Okinawa Island is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan in the Kyushu region. The Japanese people often call Okinawa “Japanese Hawaii”, which is not surprising, because of a favorable climate, rich in fish and other marine life waters, corals of all colors, turquoise ocean waters. All of these are Okinawa`s treasures that attract millions of tourists every year. However there can be another impressive point that can be noticed in Okinawa. It is well known that there are a number of American military objects situated in Okinawa. Okinawa makes up only 0.6% of Japanese territory, but 74% of US military installations and more than half of all United States forces in Japan are located there. Moreover the island has the largest US air base in the Asia-Pacific region, where about half of the 54 thousand American troops deployed in Japan are located (The Washington Post, 2019). Although American military forces states that its presence on the island is vitally important not only for Japan’s defense, but also for maintaining peace in the region, Okinawan people are quite dissatisfied with this presence. This dissatisfaction finds support in the words of the Prime Minister of Japan – Shinzo Abe, who says that Okinawa is under a burden due to the concentration of US military bases for a long time (THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, 2019). Moreover Okinawa`s citizens often shows their dissatisfaction by the public demonstrations and referendums against US military force`s presence on the island. However it can be difficult to assess this presence in terms what consequences it brings
First and most discussed is behavior of the American soldiers on the island`s territory. The crimes of American soldiers in Okinawa regularly become the cause of angry protests by the Japanese against the presence on their land of a foreign army that violates local laws and customs. According to Kyodo News agency (2017) the US military committed more than 5.8 thousand crimes on the islands of Okinawa after transferring them to the sovereignty of Japan in 1972. Furthermore 571 incidents fall under the definition of “serious crimes”, including murders, rapes and robberies. The most recent example, that caused a great public outcry, was the rape and murder of a local resident by an American marine C. Franklin in May 2016. The US military, in turn, argues that the crime rate among their personnel is lower than among the Okinawa population.
Second, environmentalists often identify serious issues such as the noise of low-flying aircraft and the danger of accidents at US bases. Moreover some of them states that the working activity at the training ground of the US bases may lead to the destruction of coral reefs and damage the habitat of manatees. For example, recently two professors from Kyoto University conducted a research that identified high concentrations of a chemical called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) (Denyer, 2019). The chemical was found in rivers passing through and around the American military bases (Kadena Air Base and the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma).
Third, it is publicly available information that Japanese government spend a huge amount of money for the maintenance of the US military on its land, which may be another reason for negative attitude to American presence on Okinawa Island. So, under an agreement reached with the United States under President Barack Obama, “Japan will pay a total of 946.5 billion yen ($8.7 billion) over the five-year period from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2020” (Tosa&Makino, 2019). Moreover, there are always assumptions from the American side to rise those figures. It may be logically understood that few people will be delighted with the expenditures of state funds for the maintenance of foreign soldiers whose behavior and activities are ambiguous.
However, as it was said previously, it can be difficult to evaluate the consequences of US military presence in Okinawa. Despite all the points mentioned in this paper, the US-Japan alliance is one of the most important alliances in the world and Okinawa is the linchpin to the alliance`s security. All of this is strongly supported by historical and international relationships. Moreover it is interesting to notice that recent study conducted illustrates positive shifts in terms of Okinawans` attitude to American military forces on the Island. So, a new study by the East-West Center in Honolulu found that militant mood of local citizens in Okinawa is inherent mainly for the older rather than younger residents (Cole, 2019). To be more specific, most young respondents expressed their positive view of U.S. personnel, saying they are “friendly”, or “helpful.” Crime, accidents, noise, environmental issues and traffic were base problems that should be “fixed.” In this regard, from the prospective of this study it may be possible to assume that there is a major opportunity to strengthen Okinawan – US military relationships by partnering with younger residents on a more cooperative basis
To conclude, it can be said that such topic as “American military presence in Okinawa” may be subject for deep research. However, all above mentioned gives a hope on stable and positive development of the relationships between Okinawans and American representatives.
Akiko Kashiwagi, S. D. (2019, February 24). In Japan’s Okinawa, voters deliver a resounding no to new U.S. military base. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-japans-okinawa-voters-deliver-a-resounding-no-to-new-us-military-base/2019/02/24/95283a46-3858-11e9-b786-d6abcbcd212a_story.html?noredirect=on
Bolton suggests fivefold rise in Japan’s spending on U.S. military：The Asahi Shimbun. (2019, July 31). Retrieved from http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201907310066.html
Kyodo. (2017, November 16). Ex-U.S. base worker denies intent to kill Okinawa woman. Retrieved from https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/11/bc08615865c2-ex-us-base-worker-denies-intent-to-kill-okinawa-woman.html?phrase=okinawa crimes &words=Okinawa,crimes,crime
Kyodo. (2018, March 20). Caroline Kennedy sees Okinawa as key to security ties with Japan. Retrieved from https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/03/9e192de030d3-caroline-kennedy-sees-okinawa-as-key-to-security-ties-with-japan.html?phrase=okinawa crimes &words=Okinawa,crime,crimes
Simon Denyer, A. K. (2019, May 24). On Japan’s Okinawa, U.S. military is accused of contaminating environment with hazardous chemical. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/on-japans-okinawa-us-military-blamed-for-contaminating-environment-with-hazardous-chemical/2019/05/24/ca3ba342-7c84-11e9-b1f3-b233fe5811ef_story.html
Tamaki criticizes Henoko project, Abe skips issue in Okinawa speech：The Asahi Shimbun. (2019, June 23). Retrieved from http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201906230028.html Washington Post. (2019, February 25). Retrieved from https://www.gazeta.ru/army/news/2019/02/25/12678157.shtml?updated