 per cent. Almost nobody believed that, however, and virtually all commentators agreed that his real motive was to entrench himself in power before support for his government, already commencing significant decline, reached critical levels. Re-elected, he would stand a reasonable chance of remaining in office until 2018. That would allow him to fulfil his grand plan, which is nothing less than the remaking of the Japanese state.

The three basic charters on which the state rests are the Constitution (1946), the Fundamental Law of Education (1947), and the San Francisco Treaty (1951). Commonly described as a “conservative,” Abe has followed a radical political career bent on revision of all of these. He would liquidate the post-war regime and replace it with a “new” and “beautiful” Japan.

During his first term (in 2006) Abe revised the Fundamental Law of Education to make compulsory the inculcation of patriotism, and by 2014 detailed rules to see this carried into practice were being implemented, moral and patriotic education had assumed a core part in school curriculum and history, geography, and civics text for high schools had been required to “reflect the government’s official position on contentious historical issues.”1 His second term agenda has focused on the constitution and the security relationship with the United States under the San Francisco Treaty. Unable to accomplish constitutional revision in the short-term, he simply adopted a fresh interpretation of the terms of the existing one, one that would allow the exercise of a collective right to self-defense on Japan’s part, in so doing opening the path to Japan’s future participation in US-led “coalitions of the willing.” He moves Japan’s defence and security systems closer to full integration with those of the US, commits to construct major new facilities for the latter in Okinawa, Guam and the Marianas, and for the Japanese self-Defense Forces on the Southwestern islands of Amami, Miyako, Ishigaki and Yonaguni, and he proceeds towards setting up Japanese versions of the CIA and the Marine Corps (an “amphibious rapid deployment brigade”). Much of this security agenda plainly pleases Washington even as his history and identity agenda alarms it. He may be seen as the personification of the contradictions of the post-war and post-San Francisco treaty system.

When Abe brushed off sustained and strong US advice to the contrary and on December 26, 2013 made his long-anticipated visit to Yasukuni, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo released a statement that “the United States is disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors.”2 The word “disappointed,” with its hint of stern father remonstrating with wayward son, attested to the inequality of the relationship. The State Department’s Daniel Russel also spoke of the “significant challenge” the United States faced in “helping Japan to deal with historical issues that create tensions, and even estrangement sometimes, with its neighbors,”3 and counseled “prudence and restraint in dealing with difficult historical issues.”4 Washington enjoined Abe to “take steps to address decades-old disagreements over forced prostitution at Japanese military brothels in World War II.”5 Then in Tokyo in April 2014, Obama admonished Abe in remarkably direct terms, telling him that it would be “a grave mistake” to allow the dispute with China (over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands) to deteriorate, as Abe showed every sign of doing.6

Ironically, therefore, while no postwar leader has done more than Abe to please the United States, beneath the surface of friendly cooperation, misunderstandings and resentments accumulate and Abe causes as much angst as satisfaction. His Japan is both solipsistic, intent on vindicating its troubled past at the cost of alienating its neighbors, and servile but also resentful towards the United States. The United States, for its part, persists in the overweening assumption that it is its prerogative to dictate and Japan’s obligation to obey.

The base “system” ratified under the San Francisco Treaty in 1951 restored sovereignty to Japan at the cost of splitting Okinawa from it under total military control, reserving the right to maintain bases elsewhere throughout the country wherever and for however long it felt necessary, and retaining fundamental levers of control over national government policy.7 That system has of course been modified from time to time – by the Security Treaty revision of 1960, the Japan-South Korea Normalization Treaty of 1965, Okinawan reversion and then the normalization and friendship treaties with China (1972 and 1978), and the complex of changes underway since 2005. But it has not fundamentally altered. As I have argued elsewhere, Japan’s qualified sovereignty of 1952, instead of being gradually “normalized,” steadily deepened into the “client state” relationship of the early 21st century.8 There were attempts to reduce or even reverse the path of dependency, notably under the Hosokawa and Hatoyama governments (1993-1994 and 2009-2010), but they were feeble, met fierce resistance, and failed. The two governments of Abe Shinzo, from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012, have pursued the reverse process – accelerated and deepened clientelism – and they have slowly transformed the body politic.9

Sixty-three years after the San Francisco Treaty, no government could stand in Tokyo that did not secure a general warrant of approval from Washington (as Hatoyama Yukio in particular found to his dismay). And while Abe learns from Hatoyama’s failure and strives mightily to fulfil the demands for stepped up military cooperation, which pleases Washington, on the other hand his agenda on history and memory defies and even outrages it, threatens the US agenda for East Asia as a whole, and causes Japan’s relations with all its neighbour states to be seriously fraught.

Clientelism, basically a repudiation of nationalism, is masked by nationalist cover, what Nakano Koichi refers to as “Air Nationalism.”10 To Washington, however, Abe’s “shrugging off the husk of the postwar state” and “recovering Japan’s independence”11 is an ambiguous agenda, implying the replacement of U.S.-imposed structures with “Japanese” (i.e., pre-1945 fascist and emperor-worshipping) ones.

While these contradictions persist and sharpen, Abe follows an unprecedented program of concentration of power over the levers of state: reaching into crucially important parallel organizations of state: Cabinet Legislative Bureau, National Security Council, the Bank of Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the national broadcaster, NHK. While he fills important positions with like-minded allies and associates, his cabinet is one of ideologues, with clear extremist tendencies, nearly all of them belonging to the organization known as Nihon Kaigi and therefore committed to the notion of Japan as (in the words of former Prime Minister Mori) “country of the gods centring on the emperor.” Apart from the stress on the emperor, Tenno, whom they insist should become sovereign genshu rather than symbol, they reject the Tokyo Tribunal (the International Military Tribunal for the Far East or IMTFE), deny the “Nanjing massacre” and the existence of the Comfort Women, call for moral and correct education, and insist on the “beautiful” Japan that was the subject of Abe’s 2006 book.12 It is the sort of organization that in a European context would be proscribed and membership itself treated as a crime. It is characteristic of Abe’s Japan that his “Yes-men” occupy crucial positions, none more so than Momii Katsuto appointed to head NHK late in 2013. In January 2014, Momii was clear as to his role:

“If government says right, who are we to say left?

The consolidation of consensus at the centre is matched by the virulence of the rejection of dissent and dissenters, and even of those who dare to seem different. More than under any previous government, the mood of intolerance, chauvinism and hostility to dissent spreads. In an atmosphere of ken-kan zo-chu (hatred of Korea and of China), dissenters are hounded and abused as hikokumin, kokuzoku or baikokudo (all being roughly translatable as traitor). The Asahi Shimbun, sometime bastion of liberalism, reels under massive, orchestrated assault, joined and licensed by Abe himself. Toxic waves of xenophobic abuse of China and Korea, speculation about the possibility of war, and “hate speech” vilification of Zainichi resident Koreans, help consolidate Abe’s support base and justify further militarization.

