Battle Stations—Okinawa in 2016

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tags: Okinawa



Gavan McCormack is an emeritus professor of Australian National University and coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal. He is co-author with Satoko Oka Norimatsu of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, Horitsu bunkasha, 2013) and co-author with John Dower of the recently published Tenkanki no Nihon e – Pax Americana ka Pax Asia ka (NHK Bukkusu, 2014).

The year 2016 might turn out to be a decisive one in the long-running contest between the Japanese state and Okinawa prefecture over the construction of a new base for the US Marine Corps at Henoko on Oura Bay, although it seems that this is far from being the first time on which I have written of a prospective year of crisis and change in what has become known as the "Okinawa problem," only to find as the year wore on that the crisis steadily deepened without resolution. It is clear anyway that this will be a year of elections and court proceedings, and that it will also almost certainly be one of deepening confrontation between the popular Okinawan resistance on one side and the forces of the Abe state with their monopoly of violence and growing readiness to use it on the other.

It was the November 2014 victory (by 100,000 votes) of Onaga Takeshi in election for Governor of Okinawa on an explicit "everything in my power to prevent construction of the Henoko base" platform that brought the crisis to its present pitch. Once in office, Onaga appointed a "Third Party" (experts) committee to advise him on the legality of his predecessor's sudden and unexpected decision (in December 2013) to allow the base. That Committee reported in July 2015 that it had found multiple legal flaws,2 and that, in particular, the landfill permit failed to meet the criteria for "appropriate and rational use of the national land" and so violated the Public Waters Reclamation. On October 13, 2015, Onaga therefore cancelled the reclamation license, and by doing so precipitated a series of court actions and a political contest that has continued ever since.





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