What now for Okinawa after 25 years?
Weekly Times Okinawa
Saturday, May 17, 1997
Vol.8 No.14 Saturday Evening Edition

Okinawa Prefecture observed the 25th anniversary of its reversion to Japan on May 15. However, the prefecture has not yet seen a reduction in the size of military bases as in mainland Japan. There still are large U.S. military bases on Okinawa, so the prefectural citizens still shoulder a heavy burden.

Since the schoolgirl assault incident by military servicemen two years ago, base issues have come to the forefront of attention. The Japanese and U.S. governments approved the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) within five to seven years on the condition that another location was found for the MCAS. A special land law was revised in the Japanese Diet and became effective before May 15 so that land which anti-war landowners had withheld could be used on a continued basis. Some citizens living near Camp Schwab in the Henoko area of Nago City started to campaign against the building of an airfield on the ocean. Even after 25 years since the reversion in 1972, there remain many issues directly and indirectly related to the presence of military bases.

The Okinawa Times, Asahi Shimbun, and the Lewis-Harris organization conducted public opinion polls respectively on Okinawa on April 20-21, in mainland Japan on April 27-28, and in the United States on May 1 to 5. According to the results of the polls, 72% of the citizens of Okinawa and mainland Japan wished to reduce the size of military bases on Okinawa gradually, while 48% of American citizens wished to keep the present status of the bases and 44% hoped for reduction. On maintaining the U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty in the future, 57% of Okinawan citizens, 76% of mainland citizens, and 79% of U.S. citizens supported it. The number of Okinawans who support the treaty have been increasing year by year.

The Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) announced its final plan to reduce the size of bases on Okinawa. However new sites have to be found to accept the relocation plans made


by SACO. Some citizens on Okinawa and in mainland Japan are opposed to the relocation plans. According to the polls, 59% on Okinawa approve the transfer of Okinawan bases to the mainland. The number is 38% in mainland Japan, but 53% oppose the transfer.

A good majority of Okinawan citizens, 87%, stated that reversion was greatly welcomed. The reasons given were: freer exchange with mainland Japan, having become more economically wealthy, and infrastructure development.

Governor Ohta held a news conference on May 14 and stated his dissatisfaction that people in mainland Japan did not consider Okinawan issues and pains as their own. Appealing to citizens to be more aware of building an Okinawa without reliance on military bases, he was in no mood for celebrating the anniversary.

During last week, many rallies, symposia, and demonstrations were held for the reconsideration of the history of Okinawa after reversion. One rally was held on May 15 at Futenma High School sponsored by the Okinawa Peace Movement Center with about 10,000 people in attendance. There were marchers who participated who had started out on May 13 to appeal for the removal of the bases. A citizen's symposium looking into the possibility of making Okinawa an independent nation was held on May 14-15.

Over the past week, much thought was given by Okinawan citizens concerning the matter of Okinawa's future.

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