Most recently, Abe has centralized power with establishment of a National Security Council and adoption of a National Secrets Protection Law that prescribes draconian penalties for whistle-blowers and investigative journalists. He also took steps (on which below), at which his predecessors had balked, to enforce the construction of a new base for the Marine Corps on Okinawa. The revised version of the US-Japan Military Guidelines (1978, 1997) due before the end of 2014, was in the event postponed till after the election and is expected to articulate a clearer agenda for integration of both countries’ forces and their stepped up containment of China.

His agenda could be summarized as one of full military integration with the United States on an anti-China axis on the one hand and restoration of the fundamentals of the “beautiful Japan” he associates with his grandfather on the other. The final grand touch was to be a fundamentally revised or rewritten constitution, consolidating and extending the de facto “revision by interpretation” that he had adopted in July 2014. At a founding meeting in October 2014 of the “National Association to make a Beautiful Japan Constitution” (Utsukushii Nihon no kempo o tsukuru kokumin no kai), Abe’s adviser and associate, Eto Seiichi, remarked of the constitutional revision agenda “I feel that at last the final switch has been pressed.” 13

Elsewhere in Japan, few dare to challenge or oppose this radical program. With the opposition disarray, resistance is fragmented and minimal in the Diet. In one place only is there serious opposition - Okinawa. There, legal, political, military, constitutional and diplomatic issues of the Abe agenda are concentrated.

3. The Okinawa Problem

The Okinawa crisis is rooted in the decisions of 1951 and 1972, the first (the San Francisco Treaty) severing it from Japan as the war state to complement mainland Japan’s peace state, and the second to require that its “reversion” to Japan be done in such a way as to maintain the priority of war and military matters over all else. The consequent grim reality is that, sixty-two years after the San Francisco Treaty, US forces still occupy 20 per cent of the land of Okinawa Island and concentrate three-quarters of all US military presence in the country, and base authorities retain a sovereign authority little diminished from the time when the island was under direct US military rule.

A week in Okinawa during November 2014, spanning the gubernatorial election on the 16th, left this author with an overwhelming impression of the ruthless authoritarianism of the Japanese state on the one hand, and of the determined, non-violent, democratic resistance of the Okinawan people on the other. The contradiction was never so manifest as in the outcome of the 16 November election, in which the Okinawan people delivered a massive majority to the anti-base construction candidate for Governor, Onaga Takeshi, thereby declaring in effect that Okinawa would not allow construction to go ahead on the new base for the US Marine Corps on Oura Bay.

In an election focussed on national and base issues to a degree unmatched by any previous, incumbent Nakaima Hirokazu promised “go ahead” because Henoko construction was the only way (and “extremely realistic”) to achieve the reversion of Futenma base land to the City of Ginowan.14 His main challenger, Onaga Takeshi, promised instead to do all in his power to stop it. A third candidate, Shimoji Mikio, would conduct a plebiscite to clarify prefectural opinion, and a fourth, Kina Shokichi, would summarily order it stopped. Base opponent Onaga won by an unprecedented majority of over 100,000 votes (380,820 to Nakaima’s 261,076) with Shimoji and Kina getting just 69,447 and 7,821 respectively.15 It was a resounding “No” to the national government’s Okinawan agenda.

At the Onaga headquarters that night the declaration of the poll at 8 p.m. was followed less than one minute later by announcement of the result, so clear had been the evidence of the exit polls. Joy and relief were unconfined in many gatherings across the prefecture, especially at the Henoko tent headquarters of the opposition movement and at the sit-in outside the gate of Camp Schwab marine camp. After 18 years of struggle, the people could feel, beyond their fatigue, that they had achieved a major breakthrough. If justice and democracy meant anything, they reasoned, then surely now the Japanese state would concede that the will of the Okinawan people was clear beyond a shadow of doubt and therefore abandon the project to impose upon them one more massive military installation.

They did not have long to wait for an answer. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, who even beforehand had insisted that Okinawan opinion was irrelevant,16 confronted by the outcome simply repeated that the die was cast, the procedures prescribed by law had been met and the government would proceed “shukushuku to” (solemnly) with construction.17 Preparatory boring survey works that had been suspended for two months during the lead-up to the election were quickly resumed. Joy and hope gave way to anger as riot police seized and manhandled protesters outside the Camp Schwab gate and on the adjacent sea and dragged them away.

But then, suddenly and without explanation and just as the reclamation proper was expected to commence, the offensive stopped. 18 The Abe government, having decided to dissolve the lower house and call a national general election, evidently felt that images of the crushing of a popular mass movement would not sit well with the image to be projected for election purposes. High noon had simply been pushed back, however. The apparently irresistible force of the Abe government continued to confront the immovable object of the Okinawan people.

Okinawa has seen many crises in the 135 years since first being, forcibly, incorporated into the Japanese state, but none match the present, which dates in particular to the violent assault by three US servicemen on a 12 year-old Okinawan schoolgirl in 1995. In the immediate aftermath of the outpouring of Okinawan anger over this, the US side was open to consideration of withdrawal of the Marine Corps but the Japanese government insisted that, at all costs, the Marines must remain.19 They could withdraw from Futenma, but Japan would build a much grander and more comprehensive military facility for them at Henoko in Northern Okinawa. In oral testimony that he recorded in 2004, then Ambassador Walter Mondale gave important witness on this. He said that, following the crisis over the child rape, the US had been prepared to consider drastic steps including withdrawal of the Marines from Okinawa but that the government of Japan resisted. The Marines must stay, it said, and they must stay in Okinawa.20 As Defense Minister Morimoto Satoshi put it at the very end of the DPJ government (in December 2012), there is no military reason for them to be in Okinawa. The reasons are political, i.e., no other part of Japan would have them.21

Henoko: Abe’s “Shock and Awe”

The undisputed objective of all Japanese governments since then, save Hatoyama’s, has been the same: to retain the Marines on Okinawa, and to persuade them to stay by offering to provide and pay for the best possible facilities at the major new base to be constructed at Henoko. Originally referred to as a heliport, it grew and grew, into today’s project to reclaim 160 hectares of sea fronting Henoko Bay to the east and Oura Bay to the west, imposing on it a mass of concrete towering 10 metres above the sea and featuring two 1,800 metre runways and a deep-sea 272 meter-long dock. This so-called Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF), a land-sea-air base with its own deep-water port. was designed to serve through the 21st century as the largest concentration of land, sea, and air military power in East Asia.

Henoko, the hamlet chosen for this project, happens to be one of the most bio-diverse and spectacularly beautiful coastal zones in all Japan, one that its Ministry of the Environment wants to promote as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It hosts a cornucopia of life forms from blue—and many other species of—coral (with the countless microorganisms to which they are host) through crustaceans, sea cucumbers and seaweeds and hundreds of species of shrimp, snail, fish, tortoise, snake and mammal. Many are rare or endangered, and strictly protected, none more so than the critically endangered dugong.

