Japanese Want The US Military Out Of Japan

4026955103_ce3f522004_bSixty four years after the end of World War II, 47,000 US troops are still stationed in Japan. Today, an estimated 21,000 Japanese rallied in Okinawa in  protest of the US military base on the island. The rally is putting pressure on the new center-left government just days before the visit of President Obama.

The US military base in Okinawa is often called “the US unsinkable aircraft carrier” due to its strategic proximity from China, Taiwan and North Korea. Okinawa continues to host more than half of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan. A recent Japanese poll revealed that 70 percent of Okinawans want the US troops out.

The election of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and of his center-left coalition government, ending 40 years of conservative rule, has brought the issue front and center of Japan’s national political debate while putting some strain to Japan’s relation with Washington.

“I urge Prime Minister Hatoyama to tell President Obama that Okinawa needs no more US bases. I urge Prime Minister Hatoyama to make a brave decision and put an end to Okinawa’s burden and ordeal,” said Ginowan’s Mayor Yoichi Iha at today’s rally. The crowd of thousands applauded the Mayor’s speech.

The Futenma base is located in a densely populated urban area. Okinawans have been angered by aircraft noise, pollution, the risk of accidents, and crimes committed by the US military. Okinawans reacted with outrage after the rape of a school girl by 3 US soldiers in 1995. The demands to close the base grew even stronger when a US helicopter crashed in the ground of a university in 2004.

Prime Minister Hatoyama has vowed to adopt a less subservient relationship with Washington. Hatoyama has said he wants the base moved off the island or even out of the country.

On the other hand, the US has demanded that Japan fulfill a 2006 agreement under which the Futenma base would be closed and moved to another site to be built on Okinawa by 2014. Last month, during a visit to Japan, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates bluntly told  the new Japanese administration to “move on and resolve the issue before President Obama’s arrival”. Gates stressed that Washington doesn’t want to renegotiate on an agreement sealed in 2006.

This is a test of political will for Prime Minister Hatoyama. Can he finally challenge the overbearing nature of  the United States relationship with Japan? Further, it puts one more time into lights the fact that the US military, once in a foreign country, has the tendency to stay for ever. Japan, just like Germany and countless other countries in the world are getting tired of it. And it is unfortunately unlikely that President Obama will ever challenge the logic of the consolidation of the American Empire, which has been the driving impulse in American foreign policies, both from Republicans & Democrats, ever since the end of World War II.


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