Japanese nationalist argues for Okinawan independence?
Now I have heard everything. Japanese nationalists are so quick to demand that Japan has a rightful claim to the Diaoyutai, Dokdo, and the Northern Territories, but in this article a Japanese nationalist argues for Okinawan independence from Japan. I am certain other Honshu based nationalists (creatively called people on the “mainland” in the article) would foam at the mouth over the very idea, but I have to admit, the idea is ingenuous. And I can’t say I totally disagree with it.
Basically the article says that it would be a way to solve the problem of the disproportionate number of U.S. army bases in Okinawa. At the end of World War II, Okinawa was held by U.S. occupational forces, much like the rest of Japan. However, while Japanese self rule returned to the rest of Japan (minus the Northern Territories if you side with Japan in their dispute with Russia…) four years later, Okinawa remained under U.S. administration until 1972.
During this time, the U.S. was free to build airbases in Okinawa as it did not have to deal with the Japanese government as it would if it were building bases anywhere else in Japan. This is why there are so many bases there.
Now, there must be an ulterior motive if a nationalist is advocating Okinawan independence, because separation of Okinawa from Japan would give rise to the idea that the Okinawan people are a separate nation from Japanese, and would cause Japan to lose territory. So why do people who believe that WWII was justified, that colonial influence over Korea and Taiwan, and expansion of the empire into China were good things, advocate the independence of a territory that has been dominated by Japan for centuries?
Answer: To force the U.S. to abandon bases in Okinawa.
The idea is ingenious, as I have said before. The U.S. is able to maintain bases in Japan by a bilateral security treaty. If Okinawa is granted independence, then the treaty would not apply to Okinawa, thereby forcing the U.S. to either negotiate a separate treaty with Okinawa, leave, or be saddled with the illegal occupation of a foreign country.
But what of the huge loss to Japan that this would entail? The author proposes an economic union between Japan and Okinawa where citizens are allowed to travel, work, and live in either country with no restrictions. Basically Okinawa would still be a part of Japan in practice, if not on paper.
However, there are several problems with this plan that I don’t think the author thought through.
1. If the U.S. were forced out of Okinawa, it would not simply go home. The bases would be relocated to other parts of Japan or Asia. In the windfall, that would mean an increased troop presence, with more bases, in “mainland Japan” or in South Korea. I think that is the last thing that any Japanese nationalist wants.
2. The result of a split between Okinawa and Japan would leave Okinawa as a country that depends primarily on tourism, without any access to Japanese public funds collected through taxes. This would mean Okinawa needs to take care of its own defense, social welfare, education, infrastructure, and foreign affairs. This includes the very costly endeavor of getting other countries to recognize Okinawa, providing space for embassies in a place where land is a premium (though many countries already have consulates there), and acquiring land in other countries to house the Okinawan embassies. These developments would increase the tax burden on the Okinawan people, or on tourists. Both would result in the people of Okinawa becoming poorer or making Okinawa a less attractive tourist destination, or both. To compensate, Okinawa would have to develop the kinds of tourist activities that can be taxed heavily, but still cause many visitors, meaning Naha would become the Amsterdam of the East, with legalized drugs and prostitution. As people can move freely between Japan and Okinawa in this proposal, congratulations, now drugs can enter Japan much more easily. The Japanese government is known to jail people for years for simple marijuana use. Expect Japan’s jails to be full of drug users now that people can get it with relative ease from Okinawa.
3. What happens when China decides to conquer Okinawa? It’s certainly not likely, but suppose it happens. The U.S. might just leave Okinawa to its devices for the earlier burn, or demand concessions for helping Okinawa. Those concessions might include the right to keep bases in Okinawa, meaning all this headache would have been for nothing. Ah, but the Japanese SDF would bail Okinawa out, you say? Nope, that’s illegal. The Japanese SDF cannot send its military forces abroad in a combative role unless Japan itself is attacked. Whoops!
4. One of Japan’s territorial disputes is with China and Taiwan is over the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands. Not anymore, because now they would be Okinawa’s to argue over. China could easily refuse to recognize Okinawa over the problem unless Okinawa submits to China and renounces its claim to the Senkakus. Congratulations, nationalists, you have basically given the Senkakus to China, even though you are so vocal about them all the time.
5. What happens in the future if Okinawa disagrees with Japanese foreign policy (or worse) wants to become a province of China? This measure is completely shortsighted, and does not take into account that the Okinawans might not just go along with Japan on everything.
6. How does Okinawa determine who is and who is not a citizen? What of Okinawans who want to keep Japanese citizenship? What of those who were born in Okinawa but moved to Japan later?
I don’t think this was thought out very well.