US amphibious vehicles take to the sea at Henoko, 9:45 am on 8 December 2014 (Photo: Ryukyu shimpo,8 December 2014)

On the eve of the gubernatorial election in November 2014, a coalition of 19 Japanese scientific organizations, including the 4000-member Japan Ecological Society, issued an extraordinary statement calling for the environmental impact study of Oura Bay to be reopened so that the evidently global “hotspot” of biodiversity be better understood and appropriately protected.22 The Department of Defense’s Environmental Impact study found 5334 species, of which 262 were under threat of extinction, but it had not adequately recognized the complex tapestry of life that linked the mangrove river-mouth, tidal wetlands, sand, mud, coral, and sea-grass ecologies of the Bay. It had reckoned that dugongs only rarely transited the waters under the shadow of construction, whereas a subsequent, two month survey in 2014 found over 100 dugong feeding right in the middle of the planned reclamation zone.

On the very day, 19 November, that the National Diet adopted a special law to address the problem of Chinese fishing boats depredations of the coral in the seas around the Ogasawara Islands, the same government itself began to destroy the coral of Oura Bay.

From 1996 (when the initial decision to shift Futenma to Henoko was made) to 2013, popular resistance forces in Okinawa successfully blocked the FRF agenda. For the last three years of that period, the Hatoyama promise of “at least not within Okinawa” (saitei demo kengai) helped precipitate the shift by local governing authorities, bringing about a deep Okinawan consensus that Henoko must be saved. The opposition included majority opinion in the society (according to repeated surveys), the Governor, Prefectural and City Assemblies, prefectural chapters of the major national political parties (Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito), and the two main newspapers. In the lead up to the November 2014 election, opposition to any such FRF was running at 74 per cent late April) rising to over 80 per cent in late August, the highest ever recorded.23

Okinawan unity was undoubtedly weakened by the Hatoyama surrender of May 2010, and put under tremendous further pressure with the advent of the second Abe government at the end of 2012. It took Abe almost a year of concentrated pressure to break the already weakened Okinawan unity. First the five Okinawan LDP Members of the Diet surrendered, then the prefectural chapter of the LDP itself, and eventually, late in December, Governor Nakaima too, reversing his own and his party’s kengai isetsu stand adopted to win election in 2010 and accepting the Henoko design. This series of events marked a victory, however shameful, for the Abe government, but it caused an anger in Okinawa that has persisted ever since.

Six months later (2 July) just over half of Oura Bay was declared off limits and preliminary survey works begun.24 By mobilizing an armada of ships under the Coastguard to enforce the works, the Abe government hoped to display such shock and awe as to sow Okinawa with impotence and despair. It reminded them of nothing so much as the previous armada, the American one that launched that attack on Okinawa in the summer of 1945. This time Tokyo, the national government, was attacking.

The Okinawa taimusu editorialized that

“Throughout world history the pattern of sovereign countries has been to make residents of their colonies feel their powerlessness by eliminating resistance in advance.”25

The Abe government’s democratic façade slipped further as it stepped up the intimidation and violence. On 20 November, 85 year old Shimabukuro Fumiko was carried off to hospital from the Camp Schwab protest gathering, suffering suspected head injury.26 On the following day journalists from the Okinawan daily Ryukyu shimpo were manhandled, abused and forcibly removed from the site and protesting canoeists and kayakers were intimidated and driven off, after being held for varying periods.27 The Government in Tokyo, together with its agents, the Coastguard and the Riot Police, treat the people of Okinawa as the enemy.28

Demonstrators forcibly removed from gate of Camp Schwab, 19 November 2014 (Okinawa taimusu)

The violence of the state is aided and abetted by mass opinion in mainland Japan and especially by the national media, which scarcely reports such events. The national broadcaster, NHK, appears to hold fast to the principle enunciated by its head: defending the position of the government. By contrast the Okinawan media – its two daily newspapers and its television channels – are freer and more vigorous than any elsewhere in Japan. The Ryukyu shimpo editorial of 18 August 2014 wrote:

“As far as we know, the government has never unleashed such reckless disregard of the will of the people, as we have seen at Henoko. … We wonder if there has ever been a case like this, where the government has trampled on the will of the overwhelming majority of people in the prefecture elsewhere in Japan. This action by the government evokes memories of the crackdown against peasants during the Edo period. … This is barbaric behaviour by the government, and it is shameful if the international community just stands by.”29

For that reason governments in Tokyo have long feared and attempted to silence them.30 No media is as forthright as Okinawa’s in its critique of today’s Abe government. The question they ask in the editorial quoted above)

“Who are outlaws of the sea, the residents or the coast guard?”

has large and uncomfortable implications.

The Gubernatorial Election and the Old Regime – Nakaima Hirokazu

Fundamentally, Nakaima was unable to overcome the distrust caused by his deal with Prime Minister Abe in December 2013, when, without explanation, he abandoned his political pledge of 2010 (repeated many times thereafter) of “Futenma replacement outside Okinawa” (kengai isetsu). His persona suffered a blow from which it would not easily recover. Soon afterwards, he was denounced by the Prefectural Assembly, which called for his resignation (as did many city and town Assemblies). Ignoring such censure and presenting himself for re-election in October 2014, he issued a kind of apology to “all Okinawans” insisting that his consent to the reclamation had been a “painful” but in effect inescapable decision and that he deeply regretted the loss of much of Oura Bay to the base project. 31 It was a desperate but unsuccessful ploy to attempt to justify what too many people saw as the sell-out of the prefecture to the power and money-brokers of Tokyo. Even the unqualified support of the two most powerful organizations in the country – the government and the Liberal Democratic Party (whose leading figures all joined him at various times on the hustings) – could not regain for Nakaima the trust he had lost a year earlier.

Nakaima Hirokazu, b. 1939, Naha City, graduate Tokyo Institute of Technology, official of Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) from 1961, Deputy Governor Okinawa from 1990, Governor, 2006-2014

In the November 2014 election campaign, few believed his core promise, the one he said he had extracted from Prime Minister Abe of Futenma “reversion within 5 years.” The formal bilateral (US-Japan) agreement on the issue in April 2013 stipulated reversion by “at earliest, 2022.”32 When Abe and other ministers in April 2014 communicated to the US side the Okinawan “request” that this be altered to 2019,33 Marine Corps commander John Wissler explicitly ruled it out. Withdrawal from Futenma was not on the cards until troops could be transferred to the newly built facility at Henoko.34 The citizens of Ginowan would have to live with the danger and the nuisance of hosting a major base in the middle of their city for at least eight, not five years, and almost certainly much longer. At a joint ministerial meeting in Tokyo on 2 October 2014 senior US officials (of Defense and State) dismissed Nakaima’s pledge as “pipedream.”35 Yet this seemed to have no effect whatever on the campaign, which retained the “Futenma return” pledge at its centre.

Furthermore, however much he and the Abe government might dangle the picture of economic benefits to flow in return for submission on the base issue, the polls showed that it was not economics but the base question that was uppermost in most people’s minds. 36 Base-related revenues had shrunk steadily in significance for Okinawa, from circa 15 percent at reversion to less than 5 per cent now, and the parcels of land that had been returned were yielding far greater economic benefits than these that remained occupied by the bases.

