On Sunday, one of the largest mass-demonstrations to date took place on Okinawa. An estimated 65,000 Okinawan citizens rallied in the capital city of Naha demanding that the US base there be closed.
The Pentagon's policies of redefining the soldier and deconstructing masculinity in the military---a process ongoing since the 1990s---has led naturally to substandard recruitment policies, poor leadership, and undisciplined and unprofessional personnel. The US military has suffered an ongoing problem with criminal behavior among the troops. This problem likewise has been exacerbated by the increasing policies of outsourcing military functions to shady private contractors. Okinawa has been hit especially hard by the effects of these policies. Okinawa is far removed from frontline military theaters; hence it tends to draw the types of personnel who, for whatever reason, are not top quality, even by the Pentagon's nonexistent standards.
Much to the mortification of the Imperial Japanese government, Okinawan Governor Takeshi Onaga was among the speakers at the rally and demanded that Tokyo remove the base, to the applause of the crowd. Onaga also denounced the treacherous legal chicanery the Pentagon routinely employs to evade its obligations under the 1960 Status of Forces Agreement. By the rules of SOFA, US Military Law is applied to servicemen in Japan. But 1960, the Pentagon's premises were to see justice done to the satisfaction of the Japanese; today, like most the rest of the US legal system, it exploits legal loopholes to protect the criminal element.
The situation in Okinawa is becoming a major problem for the Japanese Empire---at time when it is reasserting itself as a militaristic power. There is a small, but determined move for Okinawan independence brewing and the discontent in Okinawa is spilling over into the Japanese population at large. Last week, 10,000 protestors turned out in Tokyo to denounce visiting Pentagon chief, Ash Carter. Even more to the point, a resolution read in Naha on Sunday stated that the situation 'had become intolerable'. By some estimates, US personnel are responsible for nearly 90% of the crimes committed on the island.
Okinawa is situated in the Ryukyu Island Chain between Japan and Taiwan; and the volatile situation has drawn China's attention as a regional security issue. Hua Chunying, at a Chinese Foreign Ministry press briefing noted today that the bilateral agreement between the US and Japan "should not target third parties."
"There needs to be a serious discussion about how US presence on Okinawa serves the interests of the countries and peoples in the region." Hua said.
Kantoku Teruya, a member of the Okinawan Parliament agrees. In an interview with Xinhua news, Teruya said that Okinawans are becoming increasingly incensed at the increasing crime, noise, and pollution emanating from the base, and with Tokyo's ongoing toadying to Washington.
"The two governments view Okinawa as their military colony" Teruya said, "And they uphold the rights of the US military over the rights of the Okinawan people and ignore the burdens the base puts on the island. For generations, the Japanese government has bowed to the United States while treating the Okinawan people as inferiors."
Matters may thus be reaching a point where Chinese diplomatic pressure may be required to bring the Okinawan people's plight to world attention. At any rate, the Imperial government is in a difficult situation. Their expansionist plans obviously cannot tolerate a colonial uprising; but closing the base is not an option either. After a series of military humiliations in the South China Sea, the Pentagon is not likely to relish the thought of being forced off a tiny island a few miles off the Chinese Coast. A plausible solution might be to relieve the American officers and replace them with Japanese ones: their army at least knows how to maintain discipline. But the Pentagon is not likely to welcome that kind of diversity in their ranks.
The ideal course though would be for Okinawa to begin a serious move for independence. As a sovereign state, it would have control over its own military, foreign policy, and its own law enforcement. Okinawa was once an independent country until forcibly annexed by the Japanese Empire in 1879. It was occupied by the US after WW2 from 1945-1972; and since returned to the Empire in exchange for operating a US base there. US-Okinawan relations were generally good until the 1990s, when our military itself began to decline.
An independent Okinawa has considerable economic potential as well. Though a tiny island, its tropical location makes it a viable tourist location; it's geographic location is ideal for a financial/commercial hub. There is some port potential as well. At any rate, it would do much better than now; as all peoples do when they claim their freedom.