In previous elections the LDP had boasted that it enjoyed the thickest pipe for economic linkages with the national government and could therefore be relied on to bring maximum economic benefits, but that had now worn thin. Successive conservative regimes in Okinawa had brought no change to the statistical facts that the prefecture ranked bottom in the country in terms of per capita income, highest in terms of unemployment, and No 1 or No 2 in terms of absolute poverty, proportion of working poor, and of irregular workers in the workforce. The electorate was disinclined as a result to make any new act of faith in Nakaima.

People also noted that, while Nakaima repeatedly stressed the almost certainly empty promise of the early return of Futenma, he had little or nothing to say on the massive new base whose initial construction he had licensed or to the militarization gradually spreading around Oura Bay because of it. Four days before departing from office (on 10 December 2014) Nakaima delivered his final insult to the people who had repeatedly shown their lack of confidence in him. He approved two out of three applications by the Okinawa Defense Bureau for amendments to the Henoko reclamation plan that were designed to change the original design so as to block any possible intervention by Nago City (which resolutely opposes construction). He did so from deep within the corridors of the Prefectural Office, avoiding explanation or justification.37

The Election and the New Regime – Onaga Takeshi and the Birth of “All Okinawa”

Decades of seething Okinawan discontent brought to the fore late in 2014 an unlikely figure to play a key role in its next phase. Onaga Takeshi had built his career as a conservative politician and core figure in the LDP, campaign manager, no less, for Nakaima Hirokazu in the 2010 gubernatorial election. His appeal to the anti-Henoko Okinawan mass sentiment is based on his “re-birth” as an avatar of “All-Okinawa” identity politics, transcending the categories of conservative and progressive. It was he who led the January 2013 prefectural delegation, Kempakusho, many of its members staunchly conservative, to Tokyo to demand unconditional closure and return of Futenma and withdrawal of the MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) Marine Corps aircraft, thereby in effect setting the keynote of today’s confrontation. Facing the 2014 election, he insisted that “identity transcends ideology” and pledged to do everything within his power to implement the Kempakusho demands.

Onaga Takeshi, b. 1950, Naha City, graduated Hosei University 1975, member of Naha City Assembly from 1985, and of Okinawan Prefectural Assembly from 1992, Mayor of Naha 2000-2014, Governor of Okinawa 2014-.

These Kempakusho events and their ongoing sequel have had the effect of seriously splitting the Okinawan conservative camp, for the first time in Okinawan history. Many either resigned or were expelled from the LDP for refusal to accept its discipline. Ironically it was they who, refusing to follow Nakaima, stood by the party’s 2010 pledge, transferring their loyalty to Onaga in order to remain consistent. New Komeito support had also been crucial to conservative candidates in previous elections and after its last minute plea to Nakaima in December 2013 to maintain his “kengai isetsu” stance was brushed aside, it instructed its members to abandon their bloc support for Nakaima and vote according to their consciences. Loss of that support was a major blow to Nakaima in the November election,.

As for the business sector, while many, especially those with significant construction industry interests, remained loyal to Nakaima, a significant group, headed by leading figures in the hotel, tourism, retail and food industries, moved instead to support Onaga.38 The meeting in Naha in August, which led to the invitation from 1,450 business and economic leaders to urge Onaga to stand, the consensus was that US bases were “nothing but an obstacle to development” and that Okinawa needed a leader who transcended left and right. One prominent figure, Kanehide Group’s Goya Morimasa said “The government is likely to wield money and power in this election but it cannot crush voices of the people. This is an election that goes to the identity of Okinawa.”39 Later, as the Onaga victory was announced in Onaga headquarters, it was another of this group,Taira Chokei, CEO of the Kariyushi hotels Group, who rose to say that, “We Okinawans have reclaimed our pride and our dignity.”40

As Onaga’s campaign developed in 2014 his “All Okinawa” message became increasingly forthright.41 His core campaign pledge “to stop construction using every means at my disposal”42 to prevent Henoko being constructed and to rid Okinawa of the Osprey43 was unambiguous. To a Henoko beach-front mass protest meeting in October 2014, before some 5,500 people, he declared his unequivocal commitment to “zettai ni soshi” (absolutely put a stop to) base construction.44 The bases, he declared (echoing business leaders Taira and Goya), were the “biggest obstacles to Okinawan development.”45

Having begun his campaign with a visit to the front lines of struggle at Henoko, Onaga followed his victory just two days later by repeating that gesture, declaring his solidarity and determination to stop the works. By these acts, more than anything, he personified a new Okinawan politics beyond the fixed division into conservative-progressive categories that marked the long Cold War. In forging this path, he seemed to gain widespread trust and support from both the pre-existing camps. He was formally endorsed by the Social Democratic Party, Japan Communist Party, Okinawan Social Mass Party. People’s Life Party and the Okinawan Prefectural Citizens’ Network, but he also enjoyed wide support from across the political spectrum. Communists and conservatives had certainly never before stood together anywhere in Japan on a major platform. Now in Okinawa they do.

Beyond Base Dependence?

It means that Okinawa now has a Governor who enjoys an extraordinary level of popular support to stop the construction works at Henoko, cancel all outstanding tenders related to the project, remove structures built on the bay since July 2014 and restore Oura bay, and stop the construction of the “Osprey” bases throughout the Yambaru forest (especially in the hamlet of Takae). As the result was announced, Onaga supporters, not only in Naha but elsewhere and especially in the North, in the tents of the resistance at Henoko, Takae, and along the fence outside Camp Schwab, rejoiced. The keynote of the campaign that had plainly resonated with the people of Okinawa was the promise of “all-Okinawa,” transcending “left” and “right,” the priority to “identity over ideology.” Whether or not such an essentially moral politics can be viable in the long term, in the short term the contradiction between Okinawa and the nation state of Japan is so overwhelming that it is widely supported.

What in broad theoretical terms the election outcome signifies will take time to become clear. Some – such as University of the Ryukyu’s Shimabukuro Jun – thought it marked a structural transition, a transcendence of the long-established “Okinawa Development System” What Shimabukuro referred to as “base-tied development, (Okinawa shinko taisei) was a specific form of interest politics balancing base concentration and compensatory fiscal policies.46 It might be described as a “lesser” Client State within the “greater” Japanese Client State. Whether such an analysis is correct only time will tell, but for sure the victory by a massive margin of a candidate who presented himself as the embodiment of the negation of base-dependence suggests it might be. If so, Kasumigaseki (location of the Japanese government in Tokyo) has good reason to be worried. It had believed Okinawans were greedy and venal and could always be bought off. If that was no longer (or perhaps actually never had been) the case, how then to control them?

To crush Okinawan protesters by force would carry the risk of being seen around the world as brutal and anti-democratic, and it would threaten the image Abe had been creating before the UN and other global bodies of a commitment to “positive pacifism” and the “rule of law.”47

And yet the strength of that dependent syndrome was not to be altogether denied. It was exemplified on the eve of the election by the full page advertisement carried in both Okinawan dailies on 14 November in which a remarkable 27 of the 41 heads of Okinawan local government bodies declared their “doubt” (i.e., rejection) of Kempakusho and their support for Nakaima.48 Since all 41 had declared their support for Kempakusho in January 2013, it was astonishing to see a large majority now recanting, apparently. The pressure applied to exact submission on such a scale can only be imagined. It follows the submission enacted in late 2013 from LDP Dietmembers, party branches and Governor Nakaima. However, it might not have meant quite what it seemed. The Okinawa Taimusu, one of the papers that carried the paid advertisement, also reported in that very same issue its own survey and analysis of local government heads. It found 19, not 28, belonging to the Nakaima camp, and when it posed a specific question on attitudes to the Henoko construction project, it found only four who supported it.49

In noting the overwhelming nature of the Onaga November electoral victory, however, it is necessary to enter two caveats. First, that the voting rate was just 64.15 per cent. It was more than three points higher than in 2010, but it still meant that 36 per cent of Okinawans did not cast a vote at all. Second, exit polls indicated that support for Onaga was strongest among the older generation, while among Okinawans in their 20’s support for Nakaima and Onaga was roughly even, suggesting that commitment to the anti-base cause might be weakening over time.50

Nevertheless, the Okinawan people as of December 2014 appear united to an unprecedented degree under their new Governor, rejuvenated, and more determined than ever not to yield. It remains to be seen how Onaga will interpret his own words “every means at my disposal” that he says he will deploy to stop the works. He has said that he will first investigate the process of decision-making to identity flaws in the legal process that would warrant its cancelation, but adds even if such flaws are not found, he would stick to his commitment and stop the works. Late in November it was reported that Onaga was planning an “All Okinawa” delegation to press the anti-base construction cause in Washington.

As for Prime Minister Abe, it remained to be seen whether he would deploy “every means” at his disposal. In the short-term, the calling of the Lower House election for 14 December meant a temporary Okinawan “ceasefire,” but that could not last. Would he, for example, freeze or cancel the special subsidy he had promised Governor Nakaima in December 2013 to gain his cooperation – 350 billion yen (roughly $3.5 billion) in 2014 and continuing at the level of at least 300 billion each year to 2021? He might, but to do so would be to expose their December 2013 bargain – subsidy for base consent – and so further outrage Okinawans. Otherwise, he could deploy further the forces of the state (Riot Police, Coastguard, and potentially the Maritime Self Defense Forces) to enforce the works against a now revitalized, prefecture-wide opposition. However, thus far the intense efforts of the Government of Japan, especially under Abe for the past 2 years but in effect ever since the Hatoyama government of 2009-2010, had strengthened, rather than weakened, the Okinawan movement and its challenge to the Government of Japan has never been greater.

If the Abe government can be confident that the national media will continue to turn a blind and complicit eye upon its attempts to conquer Okinawa, and that mainland peace and anti-military movements will not come to Okinawa’s aid in any significant measure, it might yet take the risk of simply bringing Okinawa to heel by force. When then LDP party chief Ishiba Shigeru wrote in his blog on 29 November 2013 that after all there was little difference in substance between vociferous demonstrators and terrorists, he likely spoke the sentiment of the Abe government as a whole.

4. The Yonaguni Problem

One day after the Onaga victory, far from the spotlight that surrounded those events, another drama was being enacted in the remote frontier island of Yonaguni. Though scarcely reported either in the rest of Japan or elsewhere, it too had the potential to shake the plans of major world governments to their foundation and to have a profound effect on the surrounding East China Sea.

Okinawa’s outlying islands, as much “offshore” from Taiwan and East China in the East China Sea as from Japan, have been subject to a dramatic increase in pressure to “host” military facilities, though in this case, Japanese, or Self-Defense Force, rather than US facilities. Throughout the Cold War, this 600 kilometre chain of Japanese islands stretching down through the East China Sea remained peaceful and stable, with no significant military presence despite being on a much contested frontier. Yonaguni, far from the country’s metropolitan centers, is a small island, possible to walk around in a day or so, at its closest point around 110 kilometres from the shore of Taiwan and just 370 kilometres from the East China coastal city of Foochow, but 520 kilometres from the Okinawan capital of Naha and 2,000 kilometres from the national capital of Tokyo. Significantly, it is a mere 150 kilometres from the uninhabited, but contested, Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. 51 It was populated half a century ago by over 10,000 people but now a mere 1,500.

The island has long relied on just two policemen, a hand gun apiece, to keep order, and there may be few places in the country where policing is less required. It is true, however, that accompanying the Senkaku/Diaoyu island crisis that rose sharply from 2010, the Japan-China relationship has generated across Japan a widespread fear and hostility towards China that helps justify the militarization of the frontier islands. Somewhat surprisingly, because there is minimal sense in Okinawa of any “China threat” and a strong social memory of half a millennium of close and friendly pre-modern contact with China, an April 2014 opinion poll found ninety percent of Okinawans reporting “bad” feelings towards China (virtually the same figure as had been found in a mainland Japan survey in mid-2013) and around 50 percent who thought a military clash (i.e., war) lay ahead.52

In the midst of a booming region, Yonaguni suffers population attrition and economic decline because of the lack of direct transport or communications links with either Taiwan or China. It formulated (2005) a “Vision” for a future based on regional cooperation and open doors, but Tokyo forbade it. Following a US naval intelligence-gathering visit to the island (under false pretences) in 2007, a different, even opposite idea of a military centred future began to gather attention.53 A petition to urge a base presence was organized by a local “Defense Association” and drew 514 signatures, and the Yonaguni mayor, Hokama Shukichi, in June 2009 approached the Ministry of Defense and the Ground Self-Defense Forces to suggest they set up a base on the island. As tensions over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands (for administrative purposes part of the Okinawan Yaeyama Island group) rose from 2010, the proposal drew attention. The Defense Guidelines of 2010 referred to the substantial reinforcement of an SDF presence on the frontier islands. Late in 2012, the Democratic Party government declared defense of those islands, including Yonaguni, “the highest priority.” A token 50-man Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) contingent grew to 150,54 in a “coastal surveillance” unit that would operate radar observation of adjacent seas and skies. The opposition was slow to stir, but in 2011, 556 people, roughly 46 per cent of the electorate (and marginally more than had signed the initial petition to invite the SDF), signed a petition seeking cancelation of the invitation. When that had no effect, it then, in 2012, organized a petition calling for a local plebiscite on the issue. Despite attracting 544 signatures, it too had no effect because the City Assembly voted 3:2 to reject it.

The anti-base position rested on a fundamental aversion for militarisation, in however initially qualified a way. Any military presence, once established, could only grow, feeding the cross-sea confrontation and gradually changing the character of the island and widening the painful splits it had already caused in its close-knit community. It was also feared that vulnerable island fauna and flora would suffer. The island is known to be home to 52 threatened or endangered plant and animal species, including the Yonaguni Merubane Kuwagata (the island’s distinctive stag beetle).55 And the high-powered electro-magnetic waves that were to be directed from the prospective base over the township, school, and kindergarten of Kubura, 24 hours a day, caused fears for the unknown health consequences. Asked about this latter in the Upper House of the Diet in November 2014, Prime Minister Abe offered his assurances but declined on grounds of military secrecy to reveal the strength of the radar waves.56

Mayor Hokama, for his part, appealed to the island to support the SDF base proposal not because of any reference to “China threat” or possible military actions but as an economic boost to the flagging island’s economy. In his re-election campaign in 2013, ignoring the evidence of a deep split in the island community, Hokama had little to say on the base issue, concentrating instead on promises of free school lunches, a waste incinerator, town water and sewerage systems, a sports ground, and optical fibre internet connections. Meanwhile, he haggled with the government in Tokyo over the price to be paid for the island’s cooperation. To secure the consent of the holders of the existing private lease over the desired site (Minami Bokujo or South Ranch) he succeeded in persuading Tokyo to double its initial offer, from 1.1 billion yen to 2.4 billion yen (roughly $25 million, a huge sum for the island), with an annual “rental” fee of 150 million yen (Hokama ruffled Tokyo feathers by his initial reference to this as a “nuisance fee”). 57 He claimed that the arrival of a detachment of well-paid and mostly young soldiers would constitute a significant economic boost, invigorating the island.58

On 14 April 2013, a delegation of islanders opposed to the base project journeyed to Naha to protest to Department of Defense officials but the contract was signed in June 2013 and Hokama re-elected, by the narrowest of margins (553:506) in August. Despite efforts to soften local opposition – such as the despatch of the Ground Self Defense Force band to perform on the island in February 2014 – when the Minister for Defense, Onodera Itsunori, arrived from Tokyo to take part in the “Commencement of Works” ceremony on 19 April 2014 he faced a rowdy and hostile demonstration.

As works commenced to level and contour the site for construction, however, the political balance of the island again shifted following a local election in September 2014. On 17 November a resolution to canvas island opinion by a referendum on the base issue (in effect the same as had been narrowly rejected two years earlier) was adopted, 3:2.59 It provided for the vote to be held within 60 days, with all island residents of middle school and above enjoying right to vote.60 Ten days later the mayor called for a “reconsideration” on grounds of the impropriety of middle school children (and permanent resident foreigners) being allowed to vote. Procedurally, a “reconsideration” vote requires a two-thirds (rather than simple) majority and was thus thought likely to fail. However, with the two governing party representatives absenting themselves, the vote was in fact confirmed, 3:0.61 While the political wheels to call the project into question and ultimately to cancel it and reclaim the site were thus slowly turning, bulldozers and trucks at the site stepped up their tempo of works to try to make them irreversible.

Yonaguni SDF Base Construction Works, December 2014 (Photo: Sato Jun)

If this project were to proceed, soldiers would march in at the beginning of 2016. If that happened, it would be the first new military base to be constructed in Okinawa since reversion to Japan in 1972 and since “inter-operability” is the principle regularly invoked in recent exchanges between Japan and the United States, the fact of its being “Japanese” would likely be nominal only.

From 2016, if the 150-man unit arrives and its radar facilities are switched on, islanders can be sure that they will occupy a place on the Chinese People’s Army missile target list. As Okinawa in 1945 constituted the “sacrificial stones” for defence of mainland Japan, so Yonaguni Islanders (and Okinawans in general) would know that in any future clash between Japan and China they would be the first victims. Defence, in 2014 as in 1945, was concerned with Japan’s core, its mainland, not Okinawa and least of all Yonaguni.

Furthermore, the military logic of such surveillance from Yonaguni is dubious since Chinese ships passing from the East China Sea to the Pacific naturally prefer the route through international waters in the Miyako strait between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island (some hundred or so kilometres to the northeast). Newspaper reports cited the view held in the other Japanese SDF services (Air and Maritime) that the real reasons on the part of the GSDF for deployment to Yonaguni were “turf” considerations, to compensate for the loss of role in Hokkaido where, through the Cold War, they prepared for a putative land attack by Soviet forces.62 In the post-Cold War, post-War on Terror era, the South-West was clearly the growth area for Japan’s military, and both Air and Maritime forces had already assured themselves of a major role. Yonaguni was the Ground force’s chance. A similar move into the much larger Ishigaki Island, where the newly re-elected conservative mayor is known to be supportive of such stationing and also welcoming of Maritime SDF visits, was also expected to follow shortly.63

Yonaguni, Adjacent to the Base Site, 2011 (Photo: Shiba Hiromoto)

As Yonaguni Island goes to the polls, most likely late in December 2014, to formulate its collective view of the projected SDF military base, opponents of the project were undoubtedly heartened by the election of Onaga Takeshi as Okinawan Governor. Onaga had not expressed any view on the Yonaguni base project but it clearly ran against the general thrust of his core policies: return Futennma, stop Henoko and remove Osprey. On Yonaguni Island as elsewhere in the prefecture, the Onaga election therefore gave hope to those who opposed what they saw as the rush to militarize. Attention on Yonaguni turned again to the 2005 agenda of an East Asian or East China Sea community. Islanders drew Onaga’s attention to the idea of opening a regular ferry service to link Yonaguni Island to Taiwan (a two to two and a half hour journey by hydrofoil). It was a simple step but one that would radically transform life on the island.64 Beyond that, what they sought was the basic democratic right to a say in determining their own future, and Onaga could not but be supportive. Yonaguni has to be added to the agenda on which he must confront the national government.

The speed with which the Abe government has moved on Yonaguni during the two years to date of its second term may be seen as an index of its anxiety to prevent the island developing into a prolonged standoff such as at Henoko, an Okinawan second, or third, after Takae, front.

5. Prospect

Japan goes to the polls on 14 December. Nominally the people are to judge the Abe government’s decision to postpone the raising of the consumption tax (and generally to make a judgement on “Abenomics”). However, serious political choice is at a minimum because of the weak and fragmented state of the opposition and the mainland media complicity in framing the issue in Abe’s terms, as narrowly economic. Even on those terms, however, levels of satisfaction with the government’s economic performance are sliding, GDP has begun to shrink and the benefits from the rises in stock prices and a low yen exchange rate are concentrated on a narrow social strata, while the majority struggle under neo-liberal economic policies that continue to replace regular jobs with part-time, temporary, or non-regular ones (now accounting for 19 million people of 38 per cent of the labour force), reduce salaries and erode the once model health and welfare systems. Other crucial but electorally neglected questions include the Abe intention to resume nuclear power generation and nuclear export promotion, and to engage Japan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the prospect of radical changes to the agriculture, health, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Above all, the Abe challenge to the postwar state, and his determination to radically revise the constitution (noted in part one of this essay) are scarcely addressed in the current campaign, though it is certain they will assume very great importance once the election is out of the way.

While mainland Japanese people thus appear inclined to issue a blank check over their future to the Abe government, Okinawa (including Yonaguni Island) differ. An entire prefecture now says “No” (on large matters of security, environment, and indeed democracy) to the authorities of the national government and to the leader of the “free world” across the ocean. Okinawa (and Yonaguni) challenge the Abe government’s entrenched priority to the military and struggle to articulate a path of enhanced autonomy and closer cooperation with neighbour states in an open border frame of regional cooperation.

This direction was described some years ago in the Ryukyu shimpo in these terms,

“the strength of the people opens a new history … changing the kind of foreign relations and security in which the military enjoys priority over human rights and environment.”65

Once the election is over, Okinawans gird their loins for a renewed, perhaps stepped-up, Abe assault. It will be (if or when it happens) upon a prefecture more united than ever, with a Governor who seems determined to stand with the people and who is mulling possible appeal to the United Nations. It seems barely credible that the Japanese state, which incorporated Ryukyu/Okinawa uniquely in the 19th century as an act of punishment, might resort to the same violence, again against Okinawa, in the 21st century. But such a trajectory looks almost inescapable. The “Okinawa problem” is the biggest crisis for Japan and the US-Japan security relationship since the inauguration of the San Francisco Treaty system 62 years ago. It deserves the close attention of both Japan and the world.

Gavan McCormack is emeritus professor of Australian National University, editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, author of many books and articles, including at this site (see index). His most recent books are: Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (with Satoko Oka Norimatsu), Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, Japanese and Korean editions from Horitsu Bunkasha and Changbi in 2013 and 2014 respectively) and Tenkanki no Nihon e – ‘pakkusu amerikana’ ka ‘pakkusu ajia’ ka (with John W. Dower), NHK Bukkusu, 2014 (in Japanese).

This is a revised and expanded version of a lecture given at International Christian University, Tokyo, Dong-A University, Fusan, and Seoul National University, Seoul, in November 2014.

Recommended citation: Gavan McCormack, "The End of the Postwar? The Abe Government, Okinawa, and Yonaguni Island", The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 49, No. 3, December 8, 2014.

1 Justin McCurry, “Japan: teachers to call Senkaku and Takeshima Islands Japanese territory,” The Guardian, January 29 2014; Kyodo, “History texts to get an official spin,” Japan Times, November 14 2013.

2 “Statement on Prime Minister Abe’s December 26 Visit to Yasukuni,” Press release, US Embassy, Tokyo, Japan.

3 Russel was serving as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Yuka Hayashi, “US seeks Abe assurance he won’t visit war shrine,” Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2014.)

4 Daniel R. Russel, testimony, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, March 4, 2014.

5 Yuka Hayashi, Wall Street Journal, cit.

6 “Obama shi hatsugen de goyaku,” Ryukyu shimpo, 27 April 2014.

7 See, inter alia, Gavan McCormack, “The San Francisco Treaty at Sixty—The Okinawa Angle,” in Kimie Hara, ed, The San Francisco System and Its Legacies: Transformation and Historical Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific, 2014

8 Client State: Japan in the American Embrace, London and New York, Verso, 2007. “Zokkoku mondai – Beikoku no hoyo to higashi Ajia de no koritsu,” in Magosaki Ukeru and Kimura Akira, eds, Owaranai “senryo”, Kyoto, Horitsu bunkasha, 2013, pp. 18-38.

9 “Japan’s “Positive Pacifism”: Issues of Historical Memory in Contemporary Foreign Policy,” Brown Journal of World Affairs (Brown University, Watson Institute for International Studies), Vol. XX, issue 2, spring-summer 2014, pp. 73-92.

10 Nakano Koichi, “Neoribe jidai no ea nashonarizumu,” Saraba dokusaisha, kensho, boso suru Abe seiken," Shukan kinyobi, rinji zokan, 17 April 2014, pp. 8-10.

11 A recurrent Abe theme. See: “Hatsugen goroku – shugiin giin Abe Shinzo koshiki saito.”

12 One 2014 study notes that, apart from its overwhelming representation in the Abe cabinet, Nihon Kaigi had some 35,000 members in 228 branches, including 229 Dietmembers and over 1,700 members of local district assemblies. “Abe seiken o kanzen shihai suru ‘Nihon kaigi’ no shotai,” Friday, 22-29 August 2014. Other studies vary slightly some of those figures but not the overall weight. The number of Dietmembers is given at 231 and 47 prefectural branches are noted in “Abe naikaku takaha giren kara 15 nin,” Asahi shimbun, 6 September 2014, and Tokyo shimbun gives the figure of 289 Dietmembers according to “Nihon saidai no uyoku soshiki ‘Nihonkaigi’ o kensho suru,” 31 July 2014).

13 “Kokumin tohyo jitsugen e kaikenha no ugoki kappatsuteki,” Asahi shimbun, 12 November 2014. The powerfully backed new organization plans to collect 10 million signatures to back its campaign for revision by 2016, i.e., within one year and 8 months).

14 “Futenma soki henkan o chijisen de Nakaima shi ga koyaku happyo,” Ryukyu shimpo, 19 October 2014.

15 Nakaima won with 335,000 votes in 2010.

16“Henoko chushi 80% “eikyo nai’ Suga kanbochokan kaiken, honshi seron chosa, Ryukyu shimpo, 26 August 2014.

17 “Henoko isetsu ‘shukushuku to susumeru’ Onaga shi tosen ni kambo chokan,” Ryukyu shimpo, 17 November 2014.

18 “Umetate 22 nichi chakushu,” Okinawa taimusu, 20 November 2014.

19 See evidence of opinions of Walter Mondale (then US ambassador to Japan), William Perry (then Defense Secretary), and Joseph Nye (then Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary), in Heianna Sumiyo, “Kaiheitai no Okinawa churyu ‘Nihon ga yobo’ moto chu-Nichi Bei taishi no kojutsu kiroku,” Okinawa taimusu, 13 September 2014.

20 Heianna Sumiyo, ibid.

21 Nakazato Isao, “Minami no ejji kara Nihon o yusaburu henkaku no nami,” Sekai, November 2014, pp. 105-121, at p. 109.

22 “Kokunai shizen 19 dantai, Henoko ‘Minaoshi’ motomeru chushi fukume asesu sai jisshi mo,” Ryukyu shimpo, 11 November 2014. See also “Henoko minaoshi yosei,” ed, Okinawa taimusu, 14 November 2014.

23 Ryukyu shimpo, 5 May and 26 August 2014 (“Seron chosa: ‘Henoko chushi’ isetsu kyoko hantai hirogaru”). Just 19.8 per cent favoured continuation of the works. Even in the conservative bloc, 70.1 per cent of LDP supporters and 91.7 of New Komeito supporters said it should be stopped.

24 For my 1 July report (on You-tube), sailing around the Bay on the eve of this closure, see here.

25 “Kasetsu sanbashi chakushu, minshushugi ni hansuru banko da,” Okinawa taimusu, 21 November 2014.

26 “Henoko 85 sai josei kega, ichiji ishiki ushinau,” Okinawa taimusu, 21 November 2014.

27 “Kenkei ga Henoko shusai bogai, kasha, eiga kantoku o haijo,” Ryukyu shimpo, 21 November 2014.

28 “Kenkei ga Henoko shusai bogai,” op. cit.

29“Kussaku sagyo ni chakushu, mohaya ‘kyofu seiji’ da, banko chushi min-i o toe,” Ryukyu shimpo, 18 August 2014, also posted on the web in English as “Abe administration signals future reign of terror in Henoko.”

30 Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro in 2000 said, “The teachers union in Okinawa is controlled by the Communist Party and opposes anything the government does. The two Okinawan newspapers are the same,” quoted in “Shimbun to kenryoku,” (4) “Kaiju fuhatsu tsuyomeru atsuryoku,” Okinawa taimusu, 9 April 2014.

31 “Kenmin no mina sama e,” letter from Governor Nakaima,, n.d. (an “auspicious October day”) 2014.

32 “Consolidated Plan for Facilities and Areas,” April 2013.

33 “‘Gonen inai’ hitei chabangeki no zokko wa mu imi da,” Ryukyu shimpo, ed., April 2 2014.

34 “Marines won’t leave Futenma till new base built: Wissler,” Japan Times, April 12, 2014. US Pacific Commander Admiral (Samuel J)) Locklear told a Senate Committee hearing the same. (“‘Gonen inai teishi hitei’ kyoko no tanpo to shonin no tsumi,” Okinawa taimusu, April 13 2014.)

35 “Gonen-nai teishi ‘kuso’ Henoko o minaosu jiki da,” editorial, Okinawa taimusu, 17 October 2014.

36 Those who placed highest importance on the base issue were 39.7 per cent according to one survey, 46.8 according to another, with “economy” second on 29 per cent and 21.9 per cent respectively (Okianwa taimusu, 7 November, and Ryukyu shimpo, 11 November respectively).

37 “‘Chiji, kakekomi shonin’ shugiin de kenmin no shinpan o,” Ryukyu shimpo, editorial, 6 December 2014.

38“Three candidates to run in the gubernatorial election,” Ryukyu Shimpo, 24 July 2014.

39There was some evidence of vacillation on Onaga’s part early in the campaign. “Onaga-shi e asu shutsuba yosei ‘hokaku’ koeta ri-da-’ keizai yushi,” Okinawa taimusu, 7 August 2014.

40 Businessman Taira Chokei, at the declaration of the poll, 16 November 2014.

41 Some pointed with suspicion to the “watering down” of Onaga’s initial electoral pledge, from “withdraw the license to reclaim” (umetate shonin o tekkai suru) to determination “not to allow construction of any new base at Henoko out of respect for the voices of the Okinawan people who want the license cancelled” (shonin tekkai o nzomu kenmin no koe o soncho shi, Henoko kichi wa tsukurasenai) (“Yato, Onaga Takeshi shi ni ipponka, kenchijisen kohosha,” Ryukyu shimpo, 23 July 2014.) Yaeyama nippo on 3 November published a copy of the document dated January 2013 in which Onaga put his name (even if as witness rather than party) to a statement in which Ishigaki mayor Nakayama declared that he did not see the Kempakusho (then being organized) as ruling out a Futenma replacement within Okinawa. This revelation weakened the core Onaga claim that the Kempakusho had been unequivocal in ruling out Futenma replacement within the prefecture and that it had the endorsement of “all 41 local government heads.” (“Kennai isetsu hitei sezu,” Yaeyama nippo, 3 November 2014. See also “Onaga Takeshi,” Wikipedia, 9 November 2014.)

42aruyuru shuho o kushi shite, Henoko ni shin kichi wa tsukurasenai.”

43Futenma kichi no heisa, tekkyo, kennai isetsu dannen, Osupurei haibi tekkai o tsuyoku motomeru.”

44 “Zen Naha shicho, Onaga Takeshi shi ga kataru ‘Okinawa chiji sen’ shutsuba e no kakugo,” Nikkan gendai, 13 October 2014.

45Okinawa keizai hatten no saidai no sogai yoin.”

46 Shimabukuro Jun, “Min-i no kaizu - 2014 nen kenchijisen no igi,” Ryukyu shimpo, 13 November 2014. And see discussion in Sato Manabu, “Min-i ‘shinko taisei’ o taosu,” Ryukyu shimpo, 19 November 2014.

47 On “positive pacifism,” Gavan McCormack, “Japan’s ‘positive pacifism’,” op. cit. On “rule of law,” Uchiyama Hiroshi, “‘Ho no shihai’ kataru Abe shusho no shiri metsuretsu,” Sekai, December 2014, pp. 29-32.

48 “Ketsudan to jikko – Futenma kichi no henkan, jitsugen e,” Okinawa taimusu (and Ryukyu shimpo), 14 October 2014.

49 “Nakaima shi shiji 19 nin,” Okinawa taimusu, 14 November 2014.

50 Exit poll detail according to a Japanese colleague quoting an informed source.

51 John W. Dower and Gavan McCormack, Tenkanki no Nihon e – pakkusu Americana ka pakkusu Ajia ka, Tokyo, NHK Bukkusu, chapter 3; Gavan McCormack, “Yonaguni: Dilemmas of a Frontier Island in the East China Sea,” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 1 October, 2012.

52 “Kenmin no chugoku insho 9 wari ga hiteiteki, Senkaku de akka,” Okinawa taimusu, 16 April, 2014.

53 Gavan McCormack, “Yonaguni: Dilemmas” op. cit.

54 “Chomin 3 dantai, Yonaguni e no rikuji haibi tekkai o,” Yaeyama Mainichi shimbun, 15 April, 2014.

55 “Zetsumetsu kigu made ’52 shu seisoku’,” Okinawa taimusu, 15 April, 2014.

56 Response by Prime Minister Abe to question from Itokazu Keiko on possible adverse health effects of SDF radar on Yonaguni. 25 November 2014.

57 “Yonaguni rikuji yochi, hoshogaku 3 kagetsu de bai,” Okinawa taimusu, 15 April, 2014.

58 The evidence of Tsushima Island, roughly half-way between Fukuoka City in southwestern Japan and Pusan in Korea, suggests otherwise. When that city invited the SDF in 1959, its population was 70,000. Now it is around 35,000.

59 “Jumin tohyo 17 nichi jorei kaketsu e,” Ryukyu shimpo, 15 November 2014 and “‘Tozen’ ‘naze ima sara’,” Ryukyu shimpo, 18 November 2014.

60 The precedent for middle school students having right to vote was set in 2004, in a plebiscite on whether the island should accept incorporation in the larger island of Ishigaki or remain on its own. It chose the latter.

61 “Yonaguni cho gikai, jieitai jumin tohyo jorei an o saikaketsu,” RBC Ryukyu hoso, 28 November 2014.

62 “Yonaguni rikuji kikoshiki, haibi kakudai e no fuseki,” Ryukyu shimpo, April 20 2014.

63 “Yonaguni rikuji kikoshiki,” ibid.

64 Memo by Tasato Chiyoki, member of the Yonaguni town assembly, to then Okinawa gubernatorial candidate Onaga Takeshi, 17 October 2014 (copy courtesy Mr Tasato).

65 “Shimin no chikara ga atarashii rekishi o hiraku,” Ryukyu shimpo, 30 November 2000.